Free Walking Tours in Chinatown Singapore with Monster Day Tours
Despite its location in Southeast Asia, traveling to Singapore often involves big bills. That’s also one reason why the city has ranked most expensive city for expats in the world for four years in a row. That’s why I was especially surprised to hear about free walking tours through the city offered by Monster Day Tours. What could there be better than a free tour through one of Asia’s most exciting cities?
If you are looking for more things to do in Singapore, check out this 3-day Singapore itinerary.
Monster Day Tours
Only established in May 2017, Monster Day Tours offers exciting tours based on the motto “Go Big or Go Home”. Their six dedicated local guides are licensed and passionate about their home of Singapore. Besides their free walking tours in Chinatown Singapore, they also offer free walking tours in Little India, as well as a range of unique paid tours, such as Singapore After Dark, Night Cycle And Chill, or Foodie Express Chinatown, starting at S$39.90.
Monster Day Tours was built upon the simple idea that holidays are meant for having an awesome time soeat, play and party as hard as you possibly can otherwise you might as well stay home.
Free Walking Tours in Chinatown Singapore
The free walking tour in Chinatown takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in all weathers from 9:30 AM to 12PM. Anyone can join and pre-booking is not required. Simply head to the meeting point before 9:30 in the morning and you’re in! The tour starts just outside Chinatown MRT Exit A (view meeting point here) and covers exciting places from traditional Chinese heritage sites to new hipster shops.
CHINATOWN ROUTE in detail
Chinatown MRT Exit A
Chinatown Heritage Centre
Sri Mariamman Temple
Chinatown Food Street / Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen
HDB Blk 335
“Street of the Dead”
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
… SECRET LOCATION …
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Fok Tak Chi Museum
Highlights of the Chinatown Walking Tour
Chinatown is one of the oldest and historically significant parts of Singapore. Shortly after waves of immigrants from China arrived in Singapore, Chinatown was founded in 1819 to build a cultural enclave for the Chinese groups. To this day, the area is known as Niu che shui (Chinese: 牛车水; pinyin: Niú chē shuǐ), literally meaning “ox car water”. This is due to the fact that the water supply in Chinatown was transported by animal-driven carts in the 19th century.
Chinatown Food Street
We started our walking tour outside Exit A of the Chinatown MRT station, located right in the middle of Chinatown food street. While the street is relatively quiet in the morning hours, it becomes alive when it gets dark and people come from all corners of Singapore to enjoy the local cuisine.
What I enjoyed most on this street was a small shop dedicated to ancestor offerings. These offerings can consist of everyday and luxury items made of paper. For example, this specific store sells anything from paper cell phones, jewelry, cigarettes to clothes and money. These offerings are then burnt to honor deceased relatives, usually during the Qingming Festival (清明节), or Tomb-Sweeping Day in spring.
Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen
One of the next stops was the historic Santa Grand Hotel Lai Chun Yuen, a former Chinese opera theater. Built in 1887, this Cantonese theater was designed in the style of a traditional three-level teahouse. While the building houses a hotel today, the interior has been preserved and you can still admire the traditional architecture. Taking a quick glance at the check-in counter, you can easily make out the former performing stage.
Chinese Clan Association
Since I’ve studied Mandarin and Chinese history in college and lived in different parts of China, I especially enjoyed our quick stop at one of the many Chinese clan associations around Singapore. With the arrival of many different groups of Chinese immigrants to Singapore, there has been a great need for a place where the Chinese could get support, protection and preserve cultural needs. Therefore, several clan associations had been formed.
It is said that the first clan association was the Tsao Clan Association founded in 1819 and many followed shortly. We had the chance to visit the Lee/Li/李 clan association in Chinatown. Today, they also specialize in genealogical research.
You cannot visit Chinatown without diving into its food culture. That’s why our tour guide Dani lead us to the Chinatown Complex, a multi-storey market with vendors and hawkers. This is also the place where you will wait in line for a while to get your hands on the best Hainanese chicken in town. Dani ordered us some Fujianese spring rolls, called popiah, which we didn’t have to pay for (thanks Dani!). She also recommended getting a sugar cane drink with lime. Oh so delicious!
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum
After receiving a Buddha tooth relic gift from Myanmar, Singapore built the majestic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in 2007. Today, the temple is one of the city’s main landmarks and one that shouldn’t miss on any itinerary. Naturally, the temple was a stop during our walking tour. Dani took us there just in time to witness a Buddhist ceremony with several monks. Tourists wearing shorts or skirts are given free sarongs at the entrance to cover up.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Shops
During our walking tour, we passed several shops for traditional Chinese medicine which made for a great photo op. For sale are bizarre traditional remedies like dried lizards or seahorses, as well as other unidentifiable items that are said to cure various diseases. While you might not leave with full shopping bags here, you’ll definitely make unforgettable memories.
Thian Hock Keng Temple
Dedicated to Mazu (“Ma Cho Po”), a Chinese sea goddess, the Thian Hock Keng temple is of great significance to the people of Singapore. The temple was built on the waterfront in 1822 for Goddess Mazu to ensure a safe sea passage to Singapore. You might be surprised that today, there’s no sign of water at all. Only around 60 years after the temple was constructed, land reclamation work led to the displacement of the waterfront of Singapore. Nevertheless, the temple was declared a national monument in 1973 due to its significance in Singaporean history.
Join Monster Day Tours in Singapore
Be sure to take part in one of the free walking tours in Chinatown Singapore to see all of these hidden gems and much more. Traveling alone, it was very refreshing to meet friendly locals and fellow travelers from around the world when joining this tour. I was utterly surprised to learn that the tour company was still so young because of their great professionalism and detailed knowledge. When I’m back in Singapore, I will definitely book a tour with Monster Day Tours again.
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