Of all the ethic quarters visited in Singapore my favorite would have to be Chinatown. Singapore’s Chinatown is the traditional Chinese quarters of town, and while the entire city is largely Chinese (about 72%) the area does retain some of its own charm. The area is also known as Niu Che Shui in Chinese and Kreta Ayer in Malay, both names meaning “bullock cart water”, a reference to the carts that used to haul in drinking water.
One of the most interesting sights in the area are the Chinese medicine shops. While passing by one we were lured in by Ruth, a very enthusiastic seller of Chinese herbs and tonics. These shops are all over Singapore, displaying bizarre-looking dried plant and animal items, beans, and seeds, spilling out onto the sidewalks. I followed Ruth into the shop where an elderly Chinese lady sat, who, according to Ruth, was a long-time established Chinese medicine doctor. She had appointments on record and was evaluating patients as they arrive. She would refer them to the “pharmacy” counter after their visit where they would be given a mixture of dried ingredients (consisting of herbs, fish, shellfish, bones, flowers, vegetables, etc) that they will take home and boil into a remedy. The shops have everything imaginable from dried seahorses (they call the dragon fish) to fish stomachs to swallows nests. All with a purpose for healing. Amazing to me how much they know about the planet they leave on and the things that live and grow around them.
Another find was the BBQ pork stands. They offer pork that has been thinly cut, seasoned and roasted over an open flame. The meat becomes tough and chewy (somewhat like jerky). It’s very, very good. I bought 2 pieces to have throughout the week.
The Chinese love the opera and they display opera masks in their homes for decoration. Masks that are predominantly black or red are good characters in an opera whereas yellow and white are considered evil. Masks that are predominantly green or blue are for characters that possess a special ability. Fascinating!
Finally, the people on the streets of Chinatown are just so sweet. All of them want to talk to you and help you and learn about you and your culture. It was truly a blessing the few hours I spent roaming these streets.
Sights from Chinatown