Our second day in Singapore and we were headed to Chinatown. The forecast called for rain in the afternoon – no surprise there – so it seemed like a good day to visit that part of the city-state. Our plan was to spend the day in the Singapore Chinatown and then have a late night dinner at the Satay Club in Lau Pa Sat. Singapore has a number of centrally located neighborhoods that reflect the country’s cultural diversity. Chinatown, Kampong Glam (Malay), and Little India are probably the most popular. I choose Chinatown for this second day of our short stay because of the wide variety of food and great shopping opportunities on offer.
A quick reminder of my itinerary for this long weekend.
2 – Chinatown / Satay Club
Day 2 – Chinatown and the Satay Club
The first time I visited Singapore back in 1996, a large section of Chinatown was really rundown. Many of the shophouses were boarded up and several streets were no longer in use. Walking down some of the old streets, I could only imagine what the area might have looked like when it was still thriving. In recent years those same shophouses have been restored and whole streets have been renovated to return the neighborhood to its original splendor.
The Chinatown Food Street on Smith Street was our first stop of the day. One of the reasons that I love this street is that while it might look ‘touristy’ its food is truly authentic and absolutely delicious! Many of the vendors relocated here from old hawker centers. In the evening, the tables are filled with a fairly even mix of locals and tourists. Each cart offers different local favorites including char kway teow, roti prata, chili crab, and hokkien mee. You can read more about some of the great foods on offer here.
After thoroughly enjoying lunch, we headed down Trengganu Street to look at the shops. Our first stop was this fruit seller. Slices of mango, dragonfruit, apple, and chinese pear were on offer. It was also possible to get one of my favorites – freshly pressed sugar cane juice. Whole sticks of sugar cane, two or three feet long and about 2 inches in diameter, are run through a press to extract the juice. Naturally sweet and very refreshing, it is the perfect drink for regaining energy after an afternoon rain when the sticky humidity has sapped you of your strength.
Temple and Pagoda Streets
Continuing down Temple Street and then Pagoda Street we perused the various shops. Some contained your standard set of Singapore focused souvenirs. Others offered unique items that reflected the local heritage or were works of art. Tea sets with intricately drawn images of ancient China, old style snuff and perfume bottles, silk lanterns, felt fans with depictions of stilt-house villages, and so much more can be found here. The shopping options range from novelty to historic to artistic to cute (like the stuffed Chinese Astrology animals below). I could spend hours here – and each time I visit there are new things on offer.
Having finished with Chinatown, we headed to the MRT entrance at the end of Pagoda Street. Our plan was to take the subway to the Satay Club in Lau Pa Sat for a very late dinner. Heading down into the subway I saw this awesome sign about escalator safety!
The Satay Club
When I first visited Singapore, the Satay Club was a group hawkers in a park near Marina Bay. Over the years this group has moved multiple times and spread to different locations in the city. In my opinion, the best place to get satay now is at Lau Pa Sat in Raffles Quay. Every night, after the business district has gone quiet and most of the workers have gone home, one of the streets outside the Lau Pa Sat hawker center is blocked off and the Satay Club comes to life.
We grabbed a table and ordered a set – lamb, beef, chicken, and prawns from Best Satay at Stalls Seven and Eight. Satay, skewers of marinated and barbecued meat, is served with a peanut dipping sauce, cucumbers, onions, and rice cakes. From another vendor we ordered large chilled glasses of lime soda and beer.
I really love sitting out under the stars, surrounded by modern high-rises, inhaling warm smokey air and listening to murmur of the crowds around me. Singapore at its best!
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