Friday, 5 July 2013

Chinatown

Chinatown

We have visited Chinatown many times since our arrival and will continue to do so; we haven't even scratched the surface yet. The first initial trip gives the impression of another "touristy" area with gift shops and the ubiquitous food stalls, not that different from many other "chinatowns" around the globe. However, dig a little deeper and there is a wealth of history to be found.

typical Chinatown street scene

The Chinese were some of the earliest arrivals to Singapore, coming mainly from Malacca and then soon after from  China, when Sir Stamford Raffles (yes from the Raffles hotel fame) pronounced it a free port in 1819. Raffles allocated a space southwest of the Singapore river for these Chinese in his 1828 Town Plan. It was a huge success with 5-8,000 labourers initially escaping China and its poverty and political turmoil.  They worked hard but didnt escape poverty. Once they had paid off their debts they started trades the same as before they had left their homeland. Restaurants, tea houses, theatres and brothels sprang up alongside blacksmiths, rag and bone and pepper merchants etc .

Over time the original boundaries of the Chinese Kampong (village) extended and each street took its own identity one for tradesmen, one for the dead and dying (Sago lane) and others for crafts and seamstresses and so on. Throughout these streets however there were hawkers everywhere selling "everything." With so many different groups of Chinese they all craved the "taste of home" and food peddlers appeared to accommodate this. Although cleaned up and sanitized this is still the basis of what Chinatown is today.

Chinatown was a squalid place with a reputation to match. From the 1950s the Government decided to "clean" it up, although many now feel that it has lost its soul. Many Chinese were relocated to other parts of the city and the shophouses were renovated, becoming souvenir shops which are now air-conditioned and hygienic .

There are many precincts to Chinatown but on this occasion we just spent a relaxing couple of hours wandering around and taking snaps....as below

Five foot way in front of a shophouse

 Tea shop. Note the way it is packaged

Temple. very vibrant colours

Some examples of the local architecture. Some of these buildings were notorious brothels before becoming high class hotels!






Great image of old and new Chinatown with the new HDB block behind 



And finally photo taken by hubby of the washing hanging from another HDB block