Top: Shophouses in Chinatown. Bottom: Thian Hock Keng Temple.
On my first visit to Singapore, having come from Hong Kong, I skipped Chinatown altogether. What, I thought, would there be to see in Chinatown that I didn't already know very well from the real China? (Okay, Hong Kong isn't exactly real China, but you get my point). Well, it turns out that Chinatown is one of the best places to see Singapore's distinctive shophouses. The colorful low-rise buildings originated in 18th century colonial Singapore and traditionally housed the family business at the front and living quarters at the back.
Here's a suggested itinerary that will give you your fill of shophouses and includes a food detor at the end (or perhaps the begining if you start hungry), as well as some distinctive shops and sights to pop into.
The Chinatown MRT station is the closest stop to this itinerary.
- Walk: Start at the corner of South Bridge Road and Temple Street and wander up and down Temple, Smith, and Sago streets, which are choc-a-bloc with food stalls, cheap market items and lots and lots of shophouses.
- Shop: Head up Ann Siang Hill and around Club Street for independent boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
- Eat: If you're hungry (and not interested in your reward below), drop into PS Cafe, tucked at the end of Ann Siang Hill, for reliable, if pricey, continental food. (New Yorkers: One look at the ground floor and you'll swear you stumbled into a Lower East Side bar, reproduction tin roof and all.)
- Walk and shop some more: Take a left out of PS Cafe and head through Ann Siang Park to Amoy St. Wander up Amoy and over to Telok Ayer for a peep into the beautiful Thian Hock Keng Chinese temple. Be sure to stop into Hide and Seek and the utterly sublime Doorstep Luxury for beautiful accessories from international designers (more on that to come!). [Update: Hide and Seek is now at 77 Bussorah St in the Arab Quarter.]
I suspect that Mr Noto (that tastemaker of my previous post) would agree with me that flowers are a key element in a well-dressed room, and orchids, with their simple elegance, are an unfailingly sophisticated choice. And because we live in Asia, they're also practically free! Elegance for free! Okay, not free, but for $12 a stem at Hawaii Landscape nursery on Thomson Rd (that's right, 12 Singapore dollars!) you have no excuse not have dozens--or at least two--in your home. As a bonus, they last weeks longer than cut flowers, keeping the gorgeous going and going.
In a city overwhelmed with choice, the Arriviste is an edited guide to Singapore's food, drink, and style standouts. Just visiting for a weekend? Wander down to "categories" below to find the best, and only the best, of this tropical isle.