Our Chinatown’s Past, Present & Future

Sunday, June 05, 2016
As Singapore progresses from a Third world to a First, Chinatown remains distinct with the fusion of modernity and heritage. Predate back to colonial days in Singapore, almost a quarter million resident were living in undesirable conditions and streets were packed with businesses. Since then, Chinatown has survived through many trials and tribulations (including the second world war) to become the gem we know today.

Chinatown mainly consists of five sections: Telok Ayer, Ann Siang Hill, Bukit Pasoh, Tanjong Pagar, and Kreta Ayer, each one unique on their own.

Telok Ayer remained the main commercial and residential thoroughfare up till the late nineteenth centuries. Back in those days, the street was the base for the notorious Chinese slave trades before Chinese and Malays immigrants built places of worship to express their gratitude for safe passage. Fast-forward to the present, Telok Ayer is known for its picturesque temples & mosques, quirky cafes, and shops. Visit the Thiang Hock Kheng Temple to discover the history of the first Chinese immigrants and dropped by Amoy Street Food Center for a hearty local meal- must-try items include Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee and Teo Heng Porridge.

Ann Siang Hill
Amid the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, Ann Siang Hill is line with terrace houses- quiet during the day but comes alive at night with its various cafes, bars, and pubs. Formerly a spiced hill (grew cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and more!) filled with opium dents, the area now houses an eclectic mix of hotels, fashion boutiques, commercial units, restaurants and trendy bars.

Used to be full of notable clan associations and gangster filled red-light district; Bukit Pasoh has progressed to be full of chic hotels, European & fusion restaurants, and odd cafes. Even till now, many shop houses on the second floor are still occupied by clan associations that support the various Chinese ethnicities in Singapore.

Once the hub for rickshaws operations, Tanjong Pager is now known for the largest number of bridal saloons in the area. Today, it also houses the tallest HDB residential building in Singapore, Pinnacle@Duxton.

Kreta Ayer, the heart of Chinatown (think of it like the Orchard Road of Chinatown), is a one-way road home to various traditional trades, heritage brands, and local hawker food. Became popular after the 1950s, where the area was famous for round-the-clock entertainment with the concentration of teahouses, opera theaters, and brothels. Today, Chinese festivals are still held on this street, along with its usual street markets and lively atmosphere that attract both locals and tourists.

For more information, you may wish to check out Chinatown.sg and I Love Chinatown’s Facebook page.