Why do you need a Chinatown in a country where the majority is overwhelmingly Chinese? The Malays might have Geylang Serai and the Indians have Little India, but why do the Chinese deserve an additional little nook to call their own?
To answer that, you just have to look at how the rest of Singapore is transforming to understand that there is a dire need to reserve an area where the Chinese culture and architecture can be preserved. What better place then the traditional bastion of Chinese activity and industry. Sadly, in the midst of upgrading old estates and creating New World wonders, there just isn’t much place for the old to thrive.
Just mention Chinatown and people will conjure up images of old Chinese shophouses, cheap clothings and CDs, the famous Frog Leg Porridge Shop, Old Men playing Chinese Chess and Checkers (Dam), and not forgetting the infamous Yangtze Cinema with its brightly painted risque posters. And as the Chinese Lunar New Year approaches, people are thronging down to the annual attraction of the Night Markets.
Covering an area of crisscrossing short streets, the Night Market greatly resembles the Petaling Street in KL, minus the counterfeit goods of course. In its stead, there are scores of stalls peddling Taiwan snacks (you can satisfy your daily sugar fix just by helping yourself to the free samples), Melon Seeds and Nuts, CNY decoration, Pomelos, Authentic Traditional Costumes and Spring Blossoms. A lone Ramly Burger stall even found its way into the happy mix.
With the prevailing cool evening weather and absence of rain, Chinatown is definitely a good place to experience the festive spirit.
Chinatown’s local name – Niu Che Shui (Bullock Cart Water) arose from the fact that each household at that time had to collect fresh water from the wells in Ann Siang Hill and Spring Street, using bullock-drawn carts.