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→
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 Hotelat 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 fromInterContinental 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.
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.
Chinese Lunar New Year is just around the corner. If you are thinking of hopping over across the Causeway for Chinese New Year shopping to enjoy cost savings, City Square Mall would be most appropriate. The main atrium of City Square Mall is now full of booths with bakeries and gifts companies promoting Chinese New Year festive products. All kinds of new year goodies, cookies, tidbits, hampers and such are available.
Free samplings are generously offered to prospective buyers of new year festive goods. Different stalls have different promotional discounts. Some of them require signing up as members to enjoy more substantial discounts for purchase above a certain amount.
Of course City Square Mall has been dressed up for Chinese New Year celebrations. The atmosphere at the mall is great. Heading over to City Square Mall is one of the most convenient options where the Johor Customs and Immigration Complex is directly linking City Square Mall via JB Sentral. This would no doubt alleviate those who fear becoming victims of crimes during this festive period. Going over to City Square Mall does not require exposure to outdoor criminal elements in Johor Bahru because the way to the mall is almost all indoor except through an overhead bridge connection.
Heading back to Johor Customs and Immigration after shopping is also very easy and convenient via the same way back and then onward journey back to Woodlands Check Point in Singapore. Shopping this way is also not weather dependent as there is no outdoor travelling required.
For those who prefer to head over to KSL City Mall, taking a bus from JB Sentral bus station is all that is needed. Bus S1 and IM17 will reach KSL City Mall in about 20 minutes where buses will depart about every 20 to 30 minutes. These buses will alight passengers at the entrance of KSL City Mall and no additional walking along the road is required to reach the mall. So this is another pretty safe option as well.
Snatch thefts along the road would be almost absent unless you wish to walk along the roads to explore the area then watching out for criminal elements on motorbike would be necessary. It is not wise to carry handbags, especially expensive branded bags or wear jewellery decked up like a walking Christmas tree on the road. This is a sure way to invite trouble and create your own crime adventure.
The event hall on the ground level of KSL City Mall is taken up by bakeries and gifts companies where many booths are set up offering a wide range of festive goods for Chinese New Year shoppers. Again free samplings are available to prospective shoppers. Likewise discounts are also usually offered to sweeten the deal to sell more festive goods.
The promotion and sales of festive goods at KSL City Mall are about the same as that in City Square Mall. There are more festive goods on display and sale outside the entrance of the lower ground level. A big tent is also set up across the street over there with more of Chinese New Year goodies on sale. A new eatery at the entrance selling XO duck, chicken, pork and char siew with rice or noodles is pretty good as well and the prices are also quite reasonable.
The difference between KSL City Mall and City Square Mall is that the former has many more smaller shops and stalls selling all and sundry, especially hand phones accessories as well as a Tesco supermarket on the lower ground level. However, returning back to Johor Customs and Immigration by bus will take time and more effort especially with hands full after all the festive shopping. As such, City Square Mall might be sufficient as both malls are essentially selling about the same things. Hence, there won’t be much cost savings shopping at KSL City Mall.
Unless there are other activities such as staying a night at KSL Resort Hotel for a day break as well as doing a lot more shopping at Tesco supermarket, that might be worth the trouble coming over to KSL City Mall. Hence, KSL City Mall is more suited for those who drive here for shopping where more stuff could be purchased to bring home. Otherwise, this might be too tiring a mission where what we could carry back is limited to a pair of hands having to do a lot more walking and taking more time for bus transfers both ways where the same could be achieved over at City Square Mall.
In any case, the bus S1 can be taken at the entrance outside the ground level where the bus would depart every 20 minutes with another 20 minutes of travelling time back to JB Sentral. Bus fare is RM 1.50 each way. By the way for those who drive to KSL City Mall, don’t use the Touch n Go card to enter the car park. Take a ticket and redeem two hours of free parking when you spend above RM 15 shopping at Tesco supermarket.
So it is not too early now to do some new year shopping across the Causeway. However, do note that bringing back meat products such as bak kwa are not allowed by Singapore ICA. You may have difficulty clearing customs where all bags will be scanned before leaving the Woodlands Check Point. Alcohol will attract taxes and needs to be declared as well. So choosing hampers to bring home will need to be careful about the drinks included whether it is alcoholic or not.
Another thing to note is that clearing Johor Customs and Immigration will take a while longer lately due to increase in numbers of Chinese New Year shoppers taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate between the Singapore Dollar and Malaysian Ringgit doing festive shopping across the Causeway. Unless you have MACS where you can quickly get through immigration through one of the three self-service counters on the extreme right, be prepared to spend a little longer time at the manned immigration counters. Needless to say, the situation during weekends would be a lot worse.
So if you are prepared for some of these challenges, shopping across the Causeway can be fun as well as resulting in substantial cost savings for Chinese New Year goods.
Hence, happy shopping for a happy 2016 Lunar New Year.