Learning Journeys: Tourism, Shopping and Culture in Chinatown

Did you know that spaces of fun and entertainment can have elements of geography as well?

By Ms Cheryl Lau

On the 22nd of February, 2H2, 2H3 and 2H4 took a trip to Chinatown to conduct some fieldwork. They were required to draw a land use transect and conduct a bipolar survey of the environment in Chinatown. Of course, it wasn’t all work, work, and work! Our Serangoon StARs had their share of fun exploring Chinatown.

Geography and Shopping in Chinatown

Observe the streets in Chinatown closely and you will notice some streets have more shops catering to tourists (such as Smith Street and Pagoda Street) while others have more shops catering to locals (such as Temple Street). What could be a possible explanation for this?


Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown

Well, one possible reason is that streets with more shops and services catering to tourists tend to be located near the MRT entrance or places of attraction: examples are the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple. When people visit these attractions, they can stopover for a bit of shopping at the same time! In fact, one of our students from 2H3 acquired a fake snake from a souvenir shop for $3!


Temple Street, Chinatown

On the other hand, shops catering to locals are often located in less accessible areas which generally receive smaller crowds. Typically, only locals who know what they are looking for will visit these areas. For example, restaurant owners and home chefs would visit Temple Street for its wide array of kitchen equipment. The students seemed convinced that one of the shops selling kitchen equipment – Lau Choy Seng – was opened by a relative of Ms Lau’s. For the record, that is most certainly untrue!

Geography and Culture in Chinatown

“Culture” may seem like a dull and boring word to some. But do you know that the lives and activities of youths may also be considered part of “youth culture”? Youth culture may showcase itself in spaces in various ways, such as places where youth partake in activities (e.g. skateboarding and free-running), places where youths hang out (e.g. McDonald’s) or places where youths leave marks of their presence (e.g. graffiti or sculptures).


Graffiti Art in Chinatown

Of course, since youth culture can manifest itself in spaces, so can the culture of the elderly. For the more observant, you will notice groups of senior citizens sitting in front of the Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple playing chess and admiring songbirds. Why do they choose to do so in such a populated touristy area? Maybe it’s because some of them may live in the old rental flats nearby, or because their family used to live in Chinatown in the past and they have a strong sense of belonging towards the place. Who knows? Maybe one of our StARs can ask them next time.


Seniors playing chess outside Chinatown’s Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.

Rounding up…

The Chinatown fieldwork was definitely a fun and fulfilling one for our StARs. If you would like to know more about tourism in Chinatown, there is an interesting case study on Tourism in Singapore’s Chinatown in the Upper Secondary Human Geography textbook. That said, Geography can be found everywhere, not just in places of interest. So stay tuned for the next article on The Serangoon View!

Leave a reply!

  1. What is the impact of the development of tourism on Chinatown?
  2. What are some examples of Youth Culture that you are most interested in? Describe them and the reason for your interest.
  3. How do you think tourism has helped to sustain culture and heritage around the world?

Did you know?

Find out more about Chinatown here: http://www.yoursingapore.com/see-do-singapore/places-to-see/chinatown.html

Singapore is famous as a melting-pot of different cultures and traditions. Find out more here: http://www.yoursingapore.com/see-do-singapore/culture-heritage.html

Did you know that Singapore is on the UNESCO World Heritage List? Find out more here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1483


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