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Chinatown, Singapore
Pagoda Street, Chinatown Heritage Centre, Dec 05.JPG
The Chinatown Heritage Centre at Pagoda Street occupies three shophouses in Chinatown, newly restored to house memories and untold stories of Singapore’s early forefathers.
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 牛車水
Simplified Chinese 牛车水
Literal meaning "ox-cart water"
Malay name
Malay Kreta Ayer
Tamil name
Tamil சைனா டவுன்

Singapore's Chinatown is an ethnic neighbourhood featuring distinctly Chinese cultural elements and a historically concentrated ethnic Chinese population. Chinatown is located within the larger district of Outram.

As the largest ethnic group in Singapore is Chinese, composing approximately 75% of the population, Chinatown is considerably less of an enclave than it once was. However, the district does retain significant historical and cultural significance. Large sections of it have been declared national heritage sites officially designated for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

Contents

Geography

Singapore's Chinatown is composed of several sub-districts. Kreta Ayer is one section within the larger Chinatown area. Other sections include Bukit Pasoh, (known also as the "Street of Clans") in which can be found several Chinese cultural and clan associations, and Tanjong Pagar, with many preserved pre-World War II shophouses. Finally, Telok Ayer was the original focal point of settlement in Chinatown, and is home to many Chinese temples as well as Muslim mosques.

There are also the Chinatown Heritage Centre, Chinatown Food Street, and Chinatown Night Market, which are largely maintained today for heritage and tourism purposes.

Etymology

[Bukit Pasoh Road] is located on a hill that in the 1830s marked the western boundary of the colonial town.

In Chinese, Singapore's Chinatown is known as Niu che shui (牛车水; pinyin: Niúchēshuǐ), literally, "bull-cart water," as a result of the fact that, because of its location, Chinatown's water supply was principally transported by animal-driven carts in the 19th century. The name is also echoed in the Malay name, Kreta Ayer, with the same meaning.

Street name origins

Road turning right is the entrance to Temple Street .
  • Mosque Street is named after Jamae Mosque, located on the South Bridge Road end of the street. The mosque was completed in 1830 by the Chulia Muslims from the Coromandel coast of South India. In the early years, Mosque Street was the site of ten stables.
  • Pagoda Street takes its name from the Sri Mariamman Temple. During the 1850s and 1880s, the street was one of the centres of slave traffic. It also had its share of coolie quarters and opium smoking dens. One of the traders was Kwong Hup Yuen who, it is thought, occupied No. 37, and after whom Pagoda Street is often referred to today.
  • Sago Lane and Sago Street got their name because in the 1840s there were a number of sago factories located there. Sago is taken from the pith of the rumbia palm and made into flour that is used for making cakes both sweet and savoury.
  • Smith Street was probably named after Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, who was the Governor of the Straits Settlements between 1887 and 1893.
  • Temple Street refers to the Sri Mariamman Temple, which is located at the South Bridge Road end of the street. It was formerly known as Almeida Street after Joaquim d'Almeida, son of José D'Almeida, who owned some land at the junction of Temple Street and Trengganu Street. In 1908, the Municipal Commissioners changed its name to Temple Street to avoid confusion with other streets in Singapore which were also named after D'Almeida.
  • Trengganu Street, described as "the Piccadilly of Chinese Singapore" in the past, now forms the heart of the tourist belt in Chinatown. In Chinese, it is called gu chia chui wah koi, or "the cross street of Kreta Ayer". The crossing of streets refers to Smith Street and Sago streets. The street name is derived from Terengganu, a state in present day Peninsular Malaysia.

History

Keong Saik Road was once a red light area in Chinatown in the 1960s, but has since been transformed into a street with many boutique hotels.

Under the Raffles Plan of Singapore, the area originally was a division of colonial Singapore where Chinese immigrants tended to reside. Although as Singapore grew, Chinese immigrants settled in other areas of the island-city, Chinatown became overcrowded within decades of Singapore's founding in 1819 and remained such until many residents were relocated at the initiation of Singapore's governmental Housing Development Board in the 1960s.

In 1822, Sir Stamford Raffles wrote to Captain C.E. Davis, President of the Town Committee, and George Bonham and Alex L. Johnson, Esquires, and members, charging them with the task of "suggesting and carrying into effect such arrangements on this head, as may on the whole be most conducive to the comfort and security of the different classes of inhabitants and the general interests and welfare of the place..."

He went on to issue instructions, as a guide to the Committee, which included a description of Singapore Town generally, the ground reserved by the government, the European town and principal mercantile establishments and the native divisions and "kampongs". These included areas for Bugis, Arabs, Marine Yard, Chulias, Malays, Markets and Chinese Kampongs, the present-day Chinatown. Raffles was very clear in his instructions and his guidelines were to determine the urban structure of all subsequent development. The "five-foot way", for example, the continuous covered passage on either side of the street, was one of the public requirements.

Raffles foresaw the fact that "it may be presumed that they (the Chinese) will always form by far the largest portion of the community". For this reason, he appropriated all of the land southwest of the Singapore River for their accommodation but, at the same time, insisted that the different classes and the different provinces be concentrated in their separate quarters and that these quarters, in the event of fire, be constructed of masonry with tiled roofs.

This thus resulted in the formation of a distinct section titled Chinatown. However, only when parcels of land were leased or granted to the public in and after 1843 for the building of houses and shophouses, did Chinatown's physical development truly begin.

Kreta Ayer Road is the road that defines for Chinese, the Chinatown area. In the 1880s, Kreta Ayer was the red light area in Chinatown.

The effects of diversity of Chinatown are still present. The Hokkiens (Fukiens) are associated with Havelock Road, Telok Ayer Street, China Street and Chulia Street, and the Teochew merchants are mostly in Circular Road, River Valley Road, Boat Quay and South Bridge Road. The ubiquitous Cantonese are scattered around South Bridge Road, Upper Cross Street, New Bridge Road and Bukit Pasoh Road. These days, the Hokkiens and Teochews have largely scattered to other parts of the island, leaving the Cantonese as the dominant dialect group in Chinatown.

The Chinese names for China Street are Kiau Keng Cheng (front of the gambling houses) and Hok Kien Ghi Hin Kong Si Cheng (front of the Hokkien Ghi Hin Kongsi). Church Street is an extension of Pickering Street and the Chinese call it Kian Keng Khau (mouth of the gambling houses) or Ngo Tai Tiahn Hok Kiong Khau (mouth of the five generations of the Tian Hok Temple).

Guilds, clans, trade unions and associations were all referred to as kongsi, a kind of Chinese mafia, although the literal meaning of the word is "to share". The so-called mafia is better translated as the secret and sinister hui. However, these secret societies, the triads, who themselves had suffered under the Manchus in China, provided support to the later immigrants to Singapore by paying their passage and permitting to pay it off by working.

There were the letter writers of Sago Street -- the Chinese called this street Gu Chia Chwi Hi Hng Cheng (front of Kreta Ayer Theatre), but it was mainly associated with death -- the sandalwood idols of Club Street and the complicated and simple food of Mosque Street; all rang to the sound of the abacus. Old women could be seen early in the mornings topping and tailing bean sprouts, the skins of frogs being peeled, the newly killed snakes being skinned and the centuries-old panaceas being dispensed by women blessed with the power of curing.

Surprisingly, in the heart of this diverse Chinese community is the most important temple for Singaporean Indians, the Sri Mariamman Hindu Tamil Temple, and the Indian mosques, Al-Abrar Mosque at Telok Ayer Street and Jamae Mosque at Mosque Street, as well as the Fukien Thian Hock Keng Chinese Temple of 1830 to 1842.

Architecture

Mosque Street is named after Jamae Mosque, located on the South Bridge Road end of the street.

The street architecture of Chinatown's buildings, the shophouses especially, combine different elements of baroque architecture and Victorian architecture and do not have a single classification. Many of them were built in the style of painted ladies, and have been restored in that fashion. These styles result in a variety of different colours of which pastel is most dominant. Trengganu Street, Pagoda Street and Temple Street are such examples of this architecture, as well as development in Upper Cross Street and the houses in Club Street. Boat Quay was once a slave market along the Singapore River, Boat Quay has the most mixed-style shophouses on the island.

In 1843, when land titles were issued, the terraces in Pagoda Street (now with additions, mostly three-story) were born. They were originally back to back, an arrangement which made night soil collection difficult, but lanes were developed in between following the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) backlane orders of 1935.

The architectural character of many of the terraces in Chinatown is much more Italianate in style than those of, for instance Emerald Hill or Petain Road. Windows often appear as mere slits with narrow timber jalousies (often with adjustable slats). Fanlights over the windows are usually quite decorative and the pilasters and balconies and even the plasterwork and colours seem to be Mediterranean in flavour. The style was probably introduced by those early Chinese immigrants (both China-born and Straits-born) who had knowledge of the Portuguese architecture of Macau, Malacca and Goa. The Chettiars and Tamils from Southern India would also have been familiar with the European architecture there, although it is difficult to imagine how these people would have had a particularly strong influence on building in Chinatown.

Transportation

Chinatown has a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station, called the Chinatown MRT Station, in the middle of Pagoda Street (which is closed to traffic) and serves the vicinity, as well as several public bus routes which integrates it into Singapore's transportation system.

Politics

Chinatown is mainly in the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng division of Jalan Besar Group Representation Constituency whose Member of Parliament is Lily Tirtasana Neo of the People's Action Party since 2001. Before that, the Member of Parliament of that area was former Minister for Finance Richard Hu Tsu Tau. The smaller part of Chinatown belongs to the Tanjong Pagar division of Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency whose Member of Parliament is Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew since 1955.

Gallery

References

  • Norman Edwards, Peter Keys (1996), Singapore - A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, Times Books International, ISBN 9971-65-231-5
  • Victor R Savage, Brenda S A Yeoh (2003), Toponymics - A Study of Singapore Street Names, Eastern Universities Press, ISBN 981-210-205-1

See also

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Singapore/Chinatown article)

From Wikitravel

Asia : Southeast Asia : Singapore : Chinatown
Fragrant signage for bak kwa, Pagoda St
Fragrant signage for bak kwa, Pagoda St

Singapore's Chinatown is the traditional Chinese quarters of town, and while the entire city is largely Chinese these days the area does retain some of its own charm. The area is also known as Niu Che Shui (牛车水) in Chinese and Kreta Ayer in Malay, both names meaning "bullock cart water", a reference to the carts that used to haul in drinking water.

The area between Pagoda Street and Smith Street has been tarted up considerably for tourists, but workaday Chinatown continues south and east, merging seamlessly into the Central Business District. Tanjong Pagar is the unofficial home of Singapore's gay community, with many watering holes in restored shophouses, while Club Street caters more to the expat and yuppie crowd with small, intimate eateries offering excellent (if pricy) Western fare.

Unlike most of predominantly Hokkien Singapore, the dominant Chinese dialect in Chinatown is Cantonese.

Get in

Exit A (Pagoda Street) of North-East MRT line's Chinatown station will deposit you right in the heart of the action. Outram Park, Tanjong Pagar and Raffles Place are also all within walking distance, as is Clarke Quay and the Singapore River to the north.

Map of Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar
Map of Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar

Chinatown's primary attraction is the town itself, composed as it is of restored shophouses full of strange little shops selling everything from plastic Buddhas to dried seahorses. Wander at random and see what you can find!

  • Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, 288 South Bridge Rd, [1]. 9 AM-6:30 PM. Towering above southern Chinatown, this four-story temple was completed only in 2007. The imposing main hall hosts a 27-foot statue of Maitreya Buddha, and the sacred relic itself, reputedly one of Buddha Shakyamuni's teeth, can be found on the fourth floor (visible only during daily ceremonies at 9-11 AM, 2-3:30 PM, 6:30-8 PM). On the roof is the 10,000 Buddhas Pagoda, hosting a large Tibetan-style prayer wheel. Free.  edit
  • Chinatown Heritage Centre, 48 Pagoda St, [2]. 9 AM-8 PM daily. An excellent museum chronicling how Chinatown came to be and the privation suffered by early migrants. The centre is on the left if you walk straight from the Pagoda St exit of Chinatown MRT station. $9.80/6.30 adult/child.  edit
  • Jamae Mosque, 218 South Bridge Rd. One of Singapore's oldest mosques, built in the 1830s by Tamil Muslims in an Indian style. Note the stepped minarets outside. Free.  edit
  • Red Dot Design Museum, 28 Maxwell Road, [3]. Fri-Tue 11 AM-6 PM, Wed-Thu closed. Formerly the traffic police HQ, now a design center painted firehouse red with a museum devoted to contemporary design. $5/3 adult/child.  edit
  • Sri Mariamman Temple, 244 South Bridge Rd. Singapore's oldest and most important Hindu temple and worth a visit for the intricately carved gopuram (statuary above the entrance), which gave adjacent "Pagoda Street" its name. This is an active temple, so take off your shoes and don't disturb the worshippers. The Thimithi fire-walking festival is held here one week before Deepavali, usually Oct/Nov. Free, but photo/video permit $3/6.  edit
  • Thian Hock Keng Temple, 158 Telok Ayer St, +65-64234616. The oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore, dating back to 1821, although the structure was thoroughly refurbished in 2000. The brightly colored, elaborate facade was constructed with ironwork from Scotland, tiles from England and the Netherlands, and dragon-ornamented granite pillars from China. Free.  edit

Chinatown is at its busiest and most colorful in the month preceding the Chinese New Year (Jan-Feb), when the streets are decked with festive decorations. Street markets are thronged with people, shows entertain the crowds and the drums of lion dances echo into the night. The festivities in a midnight countdown and a roar of firecrackers atop People's Park Complex, showering flaming confetti down below (steer clear!) — and for the two following days virtually everything is closed.

Do

Probably the most strenuous activity in Chinatown is avoiding touting tailors — which, incidentally, is illegal and can be reported to the police.

  • Rustic Nirvana, 25 Cantonment Road (Outram Park MRT, exit H), +65-62279193, [4]. Balinese-style spa with over 80 face and body treatment options, including the inimitably named Kung Fu Bouncing Herbs. Ladies only.  edit
  • Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble, [5]. A theater group that constantly pushes the limits of free expression in Singapore. Performances at the Attic (21 Tanjong Pagar Rd, 4F) and the Theatrette (17A Smith St).  edit
  • Qimantra, 83A Club Street, +65-2215691, [6]. Traditional Chinese remedial massage in a hip modern setting. Treatment prices range from $30 (30min) to $120 (2hrs).  edit
  • Spahaven, 45-46 Amoy St, +65 62212203, [7]. Mon-Sat 11 AM-9 PM. Spread over 3,500 sq ft in a charmingly restored shophouse, this day spa offers hair removal (IPL/AFT) for women and men, waxing and skin treatments, with jazz and bossanova playing in the background.  edit
Chinese New Year decorations on sale
Chinese New Year decorations on sale
People's Park Complex, one of the more well known malls in Chinatown.
People's Park Complex, one of the more well known malls in Chinatown.

The central streets of Chinatown are packed with stalls selling all sorts of Chinese trinkets. There is also a cluster of (expensive) antique shops on South Bridge Rd. Numerous shopping malls selling Chinese handicrafts, antiques, fashion items, home accessories and Chinese medicine.

  • People's Park Complex, 1 Park Road. Has numerous shops selling electronics, clothing, clocks, Chinese medicine and jewelery. Also, there are many massage parlours and travel agents.  edit
  • Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Road. A shopping mall that mainly sells handicrafts, there are other shops selling gifts and watches as well as beauty salons.  edit
  • OG People's Park, 100 Upper Cross Street, [8]. Sells a wide range of department store merchandise, well known brands such as Adidas, Giordano and Billabong have counters in the building. On the fifth floor, there is a food section selling mainly Korean products, with a Westlake cafe on the third floor.  edit
  • Pearl's Centre, 100 Eu Tong Sen Street. Labyrinthine old shopping mall with a bizarre assortment of stores, ranging from Buddhist paraphernalia (most of the 2nd/3rd floors) to sexy underwear for men (two shops in the basement) and everything in between. The Yangtze cineplex, infamous for showing only notionally arty soft-porn movies, is located on the fourth floor.  edit
  • Tea Chapter, 9 Neil Rd, [9]. Covered under Drink, this store also retails a wide variety of not only Chinese tea itself, but all the paraphernalia needed to brew it.  edit
  • Yue Hwa, 70 Eu Tong Sen St (corner of Cross St), [10]. Prominently located in central Chinatown, this stately building was originally built in 1936 as Chinatown's top hotel. Today, it's a six-floor emporium of Chinese products, from traditional medicine on the first floor, complete with deer horns and dried bats, to porcelain and furniture on the sixth. The sweeping lobby on the second floor now houses an amazing array of Chinese tea, ranging from $1.40/100g looseleaf and $3 cups to pedigreed $18,000 pu erh and $80,000 teapots.  edit

Among the Chinese, the obligatory souvenir is some sweet red bak kwa (barbequed pork), available both fresh off the grill and in convenient vacuum packs.

  • Bee Cheng Hiang, 69-71 Pagoda St (Chinatown MRT exit A), [11]. Bee Cheng Hiang is the most famous bak kwa brand, with 28 outlets throughout Singapore.  edit
  • Fragrance, 205 & 207 New Bridge Rd (Chinatown MRT exit A), [12]. Fragrance is another famous brand of bak kwa, with 20 outlets throughout Singapore.  edit
  • Lim Chee Guan, 203 New Bridge Rd. The local favourite for this treat, with 3-4 hour queues (with news crews filming this event from time to time) around the Chinese New Year period. Tastier than the competition, but harder to find as it has only two outlets.  edit

Eat

In Chinatown there is, needless to say, plenty of Chinese food to go around! But if you hanker for something different, Tanjong Pagar is also Singapore's unofficial Korean district and there are a large number of very good Korean restaurants too, plus a sprinkling of European fine dining establishments around Club St and Duxton Hill.

Hawkers at Smith Street
Hawkers at Smith Street

Two good hunting grounds for cheap eats are Smith Street, a single row of fancy stalls with the nicest ambiance of the lot and quite decent food too, and Maxwell Centre at 2 Murray St, just across road and a few minutes walk from Tanjong Pagar MRT. Most dishes in either location are less than $5, although seafood can get considerably more expensive. Note that most of Smith Street's stalls are open for dinner only, while Maxwell Centre is open 24 hours. Connoisseurs may also wish to check out the 2nd floor of the newly renovated Chinatown Complex, which hosts one of Singapore's largest hawker centres with over 200 stalls, but this labyrinthine warren of concrete and flourescent lighting is both hard to navigate and not exactly a treat to the eyes.

  • Ah Balling Peanut Soup, Smith St. Top off your meal with a bowl of Chinese peanut soup and rice balls, filled with your choice of peanut, sesame, yam or red bean paste. $2.50/bowl.  edit
  • Akbar Restaurant, 2 Lim Teck Kim Rd. Open 24 hours. At the southernmost tip of Tanjong Pagar, this busy but friendly 24-hour coffeeshop (don't be fooled by the name) serves up a wide variety of Malay and Muslim Indian food, with the roti prata being the star of the menu. $5.  edit
  • Da Dong, 39 Smith St. The dim sum in the restaurant inside are only mediocre, but the best eats here are the steamed buns (bao) from the stall outside. Most bao are 60-80 cents, but the aptly named Big Bao ($2.50) stuffed with chicken, mushrooms, sausage and more is a meal in itself.  edit
  • Day & Night Herbal Soup, Maxwell Centre #01-12. This is the place to try out the Chinese herbs sold by medicine shops nearby. If pig brain soup ($5) is too Fear Factor-y, try the milder six flavour chicken ($6), good for whatever ails you. $5-10.  edit
  • Mei Hong Yuen, 67 Temple St. Specializes in Chinese desserts, notable for a whole range of soups and puddings. Try the mango pudding ($3), which comes with chunks of fresh mango plus sprinkles of pomelo, tapioca and ice.  edit
  • Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, Maxwell Centre #01-10. Tue-Sun 11 AM-8 PM in theory, but often sells out faster. Described by the New York Times as a "chicken rice shrine", this humble stall is considered by many as the best in Singapore and is easily distinguished from its many imitators by the long queue snaking in front. The chicken is meltingly smooth, and don't forget to try their trademark chili sauce. $3.  edit
  • Tong Heng, 285 South Bridge Road, [13]. Chinese bakery famed for its freshly-baked egg tarts ($1), best washed down with a bottle of water chestnut juice. Tong Heng now has many other outlets, including one at Changi Airport, but this is the original.  edit
  • Zhen Zhen Porridge, Maxwell Centre #01-54. Wed-Mon 6 AM until sold out (noon-ish). Famous not so much for their rice porridge (from $2.20) as for their raw fish salad (from $2), served up with spring onion, sesame, ginger, garlic and a drizzle of lime. Prepare to queue.  edit
  • Fatty Ox Hong Kong Roast Duck, 10 Murray Terrace. Thu-Tue, open for lunch and dinner. Aside from the obvious roast duck (half/whole $16/32, or dishes with duck $8-10), this restaurant is also known for its claypot dishes and its daily-changing Chinese soups. The $5 lunches are good value, but even at dinner $20 for two is plenty.  edit
  • Hometown Restaurant, 9 Smith St, +65-63721602. Serves up authentic Sichuanese (Szechwan) food, meaning fearsome quantities of dried chili, tingly Sichuan pepper, salt and oil. The tea-smoked duck ($10) and mapo doufu ($6) are both excellent, while bowls of dan dan noodles go for just $5. Open for lunch and dinner daily.  edit
  • Hankookgwan, 26 Tanjong Pagar Road. Swish-looking two-floor Korean eatery that offers both expensive bulgogi barbeques and more reasonably priced rice and noodle dishes. Try the dolsot bibimbap (rice with toppings in a sizzling stone bowl), $9/14 lunch/dinner.  edit
  • OK Yong Tau Foo, 33 Mosque St. Specializes in homemade Hakka-style yong tau foo, basically all sorts of tofu products in broth. Pick your own ingredients, choose a noodle type to go with it, and the staff will do the rest. Sounds simple, and so is the sparse decoration of this overgrown hawker stall (no air con), but the taste is heavenly and the queues at lunchtime formidable. Note that the food is not vegetarian (the broth has meat) and many of the ingredients contain fish or mysterious pig parts, so ask if you are unsure. $10.  edit
  • Qun Zhong Eating House, 21 Neil Rd. Well-known for its dumplings, above all the Beijing-style jiaozi, but the Shanghai-style xiao long bao aren't bad either. Large servings around $9, closed Wednesdays.  edit
  • Tian Jin Fong Kee, 1 Park Road (#01-100 People's Park Complex), +65-6532-3319, [14]. Originally a dumpling shop from northern China, this low-key eatery at the corner of the massive People's Park hawker center has mutated, in a very Singaporean way, into the favorite hangout of sailors and their Filipina/Thai girlfriends from the nearby KTV lounges, drinking San Miguel until early morning and ordering off their extensive second menu of Filipino food. Chinese eats are cheap ($5-10), Filipino dishes far more expensive ($25+), but they're huge and meant to be shared. Fun people-watching.  edit
  • Tiong Shian Porridge Centre, 265 New Bridge Road, +65-62211596, [15]. 7 AM-11:30 PM, closed Mon. Always-packed eatery in the heart of Chinatown, specializing in rice porridge and claypots, with a sideline in seafood dishes. Try their famous frog claypot (from $8), but the squeamish may want to avoid the hoon chang — large intestine — dishes. Note your table number, then order and pay at cashier; there's more seating on the 2nd floor if the street level is full. $10.  edit
  • Blue Ginger, 97 Tanjong Pagar Rd, +6562223928, [16]. Daily 11.30am-2.30pm and 6pm-10pm. Possibly Singapore's best-known (and most expensive) restaurant for very authentic Peranakan food. One of the most popular dishes is ayam buah keluak, a chicken curry dish made with candlenuts. $50.  edit
  • Da Paolo, 80 Club St, +65-62247081. An authentic and popular Italian restaurant known for its home-made pasta. Open daily for lunch and dinner, reservations recommended on weekends. $50.  edit
  • Korea Garden, 34 Tanjong Pagar Rd, +65-62217153. The decor is grungy, staff are harried and prices are steep, but the place is often packed with Korean expats hankering for authentic home cooking. $40.  edit
  • The Universal, 40 Duxton Hill (behind Berjaya Hotel), +65-63250188, [17]. Lunch and dinner daily. A quaint fine dining restaurant with a modern take on European cuisine. Attached wine bar. $60.  edit
  • Uluru, 36 Duxton Hill (behind Berjaya Hotel), +65-62233654, [18]. Noon-2 PM, 6-10 PM weekdays, Sat/Sun from 10 AM. This is an Aussie Steakhouse with charm aplenty. Good prices for a hearty meal. Look out for the cow uniforms on the staff. $55.  edit

Drink

Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar have a vibrant nightlife. As you'd expect, karaoke boxes and their dodgier cousin the KTV lounge predominate, but the area around Club St and Ann Siang Hill has many upmarket wine bars catering to expats and moneyed locals. Many of the second-floor bars and clubs in the area cater to Singapore's gay community, so look out for the rainbow flags.

  • Beaujolais Wine Bar, 1 Ann Siang Hill, +65-6224-2227. Cozy, romantic yet unpretentious shophouse with friendly staff, a huge wine list and generously sized eats ranging from cheese platters ($10-16) to chili con carne ($14). Wine by the glass from $10.  edit
  • Breeze, 33 Erskine Rd (Scarlet Hotel). True to its name, this outdoor bar atop the Scarlet offers cool breezes and is an oasis of lush foliage, only with peeping skyscrapers to remind you that you're in the heart of Singapore. Remarkably long drink list and the self-proclaimed best mojitos in town. $15.  edit
  • Cow & Coolies Pub, 30 Mosque St. 5 PM-1 AM daily. One of the very few drinking holes in the area that's neither posh yuppie hangout nor dodgy hostess lounge, this low-key pub draws an eclectic crowd of both gay and straight locals and backpackers, especially those hankering to sing a song or two on the heavily-used karaoke machine. The pub also has basic backpacker accommodation upstairs, from $25/night. $10 for a beer.  edit
  • The Toucan, 15 Duxton Hill (behind the Berjaya Hotel), +65-62235950. Mon-Thu 11-1 AM, Fri 11-3 AM, Sat 4 PM-3 AM. Archetypal Irish pub complete with garden teleported straight out of Ireland, including even a wishing well. The $7.50 lunch deal (11 AM-3 PM daily) is great value: try their famous fish & chips or lamb shank. Pint of Guinness from $11.10  edit
  • Tea Chapter, 9 Neil Rd, [19]. Try this excellent tea house and shop for a spot of tea drinking Chinese style. A basic pot of tea and an introduction on how to brew it right starts at $8, although some of the fancier brands (how about some Phoenix's Shrubbery?) cost much more. Plain seats on the open 3rd floor are free, raised and partitioned seats on the 2nd cost an additional $5 per head. Be warned, although the setting is gorgeous, the tea is mediocre.  edit
  • Yixing Xuan Teahouse, 30/32 Tanjong Pagar Road, [20]. The shop is divided into two: there is a dining area set up like a simple Chinese restaurant, and a separate area where lessons on tea are held, and tea leaves and paraphernalia are sold. The ambience is not really there, but the tea is of the very highest quality. Ask to try the house tea: Beauty of the East.  edit

Sleep

While there are a few ordinary hotels, the most interesting accommodation options in Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar are in renovated shophouses.

Budget

There are a few hostels in the suburbs around Chinatown.

  • Sentosa View, 105 Spottiswoode Park Road (Near KTM railway station), +65-91009123 (), [21]. Small but clean hostel located on the 23rd floor of a public housing block, the location is reasonably handy if you're coming from Malaysia by train but inconvenient for anything else, about 10 minutes walk (or a short bus trip) to Chinatown. Living room with TV, PC, free wifi, basic breakfast. No lockers. Dorm $20-25.  edit
  • Home Sweet Home II, 5A Yong Siak St, +65-62225168. Located on the second floor in a residential area southwest of Chinatown. Run by the friendly Ros, an ex-backpacker. Dorm $12, double room $30.  edit

Mid-range

Keong Saik Road, at the western edge of town, is a former red-light district which still retains more than its fair share of dodgy karaoke lounges — as well as a number of cheap, largely identical shophouse hotels, which look rather attractive from the outside but are all quite cramped, stuffy and dingy inside.

  • Hotel 1929, +6663471929 (Outram Park MRT), [22]. TIME Asia's Boutique Hotel of the Year in 2004, this renovated super-stylish shophouse is best known for its extraordinary collection of chairs, covering the gamut from designer masterpieces to a barber's chair a century old. Head and shoulders above the other hotels in Keong Saik, the rooms feature all mod cons including flat-panel TVs and free broadband internet in every room, but the "superior" rooms are tiny and steeply priced for what you get; you might want to consider splurging on one of the rooftop suites complete with outdoor hot tub. $200.  edit
  • Inn at Temple Street, 36 Temple Street, [23]. 1 minute walk from MRT and Chinatown shopping. Feels slightly shabby and uncared for: cramped rooms, peeling wallpaper, antiquated air conditioning. The upside is a great location. $110-170.  edit
  • Keong Saik Hotel, 69 Keong Saik Rd, +65-62230660, [24]. Probably the least bad of the midrange shophouse lot, the main draws here are pricing and location. All rooms have air-con and attached bathrooms (shower only). Ask to see your room before you check in though, as some of the cheapest ones are windowless and dank. $100.  edit
  • Hotel Re!, 175A Chin Swee Road (10 min from Outram Park MRT), +65-68278288, [25]. Former primary school repainted with eyeball-blistering flourescent shades and thus now a 12-story, 140-room "retro boutique" hotel. Located on a hilltop with nothing nearby and a sweaty hike to the nearest MRT station. No pool, overpriced restaurant. $200.  edit
  • Amara Hotel, 165 Tanjong Pagar Rd, +65-6879-2555, [26]. Classy, modern business hotel with its own large shopping mall. $300.  edit
  • Berjaya Hotel Singapore, 83 Duxton Road, +65-62277678 (fax: +65-62271232), [27]. Faded grand old lady of a colonial hotel: rather in need of a renovation, but if you squint hard enough, it does look a bit like a pre-renovation Raffles. Central location, but rooms facing the bar strip in front may be noisy. No pool. $240.  edit
  • M Hotel, 81 Anson Rd (Tanjong Pagar MRT), +65-6421-6120, [28]. Stylish business hotel in the commercial heart of Tanjong Pagar. The gym features a miniature climbing wall. $300.  edit
  • New Majestic, 31-37 Bukit Pasoh Rd (Outram Park MRT, exit H), +65-65114700, [29]. By the people who brought you Hotel 1929, this too is a refurbished shophouse, but the 30 rooms comes in four themes: mirror, hanging bed, aquarium and loft. Nice pool (although in shade for much of the day), small gym, free wifi, good restaurant with views of the pool — from underneath! $300.  edit
  • The Scarlet, 33 Erskine Rd (next to Maxwell Hawker Centre), +65-65113333, [30]. Beyond mere boutiqueness, this "personality hotel" in a stretch of converted shophouses is stuffed with more red plush and gold trim than a Parisian boudoir and does its best to encourage all 7 deadly sins with restaurant Desire, bar Bold, spa Sanctum and gym Flaunt. Rooms are small but comfortable, good location right next to Maxwell Food Centre and the heart of Chinatown. $250.  edit
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