Singapore China Town

Chinatown Travel Blog

 › entry 22 of 23 › view all entries
On arriving back in Singapore, my friends and I wasted no time in heading back out into the city. We made a bee-line for Chinatown, an area we had travelled through on our first visit and one that definitely looked like it needed further exploration.

After taking the meticulous underground system from Orchard Road, we headed for the Buddha Tooth Temple that we'd spotted previously. The temple is an imposing structure, towering above the neighbouring streets and shops, catching your eye and drawing your in. A procession of monks walked past us as we waited outside, jostling shoulders with the other tourists visiting the seething Chinatown markets packed with trinkets and souvenirs.


Once inside the temple is a contradiction. Everything, and I mean everything, is able to be sponsored. The money (so a polite sign informed us) goes towards the temple's work collecting more relics of Buddhism, and in providing education about the practices and history of the faith around the world. They can't be short of a bob or two. From the floor tiles to the decorations, the statues to the relics, the furnishings to the fixtures the devout (and wealthy) can sponsor an item for a year, paying extortionate sums (up to $100,000+ Singapore dollars for the most 'holy'). It was the perfect marriage of capitalism and faith; no tithes, no forced collections or begging with plates. This was clean, efficient and gold plated. It was, in a word, odd.

The rooftop garden boasted 10,000 miniature Buddha statues, and was the part of the temple that I found most stunning.
The bustling market streets - you can get really cool souvenirs here, and great food!
It was an oasis of calm inside a towering city, artfully planted and constructed to hide the towering sky scrapers of the CBD and covered everywhere the eye looked with mini Buddha figures smiling serenely at you (all sponsored for a price of course). I enjoyed the tranquility and silence. That and the mini Buddhas appeared to be value for money.

Inside the temple boasted a museum detailing the history of the faith in short steps and containing hundreds of statues, pictures, icons and relics of the great man himself. The relics (to an uninitiated eye) looked like pretty glass beads, and there were a great many of them, lovingly cared for in gold plated vessels, placed atop cushions and scrutinised by the faithful.

This was a Technicolor religious experience. It was bright, brash, bold; covered in gold, jewels and polite signs in a multitude of languages.
Another shot of the Hindu temple.
This was less a place of worship than the headquarters of a multi-national. That said, the temple was also understated. There were no attempts to convert people, it was there purely to educate, and it did that well. It also raised fundamental questions about belief and spiritualism. It was, however, a little too polished, and it didn't have the charm of some of the temples we'd previously visited, more modest and with less gold plated elevators and air conditioning.

Nearby, in the markets and shops of Chinatown we picked up souvenirs and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city. This place had everything you wanted be it food and drink or antiques and designer knock offs. It was energetic and fun. A good way to round off our final day.
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The bustling market streets - you …
The bustling market streets - you…
Another shot of the Hindu temple.
Another shot of the Hindu temple.
Inside the Buddha Tooth Temple.
Inside the Buddha Tooth Temple.
The rooftop garden of 10,000 Buddh…
The rooftop garden of 10,000 Budd…
A close up of some of the Buddhas.
A close up of some of the Buddhas.
Here you can see the Vairocana Bud…
Here you can see the Vairocana Bu…
Dendrobium Buddha Tooth orchid pla…
Dendrobium Buddha Tooth orchid pl…
The view from the top of the templ…
The view from the top of the temp…
A statue of Maitreya, supposedly t…
A statue of Maitreya, supposedly …
Another statue of Maitreya Buddha.
Another statue of Maitreya Buddha.
A statue outside the temple.
A statue outside the temple.
Chinatown, a great cultural meltin…
Chinatown, a great cultural melti…
Chinatown
photo by: andytite