Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Singapore Chinatown Festive Street Bazaar 2015 (牛车水年货市场) - Year of The Meh Meh (Goat)

Having covered the lunar New Year festive bazaar at Chinatown for the past few years, i was actually deliberating if i should visit out of tradition this year or give myself a well deserved rest.

Turned out i still gave in to the allure of taking photographs and checking out items sold at numerous makeshift stalls! As expected, things sold were more or less similar to last year and i thought i should make this entry a photo post given there are more than 130 pictures!

Queue outside the most famous bak kwa stall in Singapore; Lim Chee Guan! I am not sure if my eyes were playing with me but i am sure the limit for one customer was listed as 60 kilograms! Kaoz, buying durians or bak kwa?!

My favourite entry point; via Exit A of Chinatown MRT Station would bring me directly to Pagoda Street.

Cushions - the one i inherited from my predecessor in NUS was badly in need to be replaced. Maybe i should get one of these. On second thought, maybe not since i prefer a much bigger one; more shiok to hug!

Paper cuts - Dad is the main 'designer' for festive decorations at home and he has never been keen in buying these for display.

In non-festive times, it would mostly be tourists strolling along the streets in Chinatown and you can find many items (such as the one above proclaiming their love for Singapore) for sale at many shops.

Year of the goat means many goat or sheep-shaped plushies. There was a recent article on the local Chinese tabloid that commented if the coming year belongs to the goat or sheep zodiac as both animals are written and pronounced the same in Chinese and Mandarin.

According to my sister, it should be goat since sheep was introduced back later in China. However, who could deny the very fact that sheep appeared to be so much cuter than goat!

Play of words - pineapples are considered to be auspicious in this season as its hokkien pronunciation sounds a lot like prosperity. Who doesn't want to have more prosperity in the coming year!? I do!

One strange appearance was the above - often seen in farmhouses at China, they symbolise a good harvest which was an irony in urban Singapore.

Clothes of traditional Chinese design for the kids - i was watching this drama serial and the female lead said that the male lead must have really adored children to have an event for kids at his shopping centre.

The male lead didn't miss a beat when he explained that with just one kid, he would have managed to open up the wallets of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties who would then spend more money in his mall. From the perspective of a real life uncle, i totally agree!

Handwritten couplets for Chinese New Year.

I was more attracted to the folded fans with option to have your name written in Chinese calligraphy. Maybe i should get this for a friend who could not stand the heat and preferred this kind of old fashioned fan over a battery operated one.

Another cool product was of course the paper cut portrait! Pay for your whole family and then frame them up in the living room for everyone to oh and ah.

Going down Pagoda Street and literally soaking in the festive atmosphere with peals of sweat oozing out of every single pore in my body!

Table runners and cushion covers. I could never get the concept of table runners; hardly big enough to cover the dining table and a total hindrance when you move the plates.

Remember the coral seaweed jelly? Another brand was selling the same stuff at the bazaar; as i was quite full after lunch, i didn't attempt to try it out and compare the differences. Anyway, one bottle of chia seeds (in front of the Caucasian lady) was priced at S$38 a bottle! Cheap?

A typical stall selling CNY decorations and pinwheels.

From past experiences, i would say Temple Street is the one i spent the most time at! Reason being the bazaar vendors here hawked stuff that was either non-festive related or rather unique.

Like Coffee Hock 2-in-1 Kopi O; at the moment, it is the only Kopi O i truly enjoy with a well managed taste that wasn't too sour and bitter. 

Fancy a customised sign plate?

S$10 bed sheets - it was such a fantastic deal i bought two at one go last year! Bad experience as it didn't come with a bolster cover and tore easily!! Better to stick with my buys at John Little / Metro Expo sale!

African stall offering authentic African clothing and handmade accessories for sale. Do your part for charity as the proceeds (not sure if it is partial or full) would go towards helping the orphans in Africa.

It's a guarantee that i would patronise this stall every year i visit; this year, it was to make use of the promotion to replace the old air revitaliser in my mom's room. S$25 for one revitaliser and a bottle of the concentrated solution!

Nail foils for the ladies; 5 for S$10.

Quite a good turnout for a right-after-lunch crowd. Could not imagine the crowd now as i heard it was extremely squeezy when a few friends visited the bazaar over the weekends. The situation worsened with the setting sun!

Compared to the past few years, i thought the number of stalls selling new year goodies has gone up significantly this time. There were so much to try and i can only thank my lucky stars that i had a pretty filling lunch! Heng ah; cannot imagine how much calories i would have ingested by the end of my walk! A few of them were located along Sago Street.

A few stalls never seemed to disappear and one of them was the vendor with significantly tall stacks of new year goodies. You would not miss it; not when the prices are so low! At the strike of the new zodiac year, these products can sell for as cheap as 7 for S$10!

Melon seeds - i used to hate them as it could be mentally torturing to crack the shells only to realise they broke into a million pieces, together with the all important seed. :(

Fret not; i found a type of melon seeds that was easy to crack open and came with a nice flavour! Get your hands on the Phoenix Eye Melon Seeds (凤眼黑瓜子)!

Of course, one person's meat is another person's poison; what i like might not be agreeable by your taste buds. Do feel free to sample other types (and there were many stalls to choose from) and select the one that really suits your preference!

Use the bin and stop messing up the area!! The above condition was already quite good; try checking out the floor on new year's eve.

Miss the nostalgia moment when your grandparents would only buy peanuts from the farmers brand? Reminisce that same moment by buying a few packets for yourself! 

Try the braised mushrooms sample from this shop! 

Pots of orchids for sale! Aside from being a pet fish killer (not that i purposely murdered them but i just didn't have the patience for the poor fishes), i am just as unlucky when it comes to plants.

Another new item was the seaweed crisp that was pretty good with numerous flavours. As usual, feel free to sample to see if you like it. By the way, i don't think it is vegetarian; at least not for all the flavours.

Traditional preserved / candied fruits - frankly, i personally felt that these were slowly losing favour with the new generation. I could be wrong as the fairer sex does seem to have an affinity with sour stuff.

With K-Pop storming the world, it would be inevitable that some traces of Korean can also be found in the bazaar; concentrated jujube, aloe vera, citron tea etc!

Frozen seafood?!!? Offering Chinese pomfrets, sea cucumber, Japanese scallops, prawns etc, i could not imagine hauling them back from Chinatown to Yishun!

Prices of abalone have dropped this year and you can find abalones for as economical as S$20 a can! 

LED tee shirts for kids. Hm..... how are you supposed to wash them?

More goodies for your home! Honestly, i had tonnes of goodies in my house right now and i know what would happen once the new year celebration is over (after 15 days). Mind you, my thrifty family would not throw them away; we would do our best to finish them up! :(

The fortune beckoning cats - these felines always look so adorable!

Nanoblocks - i bought one of Taipei 101 when i was in Taiwan and they were quite nice to build. However, i would not be buying any soon as my niece has the violent tendency to destroy it.

Sotong King - mom was just wondering the other day why the cuttlefish / squid snacks are so difficult to find this year! Maybe the costing has gone up.

Another must buy - the dried persimmons from this stall. Featuring lesser white powder, the texture was really Q without being overly sweet and didn't stick to my teeth like many others.

Once again, i am going to express my indignation; why is a wedding photographer setting up shop here?! The organiser should be more selective with their vendors lor! How many people actually visit a festive bazaar in seek of a wedding photo package?!

Sell clothes i can understand since Chinese usually wear new clothes on the first day of the Lunar New Year. Shoes and bags i can understand too, especially when they came in such beautiful, culturally Chinese designs.

Australian Roasted Macadamias - the stall was there last year too! Prices were S$22 for a 500 grams pack and S$4.40 for a 100 grams pack.

With so many bottles of goodies at home, i would not be surprised to catch sight of cockroaches and ants on a more frequent basis. No worries; pest eradication would not be an issue with the above product. I think.

Articles of the local lottery, 4D, would not fail in catching the attention of many Chinese. Especially when it comes to sharing the methods on striking it rich!

Apparently, the money trees sold at this stall have the ability to raise your fortune star. The probability of that happening wasn't shared but i guess it should not deviate much from Singapore Pools.

To house these in plastic containers seemed really cold and impersonal; i felt like i am imposing on the stall operators even if i just wanted to sample some of their products. 

Remember the world's hottest auntie? Xu Mei Feng's presence is felt once again this year and you could see all the aunties crowding around the stall just to try the flaxseed oil soup thingy. 

Back to Pagoda Street again; in actual fact, i walked along this same street no less than four times that day! That would have explained the tonnes of pictures i have in my memory card!

Pretty lanterns. 

Dad would have very much preferred the pineapple lanterns; he bought a few yesterday at Chong Pang as the operator was letting them go at S$1 each for the gigantic ones! Very good deal right?

School children on a possibly educational trip to Chinatown. Uniformed students from one school was even conducting surveys with one criterion; you must be a foreigner! I know because one of them approached me.

A converted shop house that offered nothing but new year decorations! There were quite a number in Chinatown and i could not recall what the shops actually sell during the off-CNY period. 

Whatever the case, all unsold items would be heavily discounted when the clock strikes midnight on 18 February 2015. If you find something you really like, just grab and pay! Don't hesitate as it would not be there in mere seconds! 

Entering the short Trengganu Street; don't be misled by its length as it cuts across two major streets lined with bazaar booths; trying to get across was a nightmare on the eve of Chinese New Year! 

Like many customers, i noticed there were a lot more stalls selling melon seeds and peanuts! Once again taking reference from the Chinese tabloid, Wanbao, the original peanut king was in the consideration to sue the melon seed and peanut king for infringement of brand name!

Taiwanese mochi is here every single year although it wasn't as popular as a few years ago. If you ask me, i prefer our local muah chee over mochi anytime!

Who could ever forget the Taiwanese jellies too; i remember one year when i got a huge bag for only S$10 and throwing most of them away a few months later! Too many for one to have and like the mochi, i didn't quite like the taste. 

That's just me; the samples were well taken by those who tried them. Don't be deceived by the cheap price of S$1.80 per 100 grams; with water as the main component of the products, the jellies were heavy. Don't worry if you don't have enough cash; the operator accept credit cards. 

A souvenir shop that totally disallowed photography. A pity it would be hard to enforce the rule during this period as there were way too many people! 

The irritating quack from the plastic duck would have remained etched in your mind. There's an enhancement; the oinking piglet! Trust me, this was so cute and not as annoying.

Prefer something more fearsome? Get the lion and tiger; guaranteed to shock the life out of someone in the middle of the night at a dark alley. 

By all means, get into the spirit of the goat / sheep year by buying these stuffed toys! Help the shopkeepers also lah since it would be a long 12 years before they can display the same wares. 

Red packets - given my age, i do feel embarrassed when i receive ang pows. However, i should not be denying the well wishes by the older generation / married couples. Hence, please continue to feel free to dispense the red packets to me. I would accept them in good faith. :) 

At the cross junction of Trengganu Street and Smith Street. 

Along Smith Street - there might not be many stalls, as a huge stretch is taken up by a road that leads to the carpark of the Smith Street Complex, but Cantonese would be able to find their favourite waxed products here. 

A stall was selling the melodious ocarinas! 

Korean buckwheat pillows - said to benefit those suffering from insomnia, headaches etc. When i first saw them, i thought they were for babies. In the local context, mums would fill up a pillow with bean sprout husks for their newborns. 

Tangerine stall that was drawing quite a crowd; size was much smaller than our usual Mandarin oranges even though taste wise, such tangerines were generally sourer. Oh, if you are looking to indulge in sweet Mandarin oranges, get Lugan (芦柑). 

Pussy willows - with such a name, i am sure there are many dirty jokes! Well, one thing for sure is that i could not deny the beauty of the blossoming flowers in that stall! 

Other type of plants commonly seen in Chinese households during the new year.

Same cross junction again. In reality, Smith Street really doesn't have much space for stalls as one section was taken up by the road i mentioned earlier while the other section is occupied by the touristy Food Street.

Roasted chestnuts - gone was the time when 500 grams cost around S$3. These were damn good to have when the weather was cool with a slight breeze. 

Pomelos - another customary fruit to have at home during the Lunar New Year. They were said to originate from Ipoh, a place in Malaysia renowned for producing pomelos with sweeter flesh. 

Weather was unbearably sunny? Get a hat! 

About to step into a street that i personally thought was quaint and full of pushcarts selling cultural stuff that you probably buy out of want rather than need. 

Sago Street - Home to brothels in the past! Kind of reminded me of the concubine lane in Ipoh which was just as narrow. 

Sky lanterns at S$1 each - is there a regulation in tiny Singapore (with limited airspace) that said we are not allowed to release them into the sky? In Thailand, a popular festival involving thousands of sky lanterns was said to be axed in view of the recent air tragedies, 

Kid's attire again but i could not resist sharing this one since it came with a Chinese styled cap.

Dancing lion puppet. fortune cat cushions, more pinwheels and machine made couplets. I am running out of words and i have to complete this post today!! :(

Another shop selling paper cuts. 

Gaudy purse with face of a lion (i think) - sometimes, i am grateful i am not a gal. I am horrendous with colours and experience has told me to stick to dark coloured clothes. 

Skin care?! Oh well, this would at least target a bigger group of visitors than those selling wedding photography packages! 

It's funny that i have yet to mention the god of fortune until now. For all Chinese, the existence of fortune runs hand in hand with happiness; a philosophy i find to be pretty warped. 

Sparklers and party poppers! We better keep our fingers crossed that the authorities would not ban them eventually; which would totally extinguish the festive enjoyment for kids! Even now, i can only look in envy whenever our neighbours in Malaysia let off fireworks right across the Straits of Johor.

Fortune bags - have absolutely no idea what each of them contains! 

Checking out the Lunar New Year decorations at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple; honestly, they looked the same every year! 

Since i am here, might as well step in to pray sincerely for happiness, good health and fortune. 

Can also enjoy the air-conditioning. Actually i am quite bad as i am fully aware that the washrooms at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple are the cleanest you can find in that area! Therefore, a trip to the gents is a must! 

Some professional photo shoot in the works!

I circled the bazaar again as it's time to buy those stuff that mom had arrowed me to purchase! The one thing on her mind was the black king kong peanut! I got only 500 grams last year and decided to double my stock this time!

My haul for the day! Includes Nian Gao, melon seeds and other stuff!

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Location of Bazaar 
Pagoda Street, Smith Street, Sago Street, Temple Street and Trengganu Street 

Open Till When? 
Till 1.00 am on 19th February

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