Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Singapore 2011: Chinatown

To read all posts about our  Singapore Trip click here

Singapore's Chinatown is like all the other Chinatown throughout the rest of the world... narrow, busy streets lined with little shops selling everything from trinkets to Chinese herbal medicine.
However with Singapore being a multi-racial and multi-cultural society, Singapore's Chinatown has its own unique features.  For instance, the country's oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman,  can ironically be found right in the heart of Chinatown's confines.

But what makes Chinatown a must-visit in my book is the chance to observe the quaint street architecture the place offers.  Colorful shophouses along Pagoda street are a visual treat and make for some beautiful photographs.


The windows on the second and thrid floor of the shophouses are painted in vibrant colors that enhance their architectural details.  There is no singular style to describe the structures, they are a combination of different elelments, but what pull and unite them all together are the vibrancy of their colors.
Tourists generally flock to Chinatown to imbibe a sense of culture, but for Filipino-Chinese families like mine who grew up visiting Manila's Chinatown, it was for a more practical reason like to stock up on pantry items and to buy pasalubongs for friends and relatives.  One of those obligatory pasalubongs is the bakk-wa or mapa, a Chinese traditional dried meat in the form of thin sheets; usually made of pork or beef, but nowadays has expanded to include shrimp and chicken.  There are a lot of stalls around Singapore selling bakkwa/mapa, but for the purpose of taking the kids on a walking tour to Singapore's Chinatown, we decided to take them to where the action is... a stall where they can see the bakkwa/mapa fresh off the grill.

The most famous bakkwa brand in all of Southeast Asia is Bee Chen Hiang, it has outlets all over the continent, and has 28 in Singapore alone.  But when our cab driver heard we wanted to buy this Chinese delicacy, he quickly pointed out to what for him is a superior local brand, Lim Chee Guan.  According to him, Lim Chee Guan is a local favorite, with 3-4 hour queues, especially around the Chinese New Year period.  Our cab driver claims that is more tender and flavorful than the competition.  And he quickly adds, "but that is just my opinion, you taste it first before you buy."
We bought several kilos of beef, pork, chicken and shrimp jerkies as pasalubong, and I also bought jars of crispy pork floss, which is the perfect addition to a light breakfast of plain congee.
I remembered to replenish my stock of Chinese pantry items to my depleting stock at home.  Although most everything can be found in Manila, the premium quality of the items in Singapore is worth having to carry the extra load around.  Most of you cannot relate, but I have to gush about the superior quality of the bean curd sheets and the Japanese mushrooms that can be found here.   

I also did some shopping at the Chinese drugstore beside Lim Chee Guan called the Thye Shan Medical Hall.  I guess this is one sure sign that I am certainly growing old!  Imagine finding something of interest - at a Chinese drugstore, of all places! hahaha!

Here are the rest of our photos: