So, while waiting for my "new" barbershop to open, I took a stroll through the different streets of Ngau Che Shui (Gu Chia Chwee) - the originally Cantonese part of Chinatown. The stalls catering to the tourists were already open and doing some brisk business with the busloads of tourists visiting the Sri Mariaman Temple. Others took their time to open.
Just as I was walking along Pagoda Street, I saw something like three classes of kids from a Primary School. Wah, school excursion to Chinatown! I don't remember having such trips in my days. We visited factories then. One kid was quipping to the other and the teacher, "the stalls are not open because it is not Chinese New Year". If only they have seen Chinatown of yesteryears. (^^) I did not follow them to see if they were to visit the Chinatown Heritage Museum, which I think is a great place to visit. I love that original door of that original shophouse.
That house alone certainly brings back many memories of the hard life and struggle of the people who lived in that place, as well as thousands who have lived in Singapore during those period. Some books have been written and they could be found in the Chinatown Heritage Museum and main bookshops. Veterans like Ronni Pinsler and Geraldene Lowe-Ismail could share with you of the tales which their Amahs shared with them, and brought them to see, probably experience the Chinatown then. Geraldene has also written a book on Chinatown (which was also translated into Chinese) and she still leads tour in Chinatown, mostly to local expatriates, and increasingly, young Singaporeans searching for their roots. For many, one of their ancestors could well have lived in Chinatown.
For a glimpse of the life of Singaporean Chinese in yesteryears, Jack has written an interesting article titled: "Ah Ma and her Beliefs: The Migrant Experience and Religious Practices of a Chinese Immigrant Woman in Twentieth Century Singapore.”
Ah, with careful planning, Chinatown could well be a living "museum" housing various traditional activities that would not only preserve our traditions and customs but also share them with fellow Singaporeans and visitors. Let's hope it will not be just a tourist destination alone. It used to be a buzz of activities in the night for anyone in search of food or shopping for the locals.