This is Chinese New Year season again. Besides Chinatown, many neighbourhood centres such as Ang Mo Kio Hub, Heartland Mall in Hougang, Chong Pang City in Yishun and other towns will be turned into little Chinatowns during this time. Car parks will be usually packed and parking lots would be hard to come by. Residents living in those areas may have difficulties finding parking lots after returning home from work or business.
Tents and stalls would be setup in the neighbourhood next to shops, near wet market and hawker centres. This is the time of the year where pent up demands for goods of all sorts are contributing to the coffers of shop owners and stall holders. By nature of Chinese New Year celebration, such festivities are turning the town red with festive decorations.
One good place to catch the Chinese New Year fever is Bugis shopping area. Tents and stalls become extension to the already busy shopping area in town. Stalls after stalls of Chinese New Year goodies and decorative items are on display and sale. The whole place is decorated to create the Chinese New Year festive mood.
Outside OG Mall, more cubicles are set up to catch the shopping crowds during this time. Clothes and such are on sale with great discounts. Bedding products are selling at buy one get two for free. This is no doubt the best time to push for sales of all and sundry when Chinese are dressing up their homes and closets with new stuff to welcome visitors during the new year.
Around the area is a hawker centre with many food stalls where local food is available at reasonable prices. The hawker centre is a local fare and if you are on a budget, this would be a good place to eat cheaply and at the same time sample tasty local food. During peak hours, it might be hard to find an empty table when you have purchased your food though.
If you are an Accor Plus member, you could walk over to Ibis Hotel at Bencoolen Street to enjoy discounts for meals up to 50% for two diners. The restaurant in this hotel is a great place to taste local food too and of course in the comfort of air-conditioning in hot and humid Singapore. Besides local food, the restaurant also serves western food and pasta as well. Prices are reasonable too comparing with other hotels. Ibis Hotel is also strategically located in town area and would be a good choice for those who wish to explore this part of town in Singapore near the Arts District. Orchard Road and Marina Bay are just a few bus stops away and the bus stop is just right outside the hotel.
Across Bencoolen Street is Sim Lim Square where you can get IT gadgets, cameras, mobile phones and accessories. Better do your research before you shop here as there are cases where locals and foreigners have been cheated by unscrupulous shop owners and some have been charged in court. If you know your stuff, you can get good bargains here. The Indian moneychanger on ground floor at the entrance below the overhead bridge offers good rates too.
Walking across Queen Street towards Bugis Junction, you could pick up some some souvenirs at Bugis Street shopping street next to Bugis Village. There are many small stalls and food stalls inside this shopping area. This place is like one of the Taiwanese shopping areas near night markets where young people loves to hangout. This is an interesting place to explore to buy cheap stuff and fashion clothes.
Crossing Victoria Street after walking through Bugis Street, you will reach the modern and busy Bugis Junction Shopping Mall where Bugis MRT Station is accessible from the basement food eateries and restaurants dining level. This shopping complex is connected with InterContinental Hotel as well as an office block. The place here is busy most the time.
BHG Department Store is an anchor tenant here. The are plenty of restaurants, cafes and eateries here. There is a food court on level 3 as well as many more smaller restaurants on the basement. Cold Storage supermarket is located at the basement too. If you wish to catch a movie, Shaw Theatres are located on level 4. By the way, the National Library is just across the road from InterContinental Hotel. This is another place to enjoy air-conditioning and find some place to rest and read after some tiring shopping activity.
Visiting Bugis shopping area is very easy and convenient. Bugis MRT Station is connected to Bugis Junction. There are two lines serving this station, the East-West line and the Downtown line. Before entering the MRT station from the basement of Bugis Junction, a food stall Old Chang Kee next to the exit is selling nasi lemak coconut rice set for just $2.50. This box of rice set consists of a chicken wing, a small piece of egg, a hotdog, a packet of fried peanuts and ikan bilis and a packet of sambal chili. So no excuse for going hungry if you are visiting Singapore and complain you can’t afford the food here. Old Chang Kee can be found all over the island in shopping malls and in some bus terminals and MRT stations.
There is a famous Chinese temple at Waterloo Street. Come this Sunday Chinese New Year Eve, this place would be packed with devotees. If you wish to witness what near stampede is like, stay till midnight. Find a safe spot and stay out of the way. Get your camera ready. The folks here would rush into the temple at the stroke of midnight with their joss sticks.
The area in Bugis would become relatively quiet on the first two days of Chinese New Year where most Chinese businesses would be closed. Of course Bugis Junction would remain open where InterContinental Hotel is located and Cold Storage supermarket would remain open as well. But some shops, restaurants and eateries might be closed at least for the first day of Chinese New Year. However, you can still catch a movie here during Chinese New Year.
So if you are visiting Singapore during this time, hop over to Bugis area for a visit. You might bring home some interesting stuff and enjoy some great bargains shopping in this area. Food options are aplenty. Just further across Rochor Road and Ophir Road along Queen Street is where you could catch a bus ride into some cities in Malaysia. Enjoy your visit in Singapore and immerse yourself in the vibrancy and dynamism of this small island state. Stay safe and have fun.