Chinatown in Singapore has always been one of my favourite places, and what I love best is taking a leisurely walk around the area, soaking in the sights and sounds. During Chinese New Year, the place bustles with people and activity and this year is no exception. This time, my LC-A+ joined me in my trip, and a surprise encounter made my day.
One of the ways to explore Chinatown is to use the road names as bearings. Two main roads run the perimeter of Chinatown: Eu Tong Sen Street, and South Bridge Road where the Lomography Gallery Store Singapore is located!
In Chinatown, the streets run parallel to one another, including Mosque Street, Temple Street, Pagoda Street and Smith Street. Use these streets to help you find your way on the map! No prizes for guessing why the streets are named as such; what I embrace about Singapore is our multicultural society – you’ll find a mosque, buddhist temple and a hindu temple all in the heart of Chinatown!
Most of the stall owners I’ve met at Chinatown are friendly and ready to strike a conversation with you if you offer a smile or a hello as well! Very few I’ve met are pushy with getting customers to buy items and they’re open to having photographs taken, perhaps due to the large number of tourists that frequent the area. Don’t be afraid to pause and stand by the stall if you spot something interesting that catches your eye.
Step into the Chinatown Visitor Centre located near Sago Lane behind the buddhist temple (Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum) and you’ll find write-ups and artifacts about Chinatown and its history.
Another great spot to people-watch is right outside Chinatown complex, where you’ll find many elderly men who gather to play chess.
And if you’re already there on a leisure morning/ afternoon, venture more and spot the different buildings, many of which are iconic.
People’s Park Complex, a residential and commercial building was one of the first retail centres when built in 1970.
And another reason why I love Chinatown? My favourite hawker centre is right there! Lots of yummy food to devour.
To end off, I want to share a personal story, with the following photographs of this elderly man. I first met him many years ago when I lived in Pearl Bank and often made trips to Chinatown for a walk/ meal. He plays the erhu, a Chinese fiddle. I remember the first time I stood watching him, thinking to myself how wonderful he was, smiling at the passer-bys and remembering to wish good-day each person who dropped a coin in his cardboard box. The first photograph was taken in 2011 with my Holga 135BC, when I met him during Lunar New Year in Chinatown.
My family then moved to the east of Singapore, and one lovely weekend I was walking by my neighbourhood and guess who I met! There he was, playing his erhu at the crossing with his signature greetings. I would then see him time to time in the neighbourhood and we’ll exchange a casual hello. Then for a while, I didn’t see him and honestly, I feared the worst.
Could you imagine how elated I was this time, as I was walking in Chinatown this Lunar New Year and I thought I heard the sound of the erhu? I followed the sound and meeting him made my day. I found out he was admitted to the hospital for awhile due to health issues and had just been discharged a week before. Spent some time chatting with him, and before I left, I placed my hands on his and we both said we hope we’ll meet again. He gave me the warmest smile. Till we meet again.