Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chinatown on a Sunday

Chinese New Year is just round the corner and boy am I excited! This festive season is big, I mean BIG in Asia. In China, they celebrate Chinese New Year and take holidays off work for 3 whole weeks! Imagine that! I guess most companies in Singapore, especially the local run Chinese ones would not be in operation for about a week.

So being the excited Chinese that I am about this time of the year, Julien and I decided to head on down to Chinatown! So to the MRT we went. I dare say, the public transport system here in Singapore is extremely efficient and what's great on top of this is that it is also air conditioned! Why do we need a car (or motorcycle - although Julien would never agree with me on this point) when we've got the Mass Rapid Transit.

We arrived around 5pm in the evening and it was already packed with people! I was really thirsty, so first thing that caught my attention was this stall. Not only because it was selling coconut juice. But they dress up their coconuts as well.

The Chinese Swordsman, The Tinkerbell and The Ninja

Chinatown is a great place to visit if you want to have a "feel" of how the Chinese immigrants from China then lived. The buildings have all been preserved in this area. Only difference is the streets are a lot cleaner and the shophouses have all been painted over. I love these shophouses. It's always been my dream to own one some day. There were more of such shophouses before the government tore them down district by district to make space for the the posh looking buildings you see today.

For the first time, Julien actually likes flowers on something.

What I really like about this place is that it has a good mix of both new and old.

Walking through Chinatown during this festive period is a nightmare. We had to literally barge through throngs and throngs of crowd. Just trying to get from one shop to the next in this crowd is a challenge.

At least Julien's happy.

Despite the humidity and the crowd, there were still MANY things worth exploring that would tingle the five senses i.e. sight, smell, taste, touch, listen.

I wonder what went through their minds as they were constructing this.

Lanterns for decorating the house and plants

It's tradition during Chinese New Year to do spring cleaning in the house. It's not just to clean up the house, but more with the idea to start the New Year with everything new. So, new furniture, new bedsheets, new clothes, and Julien's new joke - New wife. (I wasn't laughing as usual...). Some others really go way out. They paint their houses in a new colour every year, shift furniture around and all that. We Chinese can be a little over the top at times. So these shops sell everything! Decorations outside and then furniture to linen bedsheets, curtains, etc inside.

I really liked the middle painting on the first row. Julien preferred the middle picture on the second row. I reckon these paintings would brighten up any plain wall. They're paintings taken from old pictures as you can see. The women in the paintings are usually in a cheongsam or with pigtails. Yet, they're painted in a very modern style. I like!

We also came across a painter who was painting calligraphy characters in the form of drawings. It was simply mind blowing. What was great was that he was doing it live too! Simply awesome. Things like these make me very proud of my heritage. You don't get this anywhere else in the world.

There were lots of these very cute oriental clothes for kids. Somehow, when it's kid's size, I think they're nice. They seem nice only on kids. Not adults. Well, then again, maybe because it usually looks way too oversized on adults. Julien was starting to worry, each time I pointed out a mini dress or a mini oriental pigtail hat.

This street performer caught our eye immediately. For one he really stood out because of the way he was dressed. That instrument that he's holding is called the er-hu. It's an instrument invented many decades ago. Not many people know how to play this instrument anymore. I'm glad though that schools here are very culturally inclined and provide curriculars that teach students music, dance, or traditions from the time of our ancestors.

This old man was very friendly and actually welcomed us to take a picture with him. Apparently he's taken many pictures with famous celebrities from Asia when they come visit.

What's funny are these street vendors. There are many of them selling the same thing. Like new year produce and sweets, some canned abalone, etc. And because it is really competitive, what's important is that they stand out in the crowd right? Here's one whom we thought was very innovative. He's got on a green wig, speaking into a microphone.

There were also others who were giving out sweets for you to try for free. Of course this worked very well on Singaporeans. They were swarming to the stalls like bees to honey. Haha... we were guilty of it too. We both took one jelly sweet each! We had good reason to though.. it was really warm and humid, and that ice cold jelly really helped soothe our parched throats. Grin.

Of course, you can't just take a walk through Chinatown without stopping by the food vendors! (Typically Singaporean).

Up till now, I still am not really sure what this is. Do you consider it a fruit or a vegetable? What I remember of this is from the movies during my childhood days. Of dieties and Celestial beings in their ancient Chinese robes drinking Chinese wine from these containers called a gourd. Only these gourds in the movies are brown, like they have been dried and hollowed out. So I'm still wondering.

The Japanese Pizza

This is called the Japanese Pizza. It's funny how the Japanese take something that was already invented yonks ago, change it a little and then rename it "The Japanese" something. I mean, we've got the Japanese curry, Japanese Pizza, Japanese pasta, Japanese beef, etc etc. What's next? This pizza is mainly a base of cabbage, with cheese, ham and a full egg on top of it. Asian people love it. I'm not exactly a big fan. Pizza should be bursting with meat and cheese.


All these sights, sounds, taste and smells were great to take in. But the highlight for me was when we came to this beautiful oriental building which we later found out was a temple. It was so beautiful in itself it helped us make many photos good enough to be on postcards. Here's some. The rest are on Picasa.

Part of the temple from outside

The first main level

5 Levels in total

This was hand painted too.

May Wealth and Health be with all of you this New Year!

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