Attractions and Activities in Chinatown - Singapore

Chinatown in Singapore gives you a nice mixture of historical structures and current day restaurants and shops. It is safe and accessible, and is often accused of being more touristy than other Singapore attractions. Today's Chinatown has lost most of its original structure, and Chinese signs exist just for namesake. Strange Chinese medicines, questionable antiques, cheap souvenirs like t-shirts and key chains, will tempt you to open your wallet. Chinatown includes many holy shrines, museums and other cultural buildings, for history or religious buffs. So what do you do when you reach Chinatown? Don't worry, there are plenty of attractions to see and things to do here, as you can see below.
Street View of Chinatown, Singapore
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple: This is a new Buddhist temple built in 2002, and houses something special: Buddha's tooth. The tooth was originally in Myanmar, and was handed over to a devotee in Singapore, which sparked the construction of this temple. Built beautifully in Tang dynasty style, it has attracted a lot of Buddhist pilgrims and tourists. There is also a museum located inside. 
Thian Hock Keng Temple originally built for the Taoist goddess Mazu
Thian Hock Keng Temple:This is the oldest temple in Singapore, and was originally built by Hokkien people for the ancestor Goddess Mazu. She was installed on Telok Ayer street which was located on the seashore back then. Since Goddess Mazu protects people who travel by the sea, immigrants gave thanks to her as soon as they reached Singapore safely. Today, it is regarded as an all inclusive Chinese temple. Other statues like Buddha and Confucius have sidelined the great Sea Goddess Mazu. This is remarkably similar to how Tamil shrines like Veeramakaliamman temple and Mariamman temple have become all-inclusive Hindu temples in Singapore. Visiting this temple is highly recommended while you are in Chinatown.
An old photograph from Chinese Heritage Center, showing opium addiction in Singapore
Chinatown Heritage Center: To understand the history of Singapore's Chinatown, visiting the Chinatown Heritage Center is a must. It houses thousands of old photographs, artifacts and recreations of the old Chinatown. It will educate you about the timeline and development of Singapore, from the arrival of Chinese immigrants up to the last decade. The most interesting part is how opium destroyed the dreams of many immigrants, but how Singapore managed to win the battle. The Chinatown Heritage Center by itself is a popular Singapore attraction, which can easily take a few hours to explore.
Sri Mariamman Temple, a very popular place for tourists
Sri Mariamman Temple: The Oldest 'Hindu' temple in Singapore is also found inside Chinatown. This is a surprising fact, since you would expect such a temple to be in Little India, the Indian enclave of Singapore. However, the Tamils from India and the Chinese had an amazing solidarity even back then, working together in Chinatown. The original Goddess "Sinna Amman" was installed in 1827, to protect people against Small Pox and Chicken Pox. Chicken Pox, called "Sinna Ammai" in Tamil is symbolically represented as the deity "Sinna Amman" in the temple. Today, the temple has become a Hindu temple with a multitude of Gods, both Hindu and Tamil. The temple tower now has 6 tiers, and is designed based on the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. Sri Mariamman Temple is a popular tourist attraction that will intrigue you with some fantastic Tamil Gods like Periyachi Amman and Muthala Raja.
Chinatown food - always delights you!
Restaurants: Dining in Chinatown is a must, and there are some authentic Chinese restaurants to stimulate your taste buds. The Maxwell Food Center is a giant Chinese food court and is the most popular dining area in the locality. Tak Po restaurant on Smith street is well known for its traditional Guangdong cuisine.  Other good restaurants in Chinatown are Absinthe, Eight Treasures Vegetarian and Mei Heong Yuen Dessert.  
A snake in a jar, outside a Chinese medical shop in Chinatown
Shopping: It is almost impossible to get out of Chinatown without buying a few things. Flashy trinkets are sold on street shops at very cheap prices. Souvenirs come at a price of 3 for $10 on most stores. Clothes, toys, ear-rings, T-shirts, magnets, bags, wind chimes, key chains, ceramics and the list goes on. Beware of people who try to sell you "antiques", and always double check the authenticity of the item. There are also some dubious Chinese medicine shops which showcase snakes and roots in bottles. 
Whose name do you want in Chinese calligraphy? Yours or your loved one's?
Other Fun Activities:
1. Get your name written in Chinese calligraphy for $10. It's probably the best and a unique memento of Singapore. 

 2. Get a foot massage in Chinatown. The best massage is given at 'Bath Culture Foot Therapy' located on Temple Street.
Fish Spa in Chinatown is one of the popular things to do in Singapore
3. If you don't like human masseurs, try the 'Alleviate Fish Spa' on Pagoda street. These fish have no teeth and do a great job of cleaning, tickling and glazing your feet. Highly recommended for couples, who get to sit together and enjoy the massage. I wish they do full body massage and serve drinks, like the fish spa in Cancun, Mexico.

4. Ride the Trishaw (tricycle) around Chinatown. Even better, you can take a guided tour of the area with 'Trishaw Uncle'. 

5. Visit the Nagore Dargah Shrine, a Muslim temple built for a Sufi Saint. The building's design is based on the original shrine in Nagore, Tamil Nadu.

Just like Arab Street and Little India, Chinatown offers a unique ethnic experience. If you've never been to China, or never visited Chinatown in any other country, don't miss it! It is a shopper's paradise even for Singaporeans and a great place for eating Chinese food. Enjoy your day in China, while you are at Singapore!


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