Singapore’s Chinatown: a remarkable neighbourhood of beautiful temples, colonial buildings, and interesting people. Leanna and I spent a day walking around Chinatown, going up and down streets and just being immersed in that strange Asian culture. We didn’t know what to expect but I remember being surprised at how alive Chinatown was. It was busy with people bustling around but it wasn’t crowded: Alive. A living neighbourhood and the centre of culture. I just wanted to be there in it all, taking photographs. We took photos all day until dark and then took more even!

Decorations for Chinese New Year

The temples were amazing – so much decoration and colours. Imagine standing in the temples looking around while smelling the sweet warm aroma of incense burning at all times. That was special.

An Indian Hindu temple located right in the middle of Chinatown – Singapore is multicultural

I don’t know what this says but it looked cool all illuminated

We would walk up and down all the streets in between temples and food centres. We stopped for an egg tart, a famous little egg based dessert like a butter tart but only with egg inside. After our snack we were walking down the road and we heard crazy drumming and music and we looked down the road and there was a small parade coming down. The best thing was at the front of parade were costumed Chinese Lions. The procession would walk down the street drumming loudly as the dancers out front did a Lion Dance with their costumes. I yanked Leanna to follow me as I walked along side them smelling incense and enjoying the dancing and the drumming. I must have followed them for a half hour – I don’t know how many blocks we walked. It was great.

Following the parade

Lions leading the parade

Chinatown at night

After a while we needed another snack so we stopped and got some bak kwa. Bak kwa is a traditional dried meat (think jerky but juicier) which is traditional new years food. There was a bunch of stores selling so we stopped and got a piece to see what it was all about. It wasn’t as good as the jerky in the southwest USA, but interesting and we enjoyed a little snack.

Leanna sitting on the street at night enjoying her Bak kwa

Next up was possibly our favourite activity in Singapore: A Chinese Opera. Earlier in the week we had booked tickets to watch a Chinese opera at an amateur theatre tea house in a little shop in Chinatown. We had no idea what to expect, but whatever we expected was blown away as soon as it started…

The Chinese Opera Tea house

We were shown a small seat and we were given some tea and cake. The tea was incredible. I’ll never forget it: Lychee green tea. So sweet and elegant. I bought some from Greenfresh when we got back to Ottawa but I think it’s black tea so we’ll have to go and look at T&T for a different kind.

We were sitting around when I glanced behind me to the entrance and saw the lady all dressed up in her costume. I couldn’t believe it. Pictures don’t do it justice. So colourful and with incredible makeup. She was like a living doll or something.

She went on stage and educated us about the art of traditional Chinese Opera including the outfit, makeup (which takes 2-4 hours to apply correctly), movement, singing, lyrics, everything. We were glued to it all. I don’t think I blinked for a half hour, just staring at her. It was really nice and private with only a few other people with us in the place.

At the end of our education we got a demonstration of a section of an opera. They sang and moved for us and after learning all about the tradition we could follow along. We were so happy. It was such a rare opportunity for us to get to experience something so artistic so personally from a group of dedicated artists.

After that our day was over and it was late night. We caught a cheap plate of Char Kway Teow and went to bed, exhausted. I dreamt of elaborate Chinese costumes and bright lanterns.