16 Things I Learned by Walking Around Chinatown, Singapore (Part 1/3)

August 20, 2017

Birthday treat for myself :)

Tour around Chinatown, Singapore

It was my first birthday abroad, honestly I was always in Malaysia on this date so this year, I planned for something different. Not that bad, the history was my date <3

I woke up for Fajr then take an hour nap afterwards only then finally I woke up properly to prepare myself for a new adventure ahead. This time, I set my birth date to private on my Facebook, well didn't expect much but I was still glad to get few wishes from lovely people in my life. I am not a person who celebrate birthday with parties, gifts etc... so, don't mind that so far. :)

The Shophouse Hostel - reception
I stayed at The Shophouse Hostel, located at Arab Street. The location is very strategic for me, very close to Masjid Sultan, Kampung Glam. The closest MRT Station is Bugis MRT and there are few bus stops around. 

As usual, my preference of a hostel is the one which provide a female dorm. I just can't imagine myself sharing a room with the opposite gender, maybe some people choose this type to cut cost but not for me. It is actually easy to find female dorms in Singapore, just a friend of mine recommended this hostel and it is the cheapest compared to the rest. :)

My bed and locker
The room was okay, the people in charge with the reception was really friendly. Just I have some problems with the toilets / bathroom. Haha. I am used to expect dry toilets for hostels in which these are normal in Europe but I forgot Singapore is in Asia. Wet toilets are just common! My problem was I forgot to bring a pair of slipper and I am not sure if the hostel offered it. T_T My bad. 

Many streets with graffiti :)
I checked out around 8.45am and kept my backpack in the luggage room. I need to catch a bus to Chinatown MRT for the free walking tour.

And this was when I fall in love with this city. Of course, different cities have different strength and weakness. But, I can say there are lots of rooms for improvement for our own country. 

I love Malaysia, of course!

On my way, I met a lot of workers in suits, they walked so fast to their offices. The similar view every time I use the public transportation in Kuala Lumpur. 

Through out this post, I will share more details about the Free Walking Tour that I joined there. Highly recommended!

For this tour, anyone interested to join will gather at Exit A of Chinatown MRT at 9.30am. The tour guide will wait for you there. You can check the schedule in its website as it alternates Chinatown and Little India everyday.

After meeting the other tour-mates, we introduced ourselves and the tour guide will roughly explain what were we going to do. My tour guide is Dani (Widarni Isnin) and she is very lovely and friendly! :D She knows her country well (life lesson #1 for me). 

So, in this post I would love to share things that I learned throughout the walking tour. If you want to know something about Singapore, insyAllah you are on the right post hopefully :) 

1. The shophouses.
On the street where the Chinatown MRT is located, we can see these shophouses - called the painted ladies. Basically these are how buildings around Chinatown look like. 

The view of buildings around Chinatown MRT.
Once upon a time, they were used by Chinese people who shared the small room with other people. They even shared the bed to cut cost. How? They rented the place for the time when they were not working (morning workers would use the room for the night and vice versa) 

2. The Samsui women.
Samsui women mostly came from a place in China named Sanshui (Samshui) district. They are known as lady with read head. 

Do you guys have any idea what did they do in Singapore? 
Why they wore those red cloth hats?

The Samsui woman.

They were actually women who worked in the construction industry! I have been told that the earliest public houses in Singapore were built by them. And they were also the people who stayed in the shophouses I have mentioned earlier. 

The red hats functioned as helmets to protect the head. The clothes were soaked in starch to make it strong and hard. 

3. Opium den = sarang candu -_-'
We walked along Pagoda Street which was a former opium den. Previous time, opium was legal and was introduced by Chinese from China when they came. Usually, the opium was served together with the tea. 

After a while, tax was applied on opium and this was a source of income to build the city. Unfortunately, the effect of opium is as we know - it is addictive. When the coolies got high on opium, they tend to use their hard-earned money to buy more opium which lead to no money was sent back to their family in China. So, this was one of the reason why opium became illegal. 

Oh yea, the same as in Malaysia, drug traffickers will be hang to death.

It was interesting to see the reactions of other tour-mates (some were from USA, Germany, Australia). They did not know how serious is that fact!

Dani said that the main reason why Singapore does not tolerate drugs is because her country does not have any natural resources to rely on. So, they need good, healthy citizens to build the economy. 

4. The oldest Hindu temple in Singapore.
Isn't it weird to mention this Hindu temple in Chinatown tour?

Sri Mariamman Temple.

This temple is situated on South Bridge Road where we can find Masjid Jamae (Islam mosque), Sri Mariamman Temple (Hindu temple), Buddha Tooth Relic Temple (Buddha temple) on the same road. And at the end of this road (Tanjong Pagar Road), we can also see Fairfield Methodist Church (Christian church). 

South Bridge Road - the turquoise mosque on the right. 

This situation is common for me as a Malaysian, but obviously not for other foreigners. I love this fact that when Dani mentioned this is a living proof that people with different religions can live and tolerate each other in the same place

5. The contribution of Mr. Smith.
We walked to Chinatown Food Street located on Smith St.

This street was also known as red light district, named after a European, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith. The biggest contribution of this guy was he managed to solve the problem of secret societies (taiko / geng gelap).

Smith St.

One of the problem involving immigrants (for example, Chinese from China) was that even though they were from the same country but they obviously spoke different dialects! Sir Smith was a Chinese scholar and he was able to communicate well with all those gangs' leaders to make peace among them

Varieties of food on the Chinatown Food Street.

Here, I realized once again how important it is to learn a different language other than our mother tongue T___T

---- to be continued

SS, Perak, Malaysia

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