Singapore’s Chinatown is an ethnic neighbourhood featuring distinctly Chinese cultural elements and a historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population. It is here that many of our Chinese immigrant forefathers first set up homes. It is the traditional Chinese quarters of town, and while the entire city is largely Chinese these days, the area does retain some of its own charm. The area is also known as Niu Che Shui (牛车水) in Chinese and Kreta Ayer in Malay, both names meaning “bullock cart water”, a reference to the carts that were used to haul in drinking water.
Chinatown’s primary attraction is the town itself, composed as it is of conserved, restored and refurbished old buildings and shophouses, retaining significant historical and cultural significance. It is made up of pre-war shophouses, home to merchants, some of whom have been hawking the same wares for years – Chinese herbs and medicine, antiques, gold and jade jewellery, bales of fine silk, traditional handicrafts, etc. Wander at random and see what you can find in the strange little shops selling everything, from plastic Buddhas to dried seahorses!
Chinatown is at its busiest and most colourful in the month preceding the Chinese New Year (January-February), when the streets are decked with festive decorations. Street markets are thronged with people and stalls selling traditional snacks and customary decorations, as well as activities like lion dances and street performances entertain the crowd.
Check out the happenings in Chinatown at: www.chinatown.sg