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Singapore's Chinatown and the Chinatown Heritage Centre

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The writer flew from London Heathrow to Singapore for an extended visit family who had been living an ex-pat life there for two years.

All about the Chinatown Heritage Centre in Singapore

All about the Chinatown Heritage Centre in Singapore

A Top Tourist Attraction in Singapore

Enter the world of Chinatown, Singapore, where the senses are awakened by the colourful sights, the sounds, and the aromas that are central to the lives of Chinese Singaporeans. There is much to see and experience—the open-fronted shops selling exotic fruits, coconut water to drink from a freshly opened shell, Chinese lanterns, and traditional dress, the artists who will draw a personalised scroll in minutes, and much more.

One of the astonishing and unmissable stopping-off points is the Chinatown Heritage Centre, a highly recommended museum of Chinese arts and culture in three renovated shophouses.

Buy a Prepared Coconut

Regular hydration is essential in Singapore, especially for visitors who are not acclimatised to the tropics. Pause to buy a freshly prepared coconut and refresh yourself with the cooling water. It's an acquired taste, but don't miss the opportunity to try it.

Reasons to Avoid Durian Fruit

Hurry past the stalls that are selling durian fruit. The flesh of this spiny fruit is prized in much of South East Asia but the smell has been compared to sewage and rotting flesh. It smells so bad that it is banned on Singapore's rail network and there may be a hefty fine for taking it on board.

Durian Fruit, considered by some a delicious treat, on sale in Singapore's Chinatown

Durian Fruit, considered by some a delicious treat, on sale in Singapore's Chinatown

One of the many open-front shops in Singapore's Chinatown selling Chinese lanterns, artifacts, and souvenirs.

One of the many open-front shops in Singapore's Chinatown selling Chinese lanterns, artifacts, and souvenirs.

A Recreated Shophouse: The Chinatown Heritage Centre in Singapore

The Chinatown Heritage Centre is comprised of three restored shophouses, where a tailor’s workshop, his downstairs living quarters, and the first-floor rental accommodation have been faithfully reconstructed from the personal memories of early pioneers who made Singapore their home.

The tailor's downstairs living quarters were comparatively comfortable viewed in the light of the first floor tiny cubicles rented out to Chinese people who had left their homeland with hopes of finding a better life. Sometimes a whole family ate and slept in a tiny windowless space barely large enough for one person. People lived in these crowded, unsanitary and rat-infested conditions until as late as the early 1950s.

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The Reconstructed Doctor's Surgery in the Chinatown Heritage Centre

The front cubicle of the shophouse was occupied by a doctor who had fallen on hard times. His consulting room was also the place where he, his wife and two of his children ate and slept. The cubicle is superior to the others on the floor inasmuch as it has air and natural light from a shuttered window overlooking the street. A hole in the floor, which overhung the paved area at the front of the shophouse, enabled the doctor to look down to the ground to see who was visiting him.

A third child, the eldest daughter, was boarded in the cubicle of another resident. Her father's surgery has been faithfully reconstructed from her memories.

The Doctor's Possessions

The Doctor's Possessions

The Third Floor of the Chinatown Heritage Centre

On the third floor, the history of the Chinese population in Singapore is depicted in photographs, videos and costumes. The early pioneers left their villages in China driven by famine, floods and unrest, and came to Singapore looking to build a better life.

In 2017, 74.2% of the 5,736,494 population of Singapore are Chinese Singaporeans.

Traditional Costumes Worn By Stars of Chinese Opera on Display at the Chinese Heritage Centre, Singapore

Traditional Costumes Worn By Stars of Chinese Opera on Display at the Chinese Heritage Centre, Singapore

Admission Prices to the Chinatown Heritage Museum

  • Adults: $15 (Singapore dollars)
  • Child: $11 (Singapore dollars)

Guided Tours take place at 11.30, 1.30, and 4.30 on weekdays. Price $20 (adult) and $16 (child).

A Worthwhile Stop Along the Way

Many people from the UK visit Australia or New Zealand to visit family who has migrated. There is an ideal opportunity to break a tiring journey by spending a few days in Singapore en route. It is such a beautiful place with so much to see that it would be a pity to miss the chance to visit.

  • Flights from London to Singapore take approximately 14 hours.
  • Singapore to Sidney: 8 hours and 20 minutes
  • Singapore to Perth: 5 hours and 15 minute
  • Singapore to Auckland: 10 hours and 58 minutes

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Glen Rix

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