My Journey through Chinatown

Kreta Ayer Road - Hindu Temple
Sithi Vinayakar Temple - Keong Siak and Kreta Ayer Road.

Peoples Park Complex, Singapore
People's Park Complex, Chinatown

Chinatown has played an integral part in my growing up years. I wasn't born there but my grand parents lived there all their lives when they first migrated from China. My parents got to know each other there too. I visited my grand parents in Chinatown as a baby, as a kid, even as a teen, before the authority took down the old shop houses and rebuilt some locations into touristic attractions. At that time I didn't feel nostalgic about the place. I hated it as a kid; the dark alley ways, the smelly sewers, the disgusting toilets, rats, steep stairways, the floors that creaked, spiderwebs, crackling paints, ceilings that were covered in soots... it wasn't pleasant to live in those pre-war 2 storey shophouses that were built during the colonial period for the migrating population in the 40s.

The old Chinatown was a favorite subject and painting location by many local artists. Now it is a heritage sites designated for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Like many heritage sites, the buildings are conserved and refurbished, retaining the original architectural designs and construct, but the essence of these sites are not. Most places like Chinatown have become commercialized, many buildings are housing offices, shopping malls, souvenir shops, restaurants etc. There was a move to bring back some of the olden days' hustle and bustle by allowing fruits and food peddling along the streets, but it wasn't the same anymore. But change is good.

I remembered  cycling to Chinatown when I was 14 to work. A friend of my dad's used to have a workshop making signboards along Mosque Street (not sure) and he hired me as a part timer to help out in the shop. I loved to paint banners and colorful cartoon characters on advertising posters when I was working there. Then I got to learn many other things like making plastic type faces, lights installation and even painting signs on the physical walls. I had a great time! The shop has moved and I am not sure whether he is still making signboards now.

Chinatown Market - Fruit Stall
Fruit Stall along Smith Street

As I walked through the streets of Chinatown now, I noticed the refurbished buildings have been weathered through the years already. So maybe it is time to revisit the place and sketch those pre-war buildings again.

Chinatown Bridge
Pagoda Bridge at Chinatown

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