Hanging out in Singapore's Chinatown could bring to mind two completely different impressions, depending on which era you come from. It could mean it’s interesting or it’s boring.
For Yip Yew Chong, a street artist who grew up in Chinatown during the formative decades of Singapore, the area is so much more and a lot of has been changed, he has shown us what he knows and loves about the old Chinatown, which is trying to discover the neighborhood's real treasures.
Here are some real treasures in Singapore’s Chinatown that you need to know to explore:
Cobblers' Square is where you suffer to have your worn-out shoes and other boots resurrected by the stern looks, terse exchanges, and curt ways of elderly uncles.
When you come out of Chinatown MRT’s Exit C, you can pass the cobblers towards the OG Department Store at People's Park, People's Park Complex, or People's Park Food Centre-home to the popular Ri Ri Hong mala Xiang Guo stall.
Mr. Yip remembers the period before the MRT station was constructed when the many homemade stalls with rubber soles and glue cans on display took up the entire square. "You can't see this kind of scene anywhere in Singapore," he said. "All of them are old people who for many decades have been doing this trade here." These days, there are fewer cobblers, but the ones who are still there have made this room their second home.
HAI SENG PORCELAIN
Hai Seng Porcelain is tucked behind the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple on Sago Road. Since the 1970s, this unremarkable homeware shop has existed. Originally a supply store, its owner decided in the 1980s to transport household products, including wooden clogs, enamel homeware, and more.
Hai Seng is a real treasure known to many in the city, only a few streets away from Chinatown's more iconic locations, and a few home chefs searching for authentic old-school crockery.
Chinatown is not only the area in which Mr. Yip grew up; the area has become his canvas on which he holds his memories. Looking around Chinatown at his many signature murals, it is impossible to believe that he was never formally trained in painting. His favorite piece is called My Chinatown Home, and at 30 Smith Street, you will find it. It portrays his old home on Sago Street, where he had been staying for over 14 years until it was torn down.
24TH STOREY AT COMPLEX CHINATOWN
Mr. Yip's family relocated to an apartment above the Chinatown Complex Food Centre after his home in Sago Lane was torn down, where they were treated to an unrestricted sea view. They could also see Malaysia's neighbors on the horizon on clear days. He also witnessed the growth of Chinatown and the surrounding central business district from this vantage point.
The construction of One Raffles Place, for example, was one he saw constructed from the beginning. He said, "I recall waking up early in the morning, having breakfast in the living room, and seeing it every day as the building grew taller and taller." And to him, the stunning view of Chinatown today is symbolic of Singapore's development and prosperity.
PARK DUXTON PLAIN
The peaceful strip of greenery that is Duxton Plain Park is behind the row of trendy shop houses, pubs, boutique hotels, and Michelin Guide restaurants on Keong Saik Lane.
Source: Channel News Asia, The Travelearn