I would like to thank British band Elbow. If it wasn’t for their concert at Singapore’s Mosaic Music Festival, I would never have discovered the charming, manic streets of Chinatown – colourful colonial-styled buildings, religious temples, mouth-watering Chinese cuisine. What more could a girl want?
A train station usually isn’t a highlight, but in this case the Chinatown MRT station is the star. Once you take the escalators up, you are greeted by red lanterns and awesome architecture. Sight, sound and smell; all these senses are ignited in one go. I stop to take it all in and then the problem arises – do I go exploring or do I go find my hostel? I realized I couldn’t check in fast enough!
The lovely girl at the hostel suggested Maxwell Road Hawker Centre for cheaper fare and variety. “The restaurants at Chinatown are not so good and a little expensive”, she explained. I took a few wrong turns (maybe because I was distracted by all the small shops along the way!), but I eventually found it and was immediately taken in by the smell of chicken rice, barley and noodles of every kind. I made a beeline for the Fish Head Rice Noodles stall simply because it had the longest queue – a sure sign of popularity! After standing in the same spot for three minutes, I decided to give up the cause and made my way to the Char Kuey Teow (stir-fried rice noodles) stall instead. Simple, delicious, cheap and it went down well with a chilled homemade soybean drink.
It’s hard not to notice the splendid Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Just across the road from the hawker centre, it rises majestically along South Bridge Road. Less than 5 years old, it is a stunning tribute to Lord Buddha with hundreds of statues adorning the temple walls. Tourists and locals alike throng the temple every day to discover four storeys worth of statues and relics. The temple is a definite must-see for anyone visiting Singapore.
Another standout along South Bridge Road happens to be the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore – the Sri Mariamman Temple. The bus-loads of tourists at the temple’s entrance are proof enough that it is stunning. Once inside, you will notice a sign informing the tourists of just how close they can get to the main altars. Thanks to this, my Sunday morning prayers were calm and peaceful; devoid of flashes and noises.
A quaint little shop filled with everything Tintin isn’t exactly something you’d expect to find in the heart of Chinatown. Somehow, The Tintin Shop fits well! I ended up buying a collector’s edition book, a tiny figurine and spent a full 30 minutes wondering if I should splurge on some t-shirts. Choices, choices!
So, do head on down to Chinatown the next time you’re in Singapore and you will come away enchanted, with a bellyful of good food, a little Tintin in hand and feeling a tad more spiritual than usual.