Singapore's three major racial groups, Chinese, Malays and
Indians, have over the years developed little pockets of
architecture, customs and colorful festivals that express
their proud heritage. Take a stroll through the following
areas and be enthralled by their distinctive characters.
Chinatown's history dates back to 1819, when Sir Stamford
Raffles founded Singapore. Chinese, who compose the
largest group, were given the entire area Southwest of
Hokkiens concentrated their trading efforts along Telok
Ayer Street, China Street and Chulia Street.
Teochews continued their farmer-fisherman tradition,
occupying Circular Road and South Bridge Road (near the
present day Boat Quay).
Cantonese, traditionally goldsmiths, tailors and
restaurateurs, constructed their shop houses along Temple
Street, Pagoda Street and Mosque Street.
Today, Chinatown is the venue of lovingly conserved
buildings, century-old beliefs and intriguing contrasts.
For instance, Singapore's oldest Hindu temple is right
smack in the middle of Chinatown.
A new feature in Chinatown is Speaker's Corner. Located in
Hong Lim Park, the Speaker's Corner provides Singaporeans
with a venue where they can speak freely outdoors in
public on almost any issue. Drop by the park between 7 AM
and 7 PM daily and watch Singaporeans wax lyrical on
issues close to their hearts.
Little India stretches from Rochor Canal to Lavendar
Street. While early Indians resided in Chulia Street near
Chinatown, most of them resettled to the present Little
India due to the introduction of cattle rearing on the
fertile land of Rochor River.
Immigrants from Madras, Calcutta and Malaya joined them
soon after. Today, Little India is the center of local
Indian Community. The best time to visit Little India is
early morning, when one can enjoy the spicy aromas,
colorful traditions, strains of sitar music and colorful
Malays had been living in Singapore long before Chinese or
Indians, and Geylang became their enclave in 1840s, after
British dispersed Malay floating village in the mouth of
Highlights to look out for in this area are Malay Village,
Geylang Serai Market, Chinese Baroque terrace houses and
Malay bungalows complete with wood carving and European
It is named after Glam tree, which grew in the area.
Medicinal oil was extracted from the tree and its bark
used by Buginese and Malay to caulk their ships. The area
was the historic seat of Malay Royalty in Singapore.
Today, the area sits comfortably between progressive
terrace houses and old shop houses. Highlights include the
old Malay Cemetery, Sultan Mosque, Rumah Panjang and Arab
Street, famed for its silk and basketry.
Singapore River was the lifeline of Singapore, where first
immigrants eked out a meager living and saw Singapore
transform from an obscure fishing village to a great
seaport. And into a modern metropolis famous for its
skyscrapers, Merlion and "gastro-manis".
Highlights on its banks include Boat Quay, Clarke Quay,
Merlion Park, Parliament House, Asian Civilizations
Museum, Tan Si Chong Su Temple and Omar Kampong Melaka
One can learn about Singapore's urban development history
in URA Gallery, where the key attraction is a huge scale
model of the city that also sets out its future
development plan. It is also home to 48 stunning displays,
interactive touch screens and exciting 3-D animations.
It is located in URA Center, 45 Maxwell Road, Singapore
Tel.: 321 8321
Closed on Sunday and public holidays.