I was glad that I chose Chinatown to stay in whilst I was in Singapore…
As soon as you step off the MRT and get on the escalator for the Chinatown stop, brightly painted colonial buildings rise to greet you on both sides. Strings of crimson and white paper lanterns zig zag above you all the way down Pagoda street.
My hostel had a brilliant view of the city skyline from the rooftop terrace, as well as two of the main three temples in Chinatown.
The humid evening air was filled with the sound of drumming, music, and chants from the oldest Hindu temple in Chinatown (the Sri Mariamman temple) situated directly opposite and the hum of traffic along the road.
I fell asleep early in the evening and awoke at 5am. I waited until the self-service breakfast was put out at the hostel down the road, and then decided to visit the temples.
I started with the furthest one, although, when I say furthest it was less than a five minute walk from my hostel.
Before the temple is a beautiful little garden with a pond and sculptures.
The Thian Hock Keng temple or the “temple of heavenly happiness” was empty apart from two members of staff and myself. Surprisingly, given that it was surrounded by towering modern buildings, it managed to remain tranquil and quiet.
The temple was originally built in 1839, it was rebuilt in 1842 from materials imported from China, with further additions in 1849 and other notable renovations in 1906 and a period between 1998 – 2000.
The main deity worshiped at Thian Hock Keng is “Ma Cho Po” protector of seafarers and is the oldest temple of it’s kind in Singapore.
After walking as softly as I could and watching the staff light their incense at the altars, I went back to the garden to sit and enjoy the surroundings there for a while and then proceeded to walk back to the neighbourhood of my hostel.
Next, I visited the Sri Mariamman temple, where preparations were underway for the fire walking festival in a few days time.
As mentioned earlier, Sri Mariamman temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Chinatown and was founded in 1827. Mariamman is a goddess that originates from the rural south of India who is worshiped for her protection against diseases.
When I arrived, it had been raining earlier that morning. I removed my shoes and stepped onto the bare wet stone of the temple floor.
I didn’t take many photos inside as there were people in the middle of worship and I did not wish to be disrespectful. Men wore orange and yellow robes from the waist down and no shirts. Clutching leaves in their hands, they knelt and then pressed their bodies to the wet floor, and rolled from the main area to the courtyard.
On the same road as Sri Mariamman but a little further down is The Buddha Tooth Relic temple.
The Buddha Tooth Relic temple is much more modern than the other two, having been established in 2002. It is built in a traditional style over 4 floors, with museum exhibits on various floors, and housing a relic of Buddha and a rooftop garden filled with orchids.
Supposedly, the relic was discovered in a collapsed part of a temple in Myanmar in the 1980’s.
One of the things that I love about Singapore in the juxtaposition of old temples and modern skyscrapers.
In two hours, I visited and explored all three of these temples and since I started early, I still had plenty of time to go and explore somewhere else in the city!
Do you love exploring temples as well?