Detail form the doors of the Thian Hock Keng Temple
The other day I had a short wander around Chinatown. Not the usual streets around Chinatown MRT, like Pagoda, Mosque and Smith Street, but along Maxwell Road, Cecil Street and Telok Ayer Street. I love this part of Chinatown. There are loads of typical shophouses all well maintained, with small offices inside, a splattering of restaurants and eatng houses, some interesting shops, and some very historic temples, Mosques, and Chinese Clan houses.
Before land reclamation, Telok Ayer Street was actually the coastal road along the bay. Boats used to moor in Telok Ayer Bay waiting to get fresh water, carried by bullock carts, from a well at Ann Siang Hill, where you can still walk today.
It was the primary area set aside by Sir Stamford Raffles for the Chinese community and the main landing site for Chinese Immigrants. In this way it became one of the first streets in Chinatown and formed the backbone of development of the Chinese immigrant community in early Singapore.
Until the late nineteenth century, Telok Ayer Street was the main commerial and residential thoroughfare in Singapore, and many origunal buildings have survived. You can visit the oldest Hokkien temple, Thian Hock Keng Temple (1820s), which has some wonderful carvings and beautifully painted doors.
The Fuk Tak Chi Temple (1824), the oldest Chinese Temple in Singapore, has been converted into a museum. Inside you can view an interesting mixture of exhibits telling of the lives of the first immigrants. There is a model Chinese Junk, and this charming model of Telok Ayer Street which really gives you a feel of what it must have been like. Walk out the back of the museum and you will find yourself in a contrasting modern convertion of the area.