5 things to do in Chinatown

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 17, 2014.


Soaring lions over water

Catch lion dance performers pivot on high stilts above a water platform. The traditional lion dance, which symbolises good luck and fortune, is part of the 7th International Lion Dance Competition Ceremony, where 12 troupes from 10 countries, including Singapore, will take part.

Where: Open field at Banda Street

When: Saturday, Jan 18, and Sunday, 6 to 11pm

Cost: $10 for one show, $15 for a two-show ticket

Info: Tickets from Kreta Ayer Community Club (call 6222-3597) or Singapore National Wushu Federation (call 6383-3638)


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Street light-up

To usher in the Year of the Horse, 88 illuminated lantern sculptures of galloping horses - a nod to the Chinese idiom wan ma ben teng, or 10,000 horses galloping - have been mounted between New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street. They stand beneath suspended "gold coins" along the street. The decorations are by 19 students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design and 55 master craftsmen from China.

Where: Eu Tong Sen Street, New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road and Garden Bridge

When: Till Feb 28, from 7pm daily


Historic Chinatown

Led by volunteer guides, the hour-long tour starts at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple And Museum at South Bridge Road.

On the tour Life! joined on Sunday afternoon, guide Peggy Song outlined the temple's distinct Chinese and Japanese architecture to our group of 10.

She also pointed out the adjacent Sago Lane, known as the "Death Lane" in the early 1900s, as it was where early Chinese immigrants who were deathly sick spent their last days. Houses on the street, which were outlawed in 1961, had rooms for the dying upstairs and funeral parlours below.

Ms Song, 40, then shepherded the group through the bazaar, pointing out festive objects and their significance. These include nian gao, a glutinous rice cake used to bribe and "sweeten" the tongues of deities, who would report each family's doings to the Heavenly King during Chinese New Year; and the pomelo, which symbolises fertility.

The stories, which Ms Song regaled the group with as we traipsed through Kreta Ayer Road, Pagoda Street and New Bridge Road, offered insights into Chinese culture, said audit director Suryanto Narmada, 34, who is from Australia.

"It is interesting to learn about the deeper meaning behind the food. Usually, I tend to go past these bazaars in a taxi."

Where: Information booth in front of the stage at Kreta Ayer Square (in front of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple And Museum)

When: Saturday and Sunday, Jan 25 and 26, 3 and 7pm. Each tour is about 11/2 hours

Cost: Free, registration on a first-come, first-served basis

Info: Conducted in English, each trail is capped at 10 participants. Go to www.chinatownfestivals.sg


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Bird's nest in carved fruit bowls

For a taste of luxury at a pasar malam, try chilled bird's nest in "bowls" made out of fruit such as papaya, cantaloupe, kiwi and dragonfruit.

Prices are naturally not low, with the dessert costing $10.80 (a kiwi with bird's nest) to $188.80 (a watermelon shell filled with bird's nest).

Makeshift stools and tables are plcaed next to a small durian tree brought in specially for the bazaar.

Owner Ng Jun Xian, 25, has hung sprigs of mangosteen and the odd durian on the branches, as the king of fruit is not in season.

His effort seems to have paid off, as many passersby have stopped by to take a picture - and sample his dessert occasionally.

Where: Stall no. 15 along Trengganu Street (right in front of a permanent store called Wonderful Durian, also run by Mr Ng)

When: Till Jan 30, 6 to about 10.30pm daily


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Peranakan beaded slippers and clogs

Choose from an array of wedged heels in various heights and carved designs, and pick a sandal strap of your desired design.

Shoemaker Michael Tay will then nail them together, stick on a sole and, in less than 10 minutes, you get a new pair of shoes costing between $16 and $30.

The imported sandal straps, made of rubber and fabric, feature various designs, from intricate beadwork in Peranakan style to glued-on ruffles and faux flowers.

Where: Stall no. 56 along Temple Street (next to Koi Kei Bakery)

When: Till Jan 30, 6 to about 10.30pm daily