Insight Guides Southeast Asia by Insight Guides

Insight Guides Southeast Asia by Insight Guides

Author:Insight Guides
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Travel, Southest Asia
Publisher: Apa Publications
Published: 2018-02-15T05:00:00+00:00

Playing drafts in Chinatown.

Vincent Ng/Apa Publications

One of the most curious things about Chinatown is that it harbours some of the island’s most interesting Hindu and Muslim shrines. Towering above the shophouses are the brightly painted figures adorning the gopuram (tower) at the entrance of the Sri Mariamman Temple (www.smt.org.sg; daily 7am–noon, 6–9pm) on South Bridge Road, the oldest Hindu shrine in Singapore. Brightly clad devotees perform pujas amid gaudy statues and vivid ceiling frescoes. Built in the 1820s, this is the site of Thimiti – the fire-walking festival – when the faithful work themselves into a trance and walk over burning embers to fulfil their vows to the goddess Droba-Devi. A block away is the Jamae Chulia Mosque (www.masjidjamaechulia.sg; daily 5.30am–9.30pm), with its pagoda-like minarets rarely seen in mosque architecture and reflecting strong Chinese influence.

Telok Ayer Street once ran along the waterfront, but today the road is blocked from the sea by a wall of gleaming skyscrapers. It was here that seafarers and immigrants from China’s Fujian Province set up a joss house in gratitude for their safe arrival after their long sea voyage from China in the early 1820s. The little joss house eventually became Thian Hock Keng Temple (www.thianhockkeng.com.sg; daily 7.30am–5.30pm), the Temple of Heavenly Happiness dedicated to Ma Chu Po, Goddess of the Sea, who reputedly calms the ocean waters and rescues those in danger of drowning.

Further along the road is Nagore Durgha Shrine, also called Masjid Chulia. Currently closed for renovations, the mosque, built by Muslims from southern India in 1830, is another example of the ethnic and religious variety in Chinatown.

Upstream along the Singapore River, Clarke Quay Q [map] – bounded by River Valley Road, Tan Tye Place and North Boat Quay – is lined with restored 19th-century warehouses now home to dining and nightlife establishments. To the north is historic Fort Canning Park R [map]. Once known as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill), in the early years of Singapore’s history, this strategic location was the site of grand palaces protected by walls and swamps. In 1860, the British built a fort atop the hill, from where dawn, noon and dusk were announced each day by way of cannon fire.

At the base of the hill, at the junction of Coleman and Hill streets, is the Armenian Church S [map] (daily 9am–6pm), also called St Gregory the Illuminator. Built in 1835, this exquisite church is the oldest in Singapore, and a cemetery in the grounds serves as a tribute to some eminent Singaporeans, among them Agnes Joaquim (1864–99), after whom Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim, is named. At No. 62 Hill Street is another architectural gem of a building, the old red-and-white Central Fire Station T [map], headquarters of the Singapore Fire Brigade, which was completed in 1909. On the ground level is the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery (Tue–Sun 10am–5pm) where a gleaming red fire engine from 1905 takes pride of place.



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