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Chinatown Map

The Chinatown in Singapore is called “niu che shui” in Mandarin, which differs from most other Chinatowns in different parts of the world, which are called “tang ren jie”. Literally, “Niu Che Shi” means “bullock cart water”, aptly named because people used to cart buckets of water using bullocks in the past when tap water wasn’t readily available like now.


Pagoda Street


Image The origin of Pagoda Street came from Sri Mariamman Temple (refer to bottom of the page for more description), which was such a landmark on the street that eventually, people started calling the street “Pagoda Street” after the high tower of the temple. In the early 19th century, opium dens and coolie (worker) traders were prominently located in this street. The poor Chinese workers, driven by the hard conditions of work, often turned to opium for a temporary respite from reality. This resulted in the two trades feeding off each other. Before opium was banned in 1946, the colonial authorities in fact encouraged these trades and there were government-run opium houses.

In 1972, Queen Elizabeth II visited Pagoda Street during a state visit.

If you have a list of souvenirs to get for friends back home, you can consider buying all your souvenirs along Pagoda Street as most of them are cheaper compared to elsewhere. Of course, it is still advisable to compare prices before deciding on your best bargain. Items on sale include key chains, T-shirts, traditional Chinese wares.


To get here, alight at Chinatown MRT station (NE 4) and locate the Pagoda Street exit (see picture)


Sago Street


In the olden days, Sago Street is literally the street where people came to die. As the Chinese believe that to die in one’s house brings bad luck to the remaining residents, those who were sick would go to the death houses in Sago Street to live out their remaining days. Medical care was minimal, as those who came did not expect to return home. The death houses were finally outlawed in 1961.


Today, Sago Street consists of shops engaging in traditional trades such as fortune telling, clog making, furniture restoring, medical halls, kite and mask artisans, etc

 

Chinatown Night Market


Image The Pagoda street, together with Trengganu Street and Sago street are identified by the Singapore Tourism Board to be the key focal point of Chinatown. Together, these three streets form the “Chinatown Night Market”, a place where visitors can shop and dine.


Opening hours:
Sunday to Thursday 5.00 pm to 11.00 pm
Friday, Saturday : 5.00 pm to 1.00 am

If you come to Singapore during the Chinese New Year period (around the month of Feburary), Chinatown is a place not to be missed. The entire place would be decked in the colour of red which is an auspicious colour for Chinese.

 

Here are the three famous temples that are located within the heart of Chinatown. The fact that these temples of different religions can co-exist harmoniously in the same vicinity for years is evidence of racial harmony in the country.

Sri Mariamman Temple

Image The Sri Mariamman Temple was built in 1827 and it is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. In the early days, the Sri Mariamman Temple  temple provided shelter to poor Indian immigrants and was the only temple where priests were given the authority to solemnize Hindu weddings.  Outside the temple, look up at the tower over the entrance of the temple and you will find that it is intricately decorated with colourful sculptures of deities and mythological beasts.

You are advised to dress conservatively and shoes must be removed before entering the temple. Once inside the temple, you will be able to see even more figurines and paintings of deities and mythological beasts. Photography is allowed at a small fee of S$3 per camera and S$6 for video. Do check with the caretaker for details.

  

  

Masjid Chulia / Jamae Chulia Mosque


ImageThe Jamae Chulia Mosque was built in 1826 by the Chulias (Tamil Muslims from Chola Kingdom of Tamil Nadu in Southern India). The mosque was built in the direction of Mecca, and as such, if you are observant enough, you will notice that it is out of alignment with the street grid. Also, the architecture of the Jamae Chulia Mosque is a mixture of the east and the west. This unique construction had made the mosque into a well photographed landmark, such that it even appears in photos dated right back to the 19th century!


There is a friendly duty officer stationed at the entrance of the mosque that will patiently explain about the Islam religion and clarify any misconception that you might have had. His working hours is from 9 am to 6pm, every Tuesday to Sunday. Female visitors have to be covered from shoulder to ankle in order to enter the mosque. However, if you are not attired correctly, the duty officer will offer you a clean robe to wear over your outfit, to be returned at the end of the session.   


Buddha Tooth Relic Temple


Image The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a recent addition to the Chinatown landscape and it is dedicated to Maitreya Buddha. The tooth of the Buddha is housed in a gold stupa which composed of 420kg of gold donated by devotees. The construction of the temple has raised a few eyebrows among the Buddhist community as this is somewhat against the teachings of the Buddha (Buddhists are taught to place importance on spiritual enlightenment, and renounce on worldly possession)

Despite the controversy, the temple is splendidly built and it is worth a look as a tourist attraction. 
The temple is opened from 4.30am to 9.00pm. Visitors are advised to be conservatively dressed.

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