On an ordinary day, Chinatown pulses with energy and activity – residents going about their daily business; shop vendors peddling their wares; the rich culture of the area, set in stone by the low-rise buildings and colourful old-school shophouses that line the streets.
Come Chinese New Year, the festive spirit spills forth into every corner of Chinatown and envelopes the streets with celebrations and the vibrant colours of red and gold.
There’s so much you can eat, do and see in this cultural enclave but here are the 8 Must-do Things in Chinatown for a Prosperous Lunar New Year Ahead
1. Make A Wish for a Prosperous Lunar New Year Ahead
Cast your wishes for the new year on the Wishing Tree and you may just get your heart’s desires in the coming year!
Reminiscent of the renowned Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong, you can write wishes for yourself and your loved ones on the “Make A Wish” card and leave them on the branches of the lucky banyan tree, known to represent longevity and is believed to be endowed with wish-fulfilling abilities.
This symbolic act only costs $2 and is all for a good cause since the proceeds will go to the Kreta Ayer Seniors Activity Centre for the underprivileged elderly.
Where: Chinatown Point
When: From 15 January 2019 to 3 February 2019
2. Indulge in Traditional Delights for a Sweet New Year Ahead
Fill your stomach with the most delicious traditional Chinese pastries from old-school stores that have been passed down for generations. Try their perfected, time-tested recipes for classic bakes that are popular especially during festivities and celebratory occasions, among locals and friends from all over the world.
Head down to Thye Moh Chan for their handcrafted traditional Teochew baked goods that include the sweet and salty Tau Sar Piah and Teochew Double Delight; look out for a signage emblazoned with big red letters to find Tai Thong Cake Shop, a Cantonese pastry shop famous for their Chinese New Year pastries and confectionaries that are baked to perfection; follow the smell of freshly-baked goods to find Tong Heng, a local gem famous for their unique diamond-shaped egg tarts with its wobbly, melt-in-your-mouth egg custard nestled in a flaky and moist crust; experience authentic Chinese pastries at Tai Chong Kok which continues to produce their lotus paste by hand and uses 100% lotus seeds with no preservatives added to fill their signature, delicious pastries.
Where: Thye Moh Chan (133 New Bridge Road, #01-45/46), Tai Thong Cake Shop (35 Mosque Street), Tong Heng (285 South Bridge Road), Tai Chong Kok (34 Sago Street)
3. Sip on Tea and Refresh Your Mind for Lunar New Year 2019
Sit back and relax with a comforting brew of Chinese tea while you take a break from your shopping and eating spree at Chinatown.
Far from the current bubble tea hype, authentic Chinese tea is packed with health benefits and centuries of tradition in tea-brewing methods. Brew your own tea from a selection of Oolong, White, Red, Green, Flower and Pu’er leaves at T30 Kung Fu Teahouse or truly appreciate the rich history of tea at Pek Sin Choon that has been around since 1925. They are best known for being the suppliers to almost all Bak Kut Teh stores in Singapore!
Where: T30 Kung Fu Teahouse (30 Temple Street), Pek Sin Choon (36 Mosque Street)
4. Buy Auspicious Chinese Decorations for a Bountiful Year
Bring out the spirit of Chinese New Year with festive decorations that will drive away all bad luck! Shop along Trengganu Street for the myriad of vibrant, colourful and auspicious traditional Chinese decorations such as handmade lanterns, Chinese couplets with beautiful calligraphy, door scrolls, small potted plants and other festive knick-knacks.
It is also the place where you can find the most intricate and delicate paper-cuttings, some of which are painstakingly cut by hand for you to proudly display for prosperity or to herald the arrival of Spring.
5. Find Out What the New Year Has in Store for You
Feeling curious about your love life, career or health in 2019? Fortune telling is a fun way to seek advice for the coming year and is not just for the superstitious.
Whether you choose to get your Ba Zi analysed to find out your destiny, have your face or palm read to reveal your personality traits, try your hand at Kau Cim by shaking a bamboo cylinder filled with flat sticks, or have a fengshui consultancy with the experienced masters, it is always an undeniably thrilling experience to see what your future may (or may not) hold!
Where: Your trusty companion, Google, will predict where you can get your fortune told in Chinatown!
6. Get Your Bak Kwa Fix for a Year of Decadence
Thin, square slices of meat are marinated with sugar, salt and spices and smoked to perfection. This mouth-watering barbequed pork jerky is an auspicious deep red and a versatile snack that you can enjoy in many ways: a sandwich filling in between two fluffy slices of bread; a cooking ingredient to spice up your meal; a topping for cold dishes; a complement to alcohol; and best yet, on its own as a square of smoky, meaty goodness.
Delay no more and head down to famed shops like Bee Cheng Hiang, Lim Chee Guan, Kim Joo Guan and Fragrance Bak Kwa before you find yourself at the back of the line of the snaking queues!
Where: Bee Cheng Hiang (69-71 Pagoda Street and 189 New Bridge Road, #01-01), Lim Chee Guan (1 Park Road, 25 People’s Park Complex), Kim Joo Guan (257 South Bridge Road), Fragrance Bak Kwa (61 Pagoda Street)
7. Don Traditional Chinese costumes for an Authentic Lunar New Year Experience
Browse through retail shops for an impressive display of traditional ethnic wear that comes with quality and style.
Take reference from the rows of mannequins decked out in exquisite cheongsams and orientally-fashioned collared tops and bottoms that are splashed in red, blue and gold. Whether you prefer more understated pieces or are unabashed of walking around looking like a giant red packet, take your pick from the tons of fashion choices available.
Where: Golden Scissor Cheongsam (New Market Road, #02-1112 People’s Park, Blk 32), and other retail shops in Chinatown Complex and People’s Park Complex
8. Immerse in the Festive spirit at Chinatown Festive Street Bazaar
The much-anticipated Festive Street Bazaar is your one-stop shopping extravaganza where you can find anything from Chinese New Year delicacies to festive decorations and traditional ethnic costumes.
As you indulge in traditional goodies like flavourful cookies, savoury nuts and waxed duck, take a moment to bask in the brilliant lights and lanterns hanging above that illuminate the entire Chinatown.
You can capture the best views of the stunning street light-up and lively atmosphere at Garden Bridge, the prime photo spot for your social media postings and as a keepsake to remember your unforgettable memory at Chinatown.
Where: Pagoda, Smith, Sago, Temple and Trengganu Street
When: 18th January to 4th February 2019