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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Getting a real taste of old S'pore

Chinatown's new visitor centre will feature vanishing trades such as clog making; residents there roped in to promote the area
The Straits Times - January 22, 2012
By: Ng Kai Ling
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Getting a real taste of old S'pore -- PHOTO: NUR HAKIM AZMI

The community in Chinatown is coming together to give visitors an authentic experience.

Businesses and residents there have been roped in to conduct some of the activities at the new Chinatown Visitor Centre, which was officially opened last Friday.

Located in the heart of Chinatown, the centre will invite elderly artisans in vanishing trades such as clog making, lantern making, opera singing as well as Chinese puppet shows to conduct classes or give demonstrations.

The centre is owned and run by the Chinatown Business Association, and chairman Wong Chi Keong said such collaborations will not only give visitors a deeper understanding of Singapore's history but also help promote the businesses in the area.

Among those lending a hand will be local elderly people who attend Kreta Ayer Senior Citizens Activity Centre.

They will be in charge of sewing the souvenir toys sold at the centre.

The toys, made in the likeness of samsui women (female labourers) and ma jies (nannies), among others, retail at $16 each. For each toy sold, the senior citizen who made it receives $5.

Mr Edison Chen, assistant manager of the Chinatown Visitor Centre, said it provides the materials, and the elderly people at the senior citizens' centre can take their time sewing the toys.

He added: 'This is not so much about making sales but a way for the senior citizens to get together. It is also special for visitors to take back something handmade.'

The first batch of about 20 dolls sold out on Jan 10, when the centre first opened its doors to the public.

Students from Republic Polytechnic's School of Hospitality will be trained as 'Ambassadors of Chinatown' and help man the centre as part of their course internships.

The idea of the visitor centre was first mooted just two years ago. Construction began last year, and it was completed last month. It is the first such centre in Singapore to be fully operated by local stakeholders.

Located in the heart of Chinatown, behind the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, it will serve the needs of visitors and offer them information on Chinatown, Mr Wong said at the official opening on Friday.

In recent years, the association has come up with various initiatives to promote the area. In 2005, it launched the first edition of a Chinatown map which is circulated at tourist attractions and hotels to provide tourists with information about Chinatown.

Last year, it also set up a Chinatown website and a Facebook page to reach out to potential visitors online.

And it will conduct daily walking tours that will take in traditional Chinese medical halls and showcase Singapore's Chinese migrant history through visits to clan associations.

Indonesian tourist Lisa Diah was impressed with the centre.

'It will provide us with things such as maps and everything we need to know about Chinatown,' she said.



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