Friday, January 20, 2012

Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations 2012 - The Year of the Dragon

It's less than a month after Christmas and with January being a typical busy period for me at work; i find it difficult to get into the festive mood of Chinese New Year (CNY), which is at the end of this week!!!

Therefore, a decision is made to travel down to Chinatown - there's nothing more appropriate than to see an area decked in celebratory gold and red and to hear the auspicious music blaring at full volume.

The theme of every Chinese New Year is easy to predict and i can confidently give a 100% accurate prediction. Hint - knowing the zodiac animal of the year! 

Dragons are in control of the zodiac realm this year and out of twelve zodiac animals, most Chinese have the greatest affection for dragons.

This gigantic dragon is the main attraction in Chinatown and was designed by students of Singapore's latest government university.

It was indeed impressive given its placement in the middle of two main roads!

As far as daytime is concerned, decorations were not excessive and frankly lacked surprises except for the dragon i mentioned in the beginning.

My usual starting point to Chinatown's main shopping street - which is also commonly known as the touristy area where you might find more foreigners than locals. And here, is where i begin my pictorial post for the temporary market in Chinatown for CNY.

In the past, there weren't many brands of peanuts and the only one i recognised was this brand with a farmer slinging a hoe behind his bag. Unlike my mom, i am not a peanut person. I prefer cashew nuts!

The vibrancy of colours was unbeatable (at least within Chinatown) for this shop's facade.

Waxed products - a delicacy amongst the Cantonese and for a Hokkien like myself, i can never understand what is the big deal about waxed food.

Befitting Singapore's reputation as a food nation, sale of edible products constituted a major proportion of stalls in this temporary market.

Once again, stalls selling jellies and mochis from Taiwan attracted the most crowds although i attribute their popularity to massive dispensing of free samples.

Plush toys featuring dragons were available but a fat dragon in this case looks just like a cross between a reindeer and goat.

The golden dragon is more realistic and bears a striking resemblance to the main character of this comic book called Gon [he or she is a dinosaur].

At 2pm on a weekday, i would say that the turnout was pretty good with heavy human traffic at most intersections.

Dried persimmons! Despite its dark yet pale outlook, this is a really delicious treat although i would not encourage you to take more than four in one sitting.

Chinese couplets were spotted in quite a few spots. Although this is a cultural thing in the Chinese community, my parents have never ever displayed Chinese couplets in the house.

At S$1 a pack, these chopsticks with Chinese surnames seemed to attract buyers very frequently! I should have bought a few in preparation for the reunion dinner this Sunday for the Teo (or Zhang) family.

Boxes of mochi with numerous flavours! To be honest, i prefer muah chee from Hougang Six Miles over this imported mochis.

Some of the mochi vendors were also 'cutting' out samples to any interested parties! Given my lack of exercises for the past few weeks (thanks to my wrist), i wasn't very keen on loading up additional calories and hence, declined all "invitations".

Big dollies on top of a shop selling festive decorations for CNY. Such unusual displays do make the shopping experience slightly more exciting.

Traditional Chinese paper cuttings and couplets on sale. I went through some basic paper cutting classes in my secondary school and it was no easy feat especially for butterfingers like me! The hands must be insanely nimble in order to cut out these elaborate designs.

The sun was merciless in showing his full prowess and i eventually decided on these honey mandarin oranges, which cost us S$2 a bag, to quench the thirst. In case you are wondering, they were slightly sour.

Iconic people's park complex in the background. Direct translation from Chinese should be pearl's square but in Singapore, it's normal to have a English translation that has no relation whatsoever to the original title.

Business was roaring as evidenced in this picture. There's actually a strategy to get really cheap buys; wait till the last second of the eve of Chinese New Year.

Once the clock strikes midnight, vendors of perishable products would try to clear all their festive stocks at dirt cheap prices. For example, a big bag of Taiwanese jellies may cost lesser than S$10!

Free engraving on supposedly lucky stones that were priced too expensive in my opinion!

Tablecloths with Southeast Asian inspired designs. Older generation Chinese may not like them due to the dull colours - to celebrate CNY, bright colours signifying prosperity, fortune and happiness are always preferred.

To quote an example, my dad absolutely loves stuff like the above and it is his hobby to decorate the living room with them whenever CNY approaches.

Taiwanese goodies have gained popularity since they entered the market a few years ago. However, given Singaporeans taste for new, novelty products, i wonder if it would be the same situation in another few more years.

Samplings could be really helpful in the decision making process.

Another icon in Chinatown - the circular Pearl Bank Apartments shown in the background of the photograph. There have been talks of en-bloc which i am hoping would not go through due to its status in Singapore's landscape.

I was looking out for this stall as my family really liked the aroma concentrate for the air revitaliser i bought last year and as you can probably see, each bottle is given a 50% discount! Me LIIIKKKKEE!

Fortune telling for the Dragon Year. Though i am curious and have been forced (thanks mom) on a few occasions to have my fortune read, i would strongly discourage friends who are superstitious to visit fortune tellers.

This old-school shop (大中国) was so crowded with people buying traditional festive biscuits and goodies! I thought it is only famous for mooncakes!?!?

Coming to traditional festive biscuits and goodies, there is a big drop in vendors this year! With supermarkets selling reputable brands, chain stores (like Mr Bean) promoting their own brand and online booking by smaller operations, i guess i should have seen the decline coming.

Pinwheels have made a comeback this year! These toys were so pleasing in the eyes of children and as a child, i remember using the fan when there was no wind.

Narrow section right beside the Buddha Tooth Temple! I can bet that the human traffic would be worse nearing CNY! If you wish to get out, utilise the covered walkways outside those permanent shops.

Flavoured peanuts and melon seeds! Feel free to grab one for a tryout and you would likely find one that suits you. Mom adores such places!

Traditional Chinese attire for children! Wearing new clothes on the first day of Chinese new year is part of our custom to signify a new beginning and i am so thankful that my nephew is damn picky with clothes whereas my niece is still a toddler.

Spring flowers to brighten up your house can also be purchased in a pretty big nursery to the left of Buddha Tooth Temple. The selection is quite comprehensive for a temporary location.

In Chinatown, this is a usual phenomenon before Chinese New Year; queuing for barbequed pork (or bak kwa as we call it) at Lim Chee Guan. My sister's record is a bloody eight hours wait!

Before i end this post, i would like to wish all of you a healthy, joyous and prosperous Dragon year!

恭喜发财,万事如意!

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