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Chinatown 牛车水 차이나타운

You must be surprised at the Chinese translation of Chinatown as 牛车水 which literally means ‘Cow, Car, Water’ instead of the typical 唐人街. The name, 牛车水, stems from the scenes of bullock carts pulled by cows in transporting water from the Singapore river to Chinatown for the people of the Chinese settlement area.


Chinatown is an area that’s rich in culture and heritage, most famous for the buzz of activity that surrounds it during the festive season of Chinese New Year. The Chinatown trail brings you on a journey of interesting and surprising finds, beginning at Pagoda Street. Here at the Chinatown Heritage Centre, take a look at how life was like for the early Chinatown settlers.

Named after the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, Pagoda Street is a good location to admire the architecture of restored shophouses which flank the street, all featuring characteristic five-foot ways (covered verandahs so named because of their width).

Across from the Chinatown Heritage Centre, you’ll find the pedestrian mall of Trengganu Street, where some of the shophouses are home to Singapore’s performing arts groups. In the early days, hawkers used to sell a variety of wares ranging from cheap cooked food to household goods, day and night. Today, the hustle and bustle is brought back to the streets through the Chinatown Street Market on Pagoda, Trengganu and Sago Streets where one can find traditional wear, accessories, knick knacks and, of course, cheap bargains. Feast on hawker food ala old Chinatown on Smith Street, also known colloquially as ‘Food Street’, as the land was owned by Portuguese doctor Jose d’ Almeida, who opened a clinic and a shop here.

Situated on South Bridge Road is the famous Sri Mariamman Temple. Built originally as a wood and attap structure by Indian pioneer Narayana Pillai (who arrived in Singapore with Raffles), the temple was later replaced by a brick building. The Sri Mariamman Temple boasts a South Indian architectural design, and is dedicated to the Goddess Mariamman, believed to be a protector and curer of diseases. A stone’s throw away, you’ll see the Jamae Mosque, an Indian-Muslim mosque that is another well-known landmark in Chinatown. Originally built in 1826, it is believed to be one of the oldest mosques in Singapore.

Next, walk along South Bridge Road towards the junction of South Bridge and Maxwell roads and you’ll arrive at the Maxwell Road Food Centre. Once a wet market, it is now famous for its local hawker fare, including the renowned Tian Tian Chicken Rice.

Finally, end the Chinatown trail with a bit of shopping at Ann Siang Hill. Nutmeg plantations used to sit on the hill, before shophouses were later built and housed traditional clan associations. The elegantly restored shophouses on Ann Siang Road are now home to chic boutiques such as Asylum and Style: Nordic, as well as wine bars and eateries.

If you’re looking for a unique place to stay in a fascinating and cultural location, the boutique hotels of Chinatown might just be it. The Scarlet is a bold and uninhibited hotel located along Erskine Road, and features plush and opulent décor. Adjacent to it is The Club, occupying a newly white-washed building that dates back to the 1900s. The Club plays on an east-meets-west theme and gives a new perspective on Singapore’s rich history and heritage. For a mix of old world architecture and designer interiors, visit Hotel 1929 and New Majestic Hotel, both housed in conservation shop-houses. Hotel 1929 features a selection of unusual and classic chairs from the owner’s private collection, as well as 20th century photos of olden Singapore. For a taste of the “New Asia” genre, drop by New Majestic Hotel. From the open concept lobby with vintage Compton fans and furniture, to its dramatic pool that floats above the restaurant, New Majestic Hotel is a stunning and eclectic blend of heritage chic.

Courtesy of


Here’s a photo journey of the Chinatown trail!

Sri Mariamman Temple – Front Entrance


Sri Mariamman Temple – Close-up of Front Entrance

From Left to Right:

Row of shophouses, Bus-stop, Banana Plant, Sri Mariamman Temple Cultural Heritage Plaque, Wooden door decorated by golden bells


Sri Mariamman Temple – Side Entrance

Cows are considered as sacred animals by the Hindus.


Sri Mariamman Temple – Back Entrance

Area where the Hindu devotees congregate after prayers


Ann Siang Hill – Oil-painters painting the shophouses along Ann Siang Hill


Ann Siang Hill – Cafe

The shophouse featured in the oil-painters’ paintings.


Ann Siang Hill – Road Sign


Ann Siang Hill – Screening Room

Pub and recreational area to chill


Ann Siang Hill – Prayers for Seventh Month Hungry Ghost Festival


Ann Siang Hill – Shopfront of Clan Association (会馆)


Ann Siang Hill – Spiral Staircase feature of Shophouses



Ann Siang Hill – Main Entrance of The Club Boutique Hotel


Do take a walk along the Chinatown Trail!


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Parliament 国会 의회

Parliament House


A new Parliament of capable 4th generation leaders in 5 days time.

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Venues for Singapore Biennale (新加坡双年展)

National Museum of Singapore


The subject of this photo was actually the Singapore 2011 Biennale banner.

Passed by the National Museum a couple of days ago and the banner was already removed.

( Are they going to put up the banner again? There’s still a month before the Biennale ends!)


Checked out the Singapore Biennale exhibits at the various venues; namely Old Kallang Airport, Singapore Art Museum, National Museum and Marina Bay (Merlion Hotel) .

Thought that the most intriguing art works were found in 8Q (part of the Singapore Art Museum) and of course, Old Kallang Airport, which has the largest exhibition space.


SAM at 8Q is located just across the street from Singapore Art Museum, along Queens Street. Basically it’s the direction towards Albert Court Food Center/ Bugis Village. A nice rustic atmosphere from a restored school building. And not to mention, there are lots of affordable good food down the street too! Bencoolen Food Center…Albert Court Food Center…are just 5-10 min walk away.

Spent some time in 8Q watching the videos featuring intensive interviews on the life of twins & a set of triplets. There’s a set of Canadian-Korean twins in their early 20s who gave an insight into their struggles with their ethnicity, the impact of Christianity in their lives and open disclosure of  their conflicting identities as twins as well as individuals. Go check out Factum (2010) by Candice Breitz.


Though Old Kallang Airport provides a huge exhibition space for the Singapore Biennale, it wasn’t comfortable to view the art works; 1) in the heat without air-conditioning, 2) dusty and stuffy environment, 3) lots of corners leading to stairways/washrooms which are in close proximity to the art works, as compared to the rest of the venues.

It’ll take half a day to view most/all the art works featured in Old Kallang Airport, thus it’s inevitable that you might need to grab a bite during the day. Unfortunately, you’ll need to take a 10min walk out to Kallang MRT station to take away some snacks from Old Chang Kee or drinks from Mr Bean.

Otherwise, the only choice that you have is to patronize Toast Box (I guess temporary franchised for the Singapore Biennale) for some toast to satisfy hunger pangs just for the moment and a caffeine perk-me-up.


However stuffy and dusty the interior might be, however dilapidated-looking the structure might be (looks like a converted warehouse), I have to admit that much effort was made to decorate the interior of Toast Box with items from the 1950s era when the airport was still operational. (Kallang Airport ceased its operations in 1955.)


Here’s a close-up of the framed photos of Old Kallang Airport.



For those interested in ‘Rediscovering the history of Old Kallang Airport’, a short 7 min clip.




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Merlion Hotel 머라이언 호텔 鱼尾狮大酒店

The Merlion @ One Fullerton


In conjunction with the 3rd Singapore Biennale, (visit

the iconic symbol of Singapore has been converted into a featured sculpture of a luxurious hotel room maintained by The Fulleron.





Merlion: 머라이언

Hotel: 호텔


(Simplified Chinese)

Merlion: 鱼尾狮

Hotel: 大酒店



In case you’re wondering, the circular pipe in the Merlion’s mouth is actually the sprinkler which creates the classic postcard water spurting effect.

Refer to this article in Wikipedia if you haven’t seen how the Merlion usually looks like.



The wallpaper is filled with motifs of globally recognized symbols of Singapore.

Try spotting Sir Stanford Raffles, Thian Hock Keng Temple, Marina Bay Sands and of course, the Merlion.



The view from the much-desired bathroom!

Yes! That’s the bathtub in the foreground.



The exterior view of the temporarily functioning Merlion Hotel with Marina Bay Sands in the background.



More about the ingenious artist, Tatzu Nishi.

Kudos for such a wonderful creation.



The bottom half of the Merlion.

Try spotting its tail within the scaffolds!



The History of the Iconic Symbol of Singapore

Courtesy of Singapore Public Art:

The choice of the Merlion as a symbol for Singapore has its roots in history, The Merlion commemorates the ancient name and the legend taken from the ‘Malay Annals’ (literary and historical work from the 15th or 16th century) explaining how Singapore received its present name.

In ancient times, Singapore was known as Temasek which is Javanese for the sea. It was then, as it is today, a center of trade. At the end of the 4th century A.D, Temasek was destroyed by the Siamese, according to some historians, but by the Javanese according to others. As recorded in the legend in the Malay Annals, Prince Nila Utama of the Sri Vijaya empire rediscovered the island later in the 11th century A.D. On seeing a strange beast (which he later learnt was a lion) upon his landing he named the island Singapura which is a Sanskirt word for Lion (Singa) City (Pura). The Merlion, with its fish-like body riding the waves of the sea, is symbolic of the ancient city of Temasek. At the same time, its majestic head recalls the legend of the discovery of Singapore by Prince Nila Utama in the 11th century, when Singapore received its present name.

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Skyscraper 마천루

Marina Bay Sands (bottom right) / Singapore Flyer (bottom left)


A new addition to the Singapore skyline.

Feat of extreme engineering.



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