I think the smell of bak kwa is solely responsible for drawing half the people in Singapore to Chinatown during the CNY period.
Though we did have an awesome time hanging out here last year, celebrating the CNY festivities mosh pit style probably might not appeal to all.
And so just for you, we found a list of these great places you can check out – near enough to feel festive but far enough to catch a breather!
1. Chilled out on an abandoned carpark roof
With its dated yellow and green exterior, it’s impossible to miss People’s Park Complex sitting right at the heart of Chinatown.
The mall itself has a superbly weird and uninspiring mix of massage parlours and money remittance agents. So you can probably skip the shopping and just follow the signs and head up to the carpark on the 6th floor. This place has long become an Instagram hotspot but even if you’re not into photography, looking down at the throngs of people below from your secret hideout does feel a little like standing on Pride Rock. (I would recommend heading up here in the late afternoon when the building itself provides some much appreciated shade on the rooftop.)
Though the carpark is in operation, the highest floor seems pretty much abandoned. We even saw people doing photoshoots with their cars and motorbikes.
Takes hipster to a whole new level. Level 6 that is. 😀
Wander around the carpark and you can also catch a glimpse of Pearl Bank Apartments, a 38 storey hollow ¾ cylindrical tower which was designed to resemble a horseshoe. It was the tallest and densest residential building in Singapore when it was completed back in 1976. #iconicbuildings
2. Walked back into the year 1929
Continuing the theme of old historical buildings, head over to Keong Saik Road where shophouses built back in 1929 still line the streets. The grande dame here got to be the restored boutique Hotel 1929 which won the URA’s Architectural Heritage Award in 2003.
You can find more shophouses from that era along Neil Road and even along Erskine Road and Club Street. To find out their age, just look out for the year which is proudly displayed at the top of some of the shophouses.
3. Shopped in the year 1929
You wouldn’t normally think of going to Chinatown to shop, and no, I’m not talking about shopping for antiques. Though most of the shops along Club Street, Ann Siang Road and Erskine Road are pubs and eateries that only come alive after dark, and there are some designer boutiques worth looking out for. The range here certainly pales in comparison to what you can find at Haji Lane and are rather spread out among the food outlets.
Doesn’t help that some of them are located on the second floor and easy to miss. But the quaint shophouses makes it rather pleasant to stroll along the quiet alleys and it’s awesome when you’re able to snap some pictures without a hundred other people appearing into your photos. And chancing upon some boutique stores kinda feels like reaching a checkpoint in the Amazing Race. Mainly because there’s AIRCON.
4. Dabbled in some experimental photography
One interesting store that deserves its own mention is Lomography Gallery Store Singapore. If you’re into polaroid photography, here is where you’ll find its evolved cousin – lomography. You can get your gears here and hit the streets running!
The thing with old districts is that the buildings are eclectic and all over the place – perfect for finding the odd corners and crazy colours for a unique shot.
5. Soaked in some culture
In this age of fast food, fast entertainment and fast fashion, instead of popping into a cafe for your next caffeine fix, why not try winding down in a quiet sanctuary over a cup of tea?
Located at Neil Road away from the bustling Chinatown, Tea Chapter offers tea appreciation courses in a quaint oriental setting. If you like to go more in depth into the art of tea, Tea Chapter also runs workshops for individuals (minimum of 2 pax).
There’s something about tea and books that just seem to work, and just a short distance away is Littered with Books. For an even more apt pairing, a quaint chinese book store, 草根書室 (Grassroots Book Room), can be found further down at Bukit Pasoh Road.
6. Caught the prawns and crabs of success
Nope, no one is serving up chilli crabs or garlic prawns.
Unlike the prominent Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum which draws large crowds every weekend, nestled within Telok Ayer is a more serene Thian Hock Keng Temple. And while Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum was only completed in 2007, did you know that Thian Hock Keng Temple has been here since 1842!
So take your time to admire the intricate carvings around the temple. There’s also posters around the temple explaining the numerous symbols of success and achievements. If you like a game of Where’s Wally, see if you can locate them in the flash!
Apparently prawns and crabs are symbols to portray success in examinations.
How long do you think it will take before parents start sending their children to PSLE exams with crab and prawn shells?
Just next to Thian Hock Keng Temple is the virtually unheard of Singapore Musical Box Museum. To me, $12 is quite pricey so I didn’t check it out. But it includes a 40 minutes tour, so it might be interesting to a music fan or collector!
7. Hung out with cats
To round up the day, if you’re brave enough to venture back to the core of Chinatown, reward yourself with some furry cuddles at The Company of Cats.
Date timer: ~ 4 hours
Know someone who’s being dragged by their parents or relatives to visit Chinatown this CNY? Share these rescue spots with them!
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