It is Chinese Lunar New Year again. Chinatown, the main venue for Lunar New Year celebration is all decked up for this coming event just two weeks away. It would be the year of the rooster this time so a huge and colourful rooster is installed at the main thoroughfare in Chinatown. This is much nicer than the Donald Trump version in China.
Colourful lanterns are strung across the roads and streets all over Chinatown. It would be quite a sight at night. Perhaps, this could rival Hoi An in Central Vietnam minus the river scene. It is very hot during the day but visitors are still present. Tourists were busy snapping up the festive Chinatown scenes from streets to streets and on the overhead bridge as well.
Festive Goodies on Sale
Shops and stalls are already set up and new year goodies are on sale. It wasn’t crowded during the day due to the heat. Come night time, especially nearer to New Year Eve, the streets would be packed. The famous Lim Chee Guan bah kwa shop along New Bridge Road was having a shorter queue when I walked past this morning. The queue is quite legendary so you may want buy your bah kwa early to save time.
Christmas was over just slightly two weeks’ ago. So it was interesting to see Santa Claus balloon displayed together with the Chinese god of wealth. Some tourists were amused and were taking pictures of this strange combination. Take a look this amusing sight at Smith Street if you happen to be there. Continue reading Chinese New Year Celebration at Chinatown→
Other than Chinese New Year, another good time to visit Chinatown is during the period of Mid Autumn Festival. Right now, Chinatown has been dressed up for the occasion with lanterns and decorations hanging all over town. Of course, this whole area of Chinatown would become very lovely at night, much like Hoi An in Vietnam, albeit, a much more modern version of a similar attraction with plenty of Chinese old buildings, shops and cultural activities.
Unlike Hoi An, the surrounding area of Chinatown is fenced up with skyscrapers. Old and new shopping malls and hotels are sitting around the area. The central business district is just next to Chinatown at the Raffles Place and Shenton Way area. From Upper Cross Street, one could walk all the way into the busy business district.
Besides many bus services, Chinatown can be reached easily via the MRT Station from the North-East and Downtown Line. Different exits would provide visitors access to different parts of Chinatown without having to expose much to the external elements, especially during a hot and humid day or a raining day. Continue reading Mid Autumn Festival at Chinatown (September 2016)→
After a good night sleep, we pondered where to go for breakfast. We were not very interested in the hotel’s buffet breakfast as we didn’t feel like eating too much. Another option was Chinatown nearby to feast on our favourite local food. Finally, we decided to head down to McDonalds for breakfast. It was so convenient.
When the children were much younger, having breakfast at the McDonalds was almost a weekly affair during the weekend. So it was quite a few years since we had breakfast together at McDonalds again. We ordered our usual breakfast sets and indulged in some nostalgia feasting on our favourite meals. The restaurant wasn’t crowded early Sunday morning. Those who hung out late the previous night were still in bed.
Shops in Liang Court Shopping Centre were not opened yet. So the mall was rather quiet. Clarke Quay of course was quiet as well but with occasional joggers running along the Singapore River. It was a peaceful and pleasant morning outdoor.
Across the road over at Fort Canning Hill, the park was welcoming morning joggers as well. Some liked to stroll along the hill to enjoy the sight of the downtown area. When I was much younger, I preferred to jog up Mount Faber and I enjoyed the surrounding views, especially to watch sunrise. I could look across the sea over to Sentosa Island. The view from Fort Canning Park was no less inspiring too.
The swimming pool was not crowded this morning. It was rather peaceful with hotel guests enjoying their breakfast at The Square Restaurant overlooking the swimming pool. It was partly cloudy this morning and was still as windy as the day before.
We booked our hotel during the Accor sales which came with breakfast as well. When we woke up, it was already very bright in Kuala Lumpur. We enjoyed the great views of the city with the Petronas Twin Towers under the morning sun from our room on level 24. It was just 7.30 am and this would be a great day in the city for sight seeing and shopping.
We lingered some time before going for breakfast after 8 am. The restaurant at the lobby was pretty busy. Since this was Christmas season, the entrance to the restaurant was decked up with Christmas decorations.
The wait staff immediately ushered us to a table. We ordered omelets and then went around to get food. Before returning to our table, we collected our omelets.
The breakfast was the usual fare of a five stars hotel with main course and a variety of food choice both western and eastern. A waitress came along and asked about our drinks and made us very nice coffee. The breakfast was satisfying but not fantastic compared to other Pullman Hotels we had stayed in the region. Anyway, Pullman had recently taken over this property from the former Prince Hotel, there would be room for improvement.
Back in our room, we took our time to rest and watched a little TV before getting ready to leave and explore the city. There was no point to rush out early morning as most shops would not be opened so early. Slightly after 10 am, we left Pullman KLCC Hotel. We took a right turn and walked to the bus stop after the overhead bridge to Pavilion Mall to wait for the free GOKL bus.
We were waiting for a bus from the purple line to Chinatown. Our return bus pick up point was The Five Elements Hotel at Chinatown so we were going there to recce the place before our return to Singapore the next day. After all, it had been a long time since we visited Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur. Two buses came but they served other areas at KLCC and the commercial district. Next came a bus from the purple line and we boarded the bus.
In about 30 minutes, the bus terminated near the Central Market. It was a hot and sunny day. We alighted and walked across the busy road towards Chinatown.
We ventured into a side street and walked through a carpark towards Jalan Petaling. We passed a street food area like one of those found in some back lanes in Hong Kong. There were many food stalls there where customers were mostly Chinese. We were not hungry after the buffet breakfast so we skipped this place and entered Petaling Street.
Petaling Street in Chinatown is one long touristy street with stalls on both sides outside shops, restaurants and guesthouses. It resembles some streets in Hong Kong near Nathan Road. It was still early slightly after 11 am and some stalls were just opening for business. Hence, the place wasn’t crowded yet during our visit.
You can buy clothes, bags, phone accessories, souvenirs and food along this touristy street. You would need to bargain though otherwise you would be paying more than the price expected from the vendors. The stuff sold here are pretty much the same as what you can get in Bangkok except that the prices are slightly higher which is to be expected. So my dear wife did some shopping for clothes at one of the stalls along the street. The vendors here can speak English and Mandarin as well as the Cantonese dialect.
Next we made our way to The Five Elements Hotel via Jalan Hang Lekir and turning right into Jalan Sultan. We entered the hotel to find the travel agent for the KKKL Coach and to confirm the timing and pickup point. After obtaining our information from the staff managing the tour booth office on the right at the hotel lobby, we left the hotel and continued to roam the streets around Chinatown.
Chinatown at Petaling Street is an interesting place. Some street food stalls have been around Chinatown for many years and such stalls are no longer found in Singapore. There are side streets to explore as well and Chinatown is a place to buy cheap stuff but don’t expect the stuff sold here to be genuine. Shopping here just adds another dimension to shopping in the mostly modern air-conditioned malls in Kuala Lumpur. There are hotels and guesthouses in this area for those who prefer to stay near to this place of attraction.
Nearer to noon, we made our way back to the bus terminal next to Central Market. Along the way, we dropped by at a fruit stall and bought a fresh coconut to quench our thirst. It was an easy walk along Jalan Hang Lekir and then turned left to Jalan Hang Kasturi. The bus terminal was just across the road. We boarded the GOKLpurple line bus waiting there which was already quite crowded.
The bus moved off not long after and picked up more passengers along the way. The bus was packed and there was a passenger holding a table fan standing precariously in the bus. Since this was a Sunday morning, many foreign workers were not working and they took advantage of this free bus service. So the free GOKL bus services were overwhelmed.
About 30 minutes later, we alighted at Bukit Bintang bus stop. We walked over to Sungei Wang Plaza to check out the mall for some mobile phone accessories. There were some Christmas decorations at the main atrium with a centre stage for performance. The Christmas decorations here were a far cry compared to Pavilion Mall. Not only that, Sungei Wang Plaza was no longer what it used to be where it was busy and full of shoppers during weekends. While there were still shops and stalls in the mall, it was rather quiet.
Moreover, Bukit Bintang Plaza looked like it was shutting down with nothing much to see there. My wife bought some blouses for the girls but I didn’t manage to get the phone accessories I wanted. City Square and KSL City Mall in Johor are so much better places to shop at than these two malls here. So we left after a short visit.
We then went over to Lot 10 Mall to continue with more shopping. It was already after 1 pm so we went down to the food court for lunch. This is one of our favourite food haunts in Kuala Lumpur. You don’t have to go over to Jalan Alor to taste local food. You can find all the favourite local food at this food court. However, the food court can be very crowded during peak hours. We had a great lunch here enjoying the famous Kuala Lumpur black noodles and fried prawn noodles.
After lunch, we did some shopping at Lot 10 Mall. There was an event at the main atrium on the ground floor. Isetan was closing for renovation. Other than the food court on the basement, Lot 10 Mall was also quiet even on a Sunday. So don’t expect to spend a lot of time here other than the food court in the basement.
We left Lot 10 Mall and crossed the road at Jalan Bukit Bintang to take a look at Tous Les Jours Bakery and Café. The bread, pastries and cakes here looked good. So we planned to return the next morning to buy some bread and cakes to bring back to Singapore.
While we were at Jalan Bukit Bintang, our next destination was naturally Pavilion Mall. So we walked back up the road towards the entrance of Pavilion Mall. The entrance was a busy place with many shoppers stopping to take pictures of the very nice Christmas decorations. It was a very different situation from the night before where the place was packed with shoppers enjoying the snow fall activity at 8 pm.
It was already 2 pm when we entered the mall. Our first mission was to shop at Parkson Store to use up the cash voucher we redeemed the day before. After shopping at Parkson Mall, we exited at Jalan Rajah Chulan to return to Pullman KLCC Hotel after 3 pm.
Having visited Chinatown, Sungei Wang Plaza, shopped and lunched at Lot 10 Mall and shopped at Parkson Store at Pavilion Mall, it was time to take a break and rest a while in our nice and spacious room with a splendid view of the Petronas Twin Towers. So we watched TV and rested and caught up with the children back home.
After 6 pm, we went to some restaurants in our hotel for a look before deciding where to have dinner. Having checked the restaurants though as Accor Plus members we would enjoy 50% discount for dining for two, we decided to eat at Pavilion Mall since we would like to do another round of shopping there. Crossing Jalan Raja Chulan had become a routine these two days. There were some challenges crossing this wide busy road but we overcame them without any trouble.
Over at Pavilion Mall, we went down to the basement to check out the restaurants first. The whole area at the basement was very busy and crowded. Diners were filling up the basement level and queues were formed in a number of restaurants. So we decided it was better to have a quick meal at the huge food court.
As we surveyed the food court, we took a while before we could find an empty table. My dear wife and I took turns to queue and purchase food for dinner. Though it was a simple meal, the local food didn’t fail to provide a satisfying meal.
We then roamed Pavilion Mall and enjoyed the Christmas festive mood again. The night scene in Pavilion Mall was indeed captivating. The Christmas decorations at other malls we had visited could not be compared to this mall. Perhaps KLCC mall might have a better Christmas setup and capture a much greater crowd. Actually, we could walk to KLCC from Pavilion Mall via the overhead sky bridge in under 15 minutes. This overhead sky bridge is air-conditioned and is not far on the right of Pullman KLCC Hotel. But we didn’t intend to visit KLCC this time.
This evening, we didn’t wish to experience the snow fall event at the main entrance at 8 pm. It was super crowded at the entrance last night and it was quite dangerous for little children to be cramped up among so many adults. So after another round shopping it was time to head back to Pullman KLCC Hotel.
But before returning to our hotel, we went to Dome café to buy some nice cakes to bring back for supper. The main atrium with those beautiful Christmas decorations were attracting crowds here. After buying the cakes, we walked back to Pullman KLCC Hotel.
Back in our room it was time to relax again. Of course, with all the shopping done, we did some packing to get ready for the next day’s departure. So it was TV time and time to catch up with the children. Supper time soon came. Coffee and tea with the cakes bought at Dome’s café were great refreshments together with the splendid night view of Petronas Twin Towers from our room, it was a great time indeed.
Pullman KLCC Hotel was the perfect choice for our Kuala Lumpur weekend break. The location of this hotel is strategic for those who wish to explore and shop at Bukit Bintang area with Pavilion Mall just across the road. KLCC is also within walking distance via the air-conditioned sky bridge located just few minutes walk on the right of the hotel. The bus stop for the free GOKL bus services to KLCC, Chinatown and other places is just a few steps away from the escalator going up to the sky bridge to KLCC and Pavilion Mall. So Pullman KLCC Hotel would be our top hotel whenever we visit Kuala Lumpur in the future.
As we chilled the night away we concluded our second day in Kuala Lumpur and were pleased with our shopping and the places we visited, in particular, Petaling Street in Chinatown where we had not visited for many years. Our departure time the next day would be 1.30 pm at The Five Elements Hotel at Chinatown. So we would still have the morning for last minute shopping. With that, we bid goodnight to our children and looked forward to seeing them back home the next day.
Chinatowns can be found in many major cities in world where the Chinese are usually minorities in that country. Their forefathers immigrated in yesteryears to such cities to seek a better life for themselves and their family. Businesses are thus set up to cater to the needs of these new immigrants. So shops, restaurants, markets and even houses are part of such setup where the Chinese live there and do their business in that town.
In Singapore, this is no exception. However, Chinese are not the minority makeup of the population here where over 75% of the population are Chinese. So Chinatown is not an enclave for the Chinese here among other major ethnic groups in this country.
In the past, Chinatown is just a town where people lived and worked. To get an idea of what Chinatown was like in Singapore, a visit to the Old Quarters in Hanoi today would provide a fairly accurate reflection of the old Chinatown in Singapore.
Today, Chinatown is one the of main attractions in Singapore. Actually, Chinatowns are not meant to be tourists attractions. Chinese would usually visit Chinatown where ever they go usually for business, food and cultural activities.
Many years ago in Singapore, Chinatown was actually quite dirty and in some places rather rundown. Until the government started to restore all those shop houses turning them into multimillion dollars property, it is no longer the same Chinatown of the past.
If you visit Chinatown today, you will find the place very modern, clean and in fact pleasant notwithstanding the fact that the place might not be so authentic like what it used to be, but the buildings however, still retain the same architectural Chinese styles and designs. A good example of such a place would be the UNESCO heritage site of the Old Town in Hoi An,Central Vietnam where the buildings are definitely Chinese styles but Chinese no longer lives there. This doesn’t stop hordes of tourists from visiting Hoi An Old Town.
But in Singapore, Chinese still do live there in Chinatown. In fact, it is a very expensive place to live in because of the high property prices of that area in town near the Central Business District. Nevertheless, there are still a few blocks of government housing board flats in and around that area as well as a wet market and hawker centres where cheaper food options and greater varieties of food are available to both residence and visitors.
The younger generation won’t know that street stalls were setup along the streets in Chinatown and stall holders sold all and sundry along the roads with dirty drains and smelly back lanes. My late grandmother used to sell vegetables in the morning on one of those streets. Wild life meats were openly sold where slaughtering of pythons and monitor lizards was a norm. Today’s generation would probably cringe at such sights. Spitting on the street was also common too, not something to be proud of though. Spittoons were placed under the tables in coffee shops and restaurants in Chinatown. Those interested in the history of Chinatown may visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre at Pagoda Street for more information.
Today’s Chinatown in Singapore is no longer the same and has been turned into a place for business and leisure as well as a must-visit attraction. If you are looking for an authentic experience of its dirty past, this place is not for you. You will need to head to some backward towns in China or Vietnam for such experience where you can actually do without.
We have moved on, so has Chinatown in Singapore where part of its past has been preserved in terms of its facade and amenities are now modern, clean and comfortable and some places are even air-conditioned. No one is excited to visit a dirty toilet, walked through stinking back lanes, eat in a restaurant with a spittoon under the table or watch people spit on the streets openly just to get an authentic experience.
The Chinatown area is also surrounded by quite a few shopping malls. There are many restaurants and eateries in Chinatown as well. Many shops are selling souvenirs for tourists to bring home a slice of Singapore. Of courses there are hotels in the vicinity as well. Interestingly, a mosque, an Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple are located in Chinatown too. This is testimony to Singapore’s multicultural past during colonial times under the British Empire.
Chinatown MRT station is right smacked in the middle of action. Visiting Chinatown is very easy and convenient. There are many buses serving the area as well. Do be prepared if you are visiting during the day where it is hot and humid here or otherwise there will be showers from time to time. Visiting in the evening would be better because it is cooler and the area is nicely lit up.
One of the best times to visit Chinatown would be during the period of Chinese New Year and the Mid Autumn Festival. Chinatown would be beautifully dressed up for these occasions. Obviously evening would be the best time to visit as well with the charming and warm decorations nicely lit up in Chinatown.
One nice spot to take great pictures would be the wide connecting bridge from People’s Park Complex across Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road. These two roads are decked up with festive decorations and beautiful lighting for the occasion. This bridge also serves as a very small garden with seats for visitors to rest.
Walking down the bridge would lead to the shopping street, Pagoda Street, where Chinatown MRT station has one of its exits here so this street is very crowded at times. During this time before Chinese New Year, street stalls are setup and the street becomes narrow. Walking through the street with people stopping to browse and shop as well as tourists stopping to take pictures would hold back human traffic. Be very patient if you intend to walk through these streets during these times. You would be forgiven if you mistake this scene as one of the busy night markets in Taiwan.
It can definitely get uncomfortable with the crowds of people, especially having to deal with the humidity in Singapore. It won’t be fun if the skies open up and pour anyway, so relax and soak in the atmosphere and have fun. There are plenty of picture moment opportunities on the streets.
You can surely find something interesting to buy or head to one of the eateries to have a meal or a drink, alfresco style without the cool climate in Europe of course. If you need to walk through the crowd quickly, head into one of the shops and walk along the corridor where there will be usually fewer crowds of people congregating. Perhaps you might find some nice stuff to buy from one of those shops.
Chinatown is a touristy place. Many tourists from the world over stop by as one of the must-visit destination. For a more authentic experience of the locals having meals, head over to the Chinatown Food Centre on the second floor along Smith Street. There are small shops and stalls at this complex on the ground level. The basement is a wet market and if you are keen head down for a look. Please don’t compare markets here with Europe where markets are cleaner and more pleasant and presentable. Anyway, markets here are already considered quite clinically clean if you have seen what markets were like decades ago.
On the second floor food centre, there are so many food stalls to choose from and some stalls would require some queuing before you could eventually walk away with your food. There are so many local food stalls for you to sample local food here and you will be spoilt for choice. The prices here are a fraction of what you will have to pay if you order the same dish in a restaurant at your hotel. Here is where you can eat cheaply without costing an arm of a leg. We were so sad to hear from a female staff attending to us in a hotel in Vietnam that she went hungry while visiting Singapore. She complained that a plate of chicken rice cost more than $10. You could get a nice plate of chicken rice for $3 over here.
Tired after visiting Chinatown streets and shops, go into one of the modern shopping malls in that area. People’s Park Complex is one of the oldest malls in Singapore. There are small shops, tour agents, money changers and of course small eateries and massage places in the mall. People’s Park Centre nearby is quite old as well with some shops and a food court on the basement. This mall has many established tour companies where many locals visit to shop for tours.
Across the road from People’s Park Centre is the newer and modern mall Chinatown Point. There are tour companies here as well on top of the many restaurants and eateries besides shops including a convenience store. Behind Chinatown Point is another Food Centre where local hawker food is available as well as local shops and offices are housed next door.
It is Chinese New Year festive mood now in Chinatown. It will be getting more crowded as the day goes by towards Chinese New Year Eve. Crazy bargains would begin after midnight on Chinese New Year on Sunday 7 February 2016 where all the stall holders would want to clear their stocks to begin the new year. All these festive goods would not be of much use until the next Chinese New Year another year away. Stay till after midnight to see the fun if you are touring Singapore during this time. Be prepared to sweat it out with the crowds but do watch out for your personal belongings even though Singapore is one of the safest places to visit in the world.
Do note that Chinatown would be very quiet during the first two days of Chinese New Year where most Chinese businesses would be closed. Most hawker stalls at the Chinatown Food Centre would open only from the third day onward.
Enjoy the modern and pleasant Chinatown in Singapore during your visit. Stay safe and be hydrated. Relax and soak in the festive atmosphere of Chinese New Year in Chinatown during this time.