As if to chase away the "yin" energies away, Chinatown Singapore will welcome the Mid-Autumn festival with gusto, plenty of "yang" energies.
As I strolled through the streets of the "inner" Chinatown, also known as Gnau Chair Shui or Bullockcartwater this evening, I noticed that lanterns were being displayed. A couple of moon cakes too. I could not help reminiscing the olden days as I strolled down from Sago lane through Tregganu St into Pagoda St and the along New Bridge Rd. How much had changed other than the remaining standing shop houses?
For a start, my wife and I decided to have a picnic in Chinatown. Yes, with Bratwurst, Gherkin and Sauerkraut with Stiegl Weissen! At the only Wurstelstand in Chinatown, just above the equator. In my younger days I would not have even imagined about this meal! Enjoying the wurst (sausages) and listening to the chattering of Hokkien (interestingly, I would have expected Cantonese) in the coffeeshop, I noticed quite a mix of population. There was Austrian, Thai and Chinese food. There must be at least some four to five languages being spoken at any instant. In the old days, at this place, it would have been only Cantonese.
After a fulfilling meal, we decided to take a slow stroll back. Ah, the old Wurstelstand has become a perfume stall! And just across from it were hung new plastic inflated lantern lookalike. Now, what would be the new additions this year. You can guess as much when you see the picture.
In the old days, my wife and I (well, we were kids then) would run to this small stall with kindergarten chairs to have our favourite yau-yi-ong-choy (cuttleflish with kangkong) but those would only remain in our memories. I am trying hard to remember the crunch of the jellyfish and the taste of the dark red sauce with chill, and visualising the ever fierce and strict matriarch overseeing her daughter and daughter-in-law. It is becoming cloudy these days. What I saw was Tiger Beer and Chilli Crab. In Chinatown!! Yes, in the old days, it would be difficult to see any foreigners in Chinatown at night, but these days, it might be the reserve. One small kid was stopped just in time by his father from erasing the chalked writing on the menu-board. Ah, the wan-pi (mischievous) kid, who would have risked a thrashing in the old days.
Wow, the romantic red lantern with the Chinese characters "Double Happiness" beaming the soft rays on the foreign couples as they enjoyed the Singapore food.
More lanterns, these time some of the old versions similar to those in the 50s. My wife was complaining that they are not adding the gills to the goldfish! Why did you know, I asked. She remembered being paid five cents to paste the gills onto these fish lanterns.
In the old days, Chinatown would have been the place to buy moon cakes, especially the Cantonese moon cakes. These days, while famous old names like Dai Chong Kok (Da Zhong Quo) still thrive, most of the moon cake businesses seem to be centred around hotels selling them as corporate gifts. Vivo City has become one of the biggest Moon Cake fairs!
Chinatown is going to usher in the 8th Moon (lunar month), which begins on 5 Sep 13, with a light-up on Saturday 7 Sep 13. Many activities have been planned. You now almost don't need any paper to know the schedules (well we still have any senior citizens who have yet to get into the net) as all the details could be found here: Chinatownfestivals Well, this young man came to offer me a pamphlet and invited me to the event. Down the road, he might tell his own story of our Chinatown. (^^)
And soon, kids and adults alike will be reminded of the stories centering around the Moon and Autumn (which has not climatic bearing in Singapore), yes, with food as well such as moon cake (but of course, and with it history and stories of ancient China), water caltrops, small yams and pomelos.