If you have a couple of hours to spare during a stop-over or staying for a long time, visiting Chinatown according to most is a must. We went to Chinatown this weekend, took the MRT (Downtown Line | Blue Line) and exit at the People’s Park, a giant Chinese shopping mall. We found out that 10 am was a bit to early on a sunday as most of the stalls were still closed so we enjoyed some steamed bread buns and walked through the streets.  

Old Chinatown

If you are into the standard tourist stuff you will find in any big city Pagoda Street is right up your alley. However, this is not for us. As we walked through the streets it started to rain and we were fortunate to pass the Chinatown Heritage Centre at 48 Pagoda Street which was about to save the day. We decided to enter this museum dedicated to the history of Chinatown and the life of the immigrants through time.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre

As you walk through the beautifully restored tree level houses, you get a feeling of how the people lived in their small homes not much bigger that a cubicle and how they worked. You get to see how limited their space and privacy was and the hardship they had to cope with.

You will learn how they became known as sinkheh (meaning ‘new guest’ in Hokkien dialect) and what drove these Chinese immigrants to leave their country and embarked on little sailing boats to cross the seas, probably in the same conditions as we see refugees now in other parts of the world like the Mediteranean Sea.

Origina picture by Bryn Pinzgauer

Audio Tour, Guided Tour or Kids Quest

The audio tours with multimedia support help you get a better understanding of the history and you are walking through time from the first immigrants during Raffles time all the way up to the early years of Singapore as a nation.

The Chinatown Heritage Centre does what it is set out to do. If you are with kids that understand a bit of English do give them the audio tour as well and or for the kids quest to help them in the exploration of this wonderful museum. They will have a guaranteed prize at the end of their quest.

 

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