Singapore's Chinatown: Shopping, Touristy Shops, and Shopping

 Singapore is a truly multicultural city. This is reflected in its food and its neighborhoods. The markets have all sorts of grub from all over Asia, and the neighborhoods have their own touches (and restaurants) based on the origins of their peoples. Chinatown is no different. While the architecture reflects that of the rest of Singapore to keep the buildings cool, the area is packed with Chinese culture.
 And souvenir shops.
 The main area in Chinatown is unfortunately completely commercialized to cater to tourists. Maybe even more so than any other Chinatown I've visited.
 It's off the main path that you'll find more authentic shops, though I didn't really get there.
 The main shopping street is covered, meaning whatever the weather you can stroll and spend to your heart's content. This is actually the Food Street. But shops are here too.
 You will find Chinese souvenirs here, like lamps and costumes. There were lots of things I'd love to have come home with.
 Little India is nearby, but there are some shops that spill over to this area too - one of the coolest temples is nearby.
 And, shopping.
 Here's an authentic Chinese market. I doubt I could get any of this through customs, but then I don't know how to cook with any of this. Or is it medicine? I don't know, but stores like this - real Chinese shops - are what make a Chinatown real.
 Not McDonald's.
 Here's a mosque - Jamae Mosque. It, like Sri Mariamman Temple, is out of place in Chinatown. But Jamae Mosque has been in this place for about 200 years!
 As in other districts I admired the architecture and the colorful paint jobs.
 How awesome would it be to live in one of these buildings?
 Bee Cheng Hiang is one of several shops you'll find in Chinatown selling bak kwa, which is barbecued meat.
 Some shops let you watch the cooking occur. The meat is usually then packaged for later consumption, especially as souvenirs.
 Bak kwa is delicious - it's very much like a softer, tastier jerky. I'm guessing those 50% sales are pretty much permanent. Some shops are cheaper than others, though they're all pretty comparable. Shop around before buying. You can also taste-test at some shops, but I didn't really notice any difference in quality. The shop above, Bee Cheng Hiang, is where I got my bak kwa. They sell small individually packaged pieces of different flavors, so I was able to try all of them relatively inexpensively.

Will I eat more bak kwa? You bet!
 Oh, and souvenirs. Don't forget souvenirs.
One place I didn't get to go was the Chinatown Heritage Centre. If you look on the glass behind the blue-shirted man there's a sign on the window stating the place was closed. Apparently it's open again.

Okay, so there's a lot of shops here that cater to tourists. San Francisco and Yokohama Chinatowns are the same way, and you probably have to go a bit off the beaten path to find real Chinatown here. That doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy my trip. There are a couple individual stops in this neighborhood that I'll be posting about later: the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Sri Mariamman Temple.

Plus, I came across some shops in Singapore's Chinatown that had some really good prices on kitschy but authentic-feeling souvenirs. Good enough that I said "if I had a bigger place and a little more money I'd definitely waste the cash here getting these goodies."

The Visitors Centre is located at 2 Banda Street, and Chinatown Station will put you right in the heart of the neighborhood. There are various walking tours advertised on different websites which will lead you around to the main sights in the area, plus their choices of the best food. I decided to walk down to the Maxwell Food Centre, though, at the southern end of the neighborhood, for my lunch.

Not counting restaurant time, you should plan to spend a few hours walking the streets, browsing the shops, and visiting the temples, mosques, and museums. I feel like I am saying this for almost every Singapore post, but I'd like to go back again to Chinatown to eat and shop and explore a bit more.

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