On Foot Around Chinatown and Duxton Road

Having booked a room at Beary Best Hostel, the first thing I did was roam around Chinatown up to Duxton Road.

Chinese ethnicity.  The colorful shophouses, decorative lanterns, and the murals fully represent the Singaporean Chinese which comprises about 70% of the population in Singapore. img_4649

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A reflection of devotion. Singapore is religiously diverse. Thirty-three percent of the population are devotees of Buddhism while Hinduism is at 5%. Thus, there are temples proudly located in Chinatown where locals flock to worship and express their sincerest commitment.

Sri Mariamman Temple. Goddess Mariamman is the Hindu goddess of rain. Her worhip mainly focuses on bringing rains and curing diseases like cholera, smallpox, and chicken pox. As the oldest Hindu temple, the temple provided shelter to Hindu immigrants until they were able to find work and accommodation in Singapore. At present, the temple is home to religious functions and promotes various cultural and educational activities.img_4667Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. It is claimed that the relic of Buddha, which is a left canine tooth retrieved by his disciple Kehma from his funeral pyre and from which the temple gained its name, was found in 1980 in a collapsed stupa in Myanmar. The relic can be viewed by the public at the 4th floor of the temple. During one of their religious services, the tourist may enter and it is astonishing how worshippers can focus amidst the clicking of cameras and foreign eyes watching.img_4424
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Other than religion. Souvenir shopping is a great itinerary when going around Chinatown. There are locally-made tote bags which are priced at 3 for S$10 and would be nice to give to friends. Aside from that, you can buy Singapore-themed souvenirs or Chinese medicine. Either because you believe in divine predictions or just for fun, you can also consult a fortune-teller. img_3387img_4623

Satiated. Along Maxwell Road lies the Maxwell Hawker Centre where the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall is located. The hainanese chicken rice here has a balanced seasoning and the chilli is better than the other stalls. However, I think there are other satisfying dishes to try around this hawker like porridge from Zhen Zhen Porridge and noodles from Huang Ji. You can also just stay at Chinatown Food Street.img_3345img_4229
Chinatown Food Street.

Enticing Duxton Road and Duxton Hill. The old-fashioned houses are a great view for a leisurely day-time stroll. Many of these are converted shophouses and restaurants that would serve cuisine from the West. There are also conserved shops turned into redlight district bars. For the wandering bookworm, Littered with Books is a must-visit charming two-storey bookstore. I probably spent two hours before I decided to ask the store clerk if they have The Little Prince and Oh, The Places You’ll Go which I would love to read to my nieces. Unfortunately, they only had The Little Prince. No matter, I also bought Sula’s Voyage written by Catherine Torres, a diplomat and writer from the Philippines. I am a happy kid! (There’s a sign inside that photos are not allowed anymore so I only took a shot of the signboard. There are tons of photos if you search google images, though.)
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From a peek at Buddhism to modern hangout, Chinatown and Duxton Road are definitely itinerary-worthy. I headed back to the hostel with a satisfied smile for a day well-spent.

 

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Singapore: The Little Red Dot in the Pacific

Why would anyone want to travel alone? It’s more expensive and a bit lonely… or so people would say. I went to Singapore alone.

Why did I? I did it because I hope to live a little more. I made an itinerary which included cafe hopping and roaming around shops at Haji Lane. I love old architecture and colorful buildings. I get easily engrossed with other people’s stories, too. I like reminding myself how small I am and that there’s more out there to see and experience. More than all that, travelling solo allows me to get in contact with myself; reminding me of how brave I could be.

I booked a room at Beary Best Hotel in Chinatown. Duxton Hill Road is just a few minutes walk from there and the website was cute. Of course, I also read reviews and blogs to make sure I’ll be staying at a safe place.

With a borrowed camera (because I didn’t think I would need to buy one until I’m really good at photography), I walked around Chinatown clicking away at Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. I took photos of colorful walls and all the food I ate. Somehow, I was conscious about people staring at me as I take photos of my food. I had to tell myself that they don’t know me so I should stop caring. That was the first thing my solo travel reminded me of – who cares? I should do the things that make me happy. I should stop overly caring about what others think or say.

On the second day, I decided I’ll go see the shops at Haji Lane and take a souvenir photo of Masjid Sultan. Because I’ve been to Singapore twice before, I knew I have to get off Bugis Station and my destination would be around the area. However, I did not have internet connection to check google maps. I asked but I still got lost down Waterloo Street instead of Victoria. I walked down a flea market until I reached Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple where people pray to Kwan Yin, the goddess of mercy. My second lesson was to be prepared. I should have brought a printed map. Or I should have studied the surroundings more instead of haughtily walking around like I was very sure of where to go. Overconfidence got me lost. The third one was to be grateful even when I got lost. There was a man in a wheelchair outside the temple. His faced was carved out and he did not have a nose. Was he scary? Maybe, only because I could imagine that happening to me and it seemed painful. He told me about the time he spent in the Philippines and how he much he likes the people. I told him about how interesting Singapore is for me and that I would love to see more given the time. After our short discussion on culture and religion, I walked back to Bugis Station and started again. My fourth lesson – never be scared of starting over again. I didn’t think of going back early. I decided to go somewhere and I did that. I found my way to Haji Lane and had fun taking photos of the creative shops and murals. I bought souvenirs from Mondays Off and Craft Assembly.  After that, I took photos of Masjid Sultan as creative as my amateur photography skills allowed.

Sometimes, what I’m looking for is right in front of me – my fifth realization. I walked around and asked five people but failed to find The Children Little Museum for about an hour. I was about to give up and head to I AM Cafe when I noticed the big robot oddly standing outside a building. It was just around the corner of Bussorah St. The admission fee was S$2. The owner and collector, Mr. Ann, was very kind and offered to take photos of me among his memorabilia. It was fun to see toys similar to that of my childhood in the Philippines. My sixth – I find myself in odd places and that isn’t a bad thing.

I only stayed for four days and three nights. I only spent two days roaming around because I met with friends and we had a great time catching up. Next time, I’ll visit Little India and the old railway station at Bukit Timah. I would also want to work in a hawker stall for at least three days and write a feature about it. I want to join some of the various workshops offered by the shops I visited like toy-making from the Children Little Museum or a calligraphy class at Shop Wonderland in Haji Lane. I would definitely come back to see and experience more of Singapore. It would be nice to travel with a friend but I wouldn’t mind going alone again. It’s fun!