Take a Trishaw Ride & 4 Other Things to Do at Chinatown


With Chinese New Year around the corner, it’s perhaps the best (or the worst) time to visit Chinatown. Stalls selling candies, nuts, lanterns and all sorts of festive decorations will soon be crowding the streets, together with throngs of people milling up and down, grabbing free food samples. If you can’t find where the free food is, just keep moving until you hit a bottleneck and chances are, there’s something going around. It doesn’t hurt that you are practically moving on a travellator with the crowds pushing you along. Be sure to grab (!) or you’ll just have to do with the crumbs left behind. The full blown celebrations start end of this month, check them out!

But don’t worry, if you’re looking for a tamer Chinatown experience, check out these places after Chinese New Year.

1. Embraced spirituality

It’s a uniquely Singapore experience to not only see a Buddhist temple in Chinatown, but also a Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque. Personally, I’ve never visited Masjid Jamae but both Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum and Sri Mariamman Temple are certainly worth a visit.

As a large area of the main hall on the first storey of Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is cordoned off for worshippers, visitors will have to make do with a narrow pathway to get quick look before getting pushed out. Sri Mariamman Temple, on the other hand, is more accommodating for visitors with its larger compound. There’s plenty of space for sitting and wandering while you take in the sights and sounds of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. Side note, both Sri Mariamman Temple and Masjid Jamae are national monuments of Singapore.

Do take note of the respective dress codes. Mini-skirts, shorts and attires which are sleeveless, off-shoulders and bare backs are not allowed in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. But if you find yourself inappropriately dressed, there are shawls outside the temple which you can borrow to cover up. I belive the same would apply to visitors of Masjid Jamae. As far as i know, Sri Mariamman Temple has no specific dress code, just be sure to remove your shoes before entering.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
288 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058840
Tel: 6220 0220
Opening hours: 7am to 7pm | Daily
Admission: Free

Buddhist Culture Museum and Relic Chamber (level 3)
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm | Daily
Admission: Free

Sri Mariamman Temple 
244 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058793
Tel: 6223 4064
Opening hours: 7am to 12pm, 6pm to 9pm | Daily
Admission: Free

Masjid Jamae
218 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058767
Tel: 6221 4165, 6323 5971
Opening hours: 10.30am to 6pm with a guide
Admission: Free

2. Relished the legendary bak kwa and pastries

And so the story goes… Each year when Chinese New Year comes around the corner, the legendary 3 hour queues will start forming outside Lim Chee Guan. To deal with the crowds, Lim Chee Guan has started limiting the amount of bak kwa (barbecued pork)  each customer can buy, and even have staff holding up signboards indicating where people should start queuing and the expected waiting time.

So unless you’re looking to impress someone with the effort, just buy the bak kwa outside the Chinese New Year period. There’s no queue, the prices are not grossly inflated and I heard it tastes better too (no crazy rush to get the food done). Or check out the other big brands in the vicinity, Bee Cheng Hiang and Kim Hock Guan.

For those with a sweet tooth, before hopping to another cafe, give the traditional Chinese pastry and cakes shops here a chance. Your might not find your rainbow cake or chococlate indulgence here but the Chinese New Year’s cakes, wife cakes, mooncakes and egg tarts will give them a run for their money.

Lim Chee Guan
203 New Bridge Road, Singapore  059429
Tel: 6227 8302
Opening hours: 9am to 10pm | Daily 

Tai Chong Kok Cake Shop (大中国)
34 Sago Street, Singapore 059026
Tel: 6227 5701
Opening hours: 9.30am to 6pm, Mon | 9.30am to 8pm, Tue to Sun

Tai Thong Cake Shop (大同饼家)
35 Mosque Street, Singapore 059513
Tel: 6223 2905

Opening hours: 9am to 6.30pm | Daily

Tong Heng Pastry Shop (东兴精制饼食)
285 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058833
Tel: 6223 3649
Opening hours: 9am to 10pm | Daily

3. Joined Tintin in his adventures

One of the strangest shops to come across in Chinatown is The Tintin Shop, which sells a assortment of memorabilia of an 86 year old comic of a Belgian boy and his dog. Even with 2011 film, it still seems like an oddly dated character. But I’ve never seen the movie nor read the comics, so who am I to judge? It might be a classic for all I know. Anyway, it’s still worth some time to browse through the rather impressive collection, ranging from comics, shirts, cups, stationeries, cards, figurines, to even watches and bags, going at fairly reasonable prices. If I were a fan, I would be a very happy one indeed.

The Tintin Shop
8 Pagoda Street, Singapore 059188
Tel: 8183 2210
Opening hours: 10am to 9pm | Daily

4. Escaped into an art enclave

When you dig far enough into the nooks and crannies of Chinatown, the hustle and bustle soon fades away to reveal the serenity of art enclaves tucked away in its busy streets. The art galleries here are usually small and quiet but step in bravely and the staff will be more than happy to welcome you. Start off with some Singaporean and Asian art at Utterly Art and contemporary Indian art at Indigo Blue Art, and see what other galleries you can find!

If you’re into photography, check out the Lomography Embassy Store Singapore for some gears and inspiration.

For a taste of traditional art performance head over to Trengganu Street for a Lion Dance performance, which happens every Saturday at 6.45pm. Usually performed during Chinese New Year and other Chinese traditional, cultural and religious festivals, it’s a traditional (and loud) dance in Chinese culture in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume.

Utterly Art
20B Mosque Street Level 3, Singapore 059500
Tel: 9487 2006
Opening hours: by appointment only but you can walk-in to try your luck 
Admission: Free

Indigo Blue Art
52B Temple Street, Singapore 058597
Tel: 6372 1719
Opening hours: 11am to 6pm | Mon to Fri | by appointment only on Sat, closed on Sun and public holidays
Admission: Free

Lomography Embassy Store Singapore
295 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058838
Tel: 6223 8850
Opening hours: 12pm to 9pm | Daily
Admission: Free

5. Took a taxi from the past

To relive life in Chinatown in the good old days, why not explore Chinatown on a trishaw? A popular form of transport which was first introduced in Singapore in the 1880s, this might involve a little splurging at $49 per person (for about an hour).

If you prefer moving on foot, there are 2 walking tours available which are also a little friendlier on the wallet.

Chinatown Visitor Centre
2 Banda Street, Singapore 059962
Tel: 6221 5115, 6534 8942
Opening hours: 9am to 10pm | Daily

Trishaw pick-up times:
11am (bookings to be made 1 day in advance)
2pm | 5pm | 7pm (bookings to be made 4 hours in advance)
Cost: Adult (above 12 years old): $49 per pax | Child (3 – 12 years old): $39 per pax | Minimum of 2 passengers for each booking

Walking Tours – Passage of Life: Birth, Marriage & Death
Timing: 9am to 12pm | Mon, Thu and Sat
Cost: Adult (above 12 years old): $28 per pax | Child (3 – 12 years old): $16 per pax

Walking Tours – Good Morning, Ni Hao
Timing: Tue, Wed and Fri
Cost: Adult (above 12 years old): $28 per pax | Child (3 – 12 years old): $16 per pax

Date timer: ~ 3 hours

A food hunt might just be another awesome way to explore Chinatown, what’s your favourite guilty pleasure?

See below for a full listing of food and sights in geographical order:

1FoodDurian HistoryPiping hot durian pancakes and crepes1 Park Road, S059108
9858 1303
10am to 10pm

No Category Place Not to Miss Quick Facts
2 Food Oyoge! Taiyaki Japanese mochi cakes 191 New Bridge Road, S059423
9099 0318
10.30am to 10pm
3 Gallery Utterly Art Singaporean and Asian art 20B Mosque Street Level 3, S059500
9487 2006
By appointment only but you can walk-in to try your luck
4 Food Tai Thong Cake Shop Famous for mooncake 35 Mosque Street, S059513
6223 2905
9am to 6.30pm
5  Worship Masjid Jamae Singapore national monument 218 South Bridge Road, S058767
6221 4165, 6323 5971
10.30am to 6pm
6 Worship Sri Mariamman Temple Singapore national monument 244 South Bridge Rd, S058793
6223 4064
7am to 12pm, 6pm to 9pm
7 Shop The Tintin Shop 8 Pagoda Street, S059188
8183 2210
10am to 9pm
8 Performance Trengganu Street Lion dance performance
Sight Chinatown Heritage Centre 48 Pagoda Street, S059207
Currently closed for renovation
9  Food Lim Chee Guan Famous bak kwa 203 New Bridge Road, S059429
6227 8302
9am to 10pm
10 Food Mei Heong Yuen Dessert Hot and cold desserts for all weather 63 – 67 Temple Street, S058611
6221 1156
12pm to 9.30pm | Tue to Sun | Closed on Mon
11 Gallery Indigo Blue Art Contemporary Indian art 52B Temple Street, S058597
6372 1719
11am to 6pm | Mon to Fri | by appointment only on Sat, closed on Sun and public holidays
12 Food Chinatown Food Street Collection of local street food 335 Smith Street, S050335
11am to 11pm
13 Food Tai Chong Kok Cake Shop Famous for mooncake and nianguo 34 Sago Street, S059026
6227 5701
9.30am to 6pm, Mon | 9.30am to 8pm, Tue to Sun
14 Worship Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Houses tooth relic of Buddha 288 South Bridge Road, S058840
6220 0220
7am to 7pm
15 Sight Chinatown Visitor Centre Make booking for trishaw rides and walking tours 2 Banda Street, S059962
6221 5115, 6534 8942
9am to 10pm
16 Food Tong Heng Pastry Shop Famous for egg tart 285 South Bridge Road, S058833
6223 3649
9am to 10pm
17 Shop Lomography Embassy Store Singapore 295 South Bridge Road, S058838
6223 8850
12pm to 9pm

 * Images designed by Freepik


About DownloadADate

Kia is a Singaporean who likes to make lists and plans. She sees her weekends as sacred pockets of time that should be used for more than just movies and food. She enjoys cuddling up with a book as much as exploring new places by foot in the insane Singapore humidity. Listening to her friends who lament that there’s “nothing to do in Singapore” and fly all over the world for holidays, Kia seeks to look for escapades closer to home. She found that even in such a tiny country, there are many places she hasn’t been, things she hasn’t tried, and old places are being revamped into new ones all the time. Soon, she saw the places around her like how tourists would see them, but better – fresh and yet familiar. Kia then sets out to plan itineraries for her weekend escapes and it became a habit she enjoyed. And now she wants to share them with you. After all, there are 52 weekends in year and only so many holidays you can take. What if you can turn your dates with family and friends into holidays every week? Check out her adventures at www.downloadadate.wordpress.com

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