Chinatown and Tiong Bahru Travel Guide
  • Photo: Peter Guttman/

Chinatown and Tiong Bahru

Chinatowns are typically found in cities where the Chinese are a minority. In Singapore, however, where ethnic Chinese substantially outnumber all other groups, a Chinatown may seem out of place. This Chinatown was formed back in colonial times, when Sir Stamford Raffles was attempting to organize immigrants by their race. The Chinese received the largest portion of land, southwest of the Singapore River. Over the years the neighborhood has had its ups and downs, but recently it's gotten a lot more touristy. Smith, Temple, and Pagoda streets are filled with shops selling souvenir Buddhas and tea sets, "I Love SG" keychains, and many T-shirts poking fun at Singapore's love for strict fines. Trendy shops have begun to pop up around these parts, as well as in nearby Tiong Bahru, which was built in the 1930s as Singapore’s first public housing estate. The low-rise apartments in the area have been taken over by many of the city’s trendsetters, and with them have come funky cafes, bookstores, and restaurants.


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