Friday, January 18, 2013

Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations - Festive Street Bazaar 2013 Snake Year [牛车水年货市场 2013]

It's once again time for my annual Chinese New Year visit to Chinatown and i am way earlier this year; my 'semi retirement', as i love to put it, is a great opportunity for me to make it on the first day of operation for the festive street bazaar!

Snake is the zodiac animal this lunar year (which starts from 10 February 2013) and despite my distaste for the reptile, i agree this installation was far too adorable and fascinating!

Stretching along South Bridge Road, the snake gave one the impression that it was happily snaking down the streets while noticing something delicious on its left side (likely the humans).

The structure was made up of 1,200 permanently stationed sky lanterns! Bet it would be a pretty sight when night falls.

Wishing tree right outside the newly renovated Chinatown Point where you can donate (minimum S$2) for a plastic orange and card to write down your wishes and hang up on the branches of the fake tree.

Only 4 days have passed since its installation but the tree was already heavily laden with wishes!

This should be the main, centralised location to have the snake yet it didn't impress me as much as the one along the parallel South Bridge Road. Of course, i understand it was not completed at the time i took the photograph.

Instead of sky lanterns, 5,000 square / cube lanterns were used to create a supposedly 3D sculpture of a 128-meter long snake. Honestly, it appeared more pixelated than 3D.

Lim Chee Guan (the famous bak kwa shop) has a manageable queue today. Wait till 01 February 2013 and you would likely see one that would likely end a few hundred meters away.

Stage for the opening ceremony tomorrow. For motorists, do note that the two main roads, New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street, would be closed tomorrow! Expect jams!

Big ass pineapple decorations adorned the shopfront of a company selling festive decorations.

I made the mistake of waiting till Chinese New Year's eve to grab cheap buys last year; didn't even manage to get one because all the good ones were already sold out by then!

Prices were actually not that expensive and seriously, buy it if you like it!! Some shops even throw in extra freebies upon your purchase!

Plush toys of snake.

Snakes are not really well liked in the Chinese society and this could explain the lack of creative designs featuring the reptile. Given its similarity to dragons, i found one or two shops selling dragon plush toys instead!

Temple Street was thankfully not as crowded as expected [the benefit of going on a weekday]!

S$2 cushion covers! I am not going to give too much explanation as most items available in this year's bazaar were the same as previous years.

Surname chopsticks - Chinese surname is equivalent to the family name in Western countries although the scale is much smaller with only about a hundred common surnames.

Christmas tree ornaments for Chinese New Year? The stall owner must either be joking or has gotten his/her bearings wrong!

T-shirts that mostly target tourists; for example, the classical one that mentioned "Singapore is a FINE city". Fine as you pay fines for everything; from littering to not flushing your toilets etc.

More wall and ceiling decorations. Another item we love to have is nice looking paper bag to hold two to four mandarin oranges. They commonly have printed words and pictures highlighting prosperity, good fortune etc.

Red packets! My mom has a habit of collecting them which turns out to be a massive task in recent years with an explosion of designs.

Small and big mandarin oranges for sale. Most Singaporeans Chinese would buy them in supermarkets or wet markets where prices are cheaper and you could have your choice of 3 main varieties (Peng Gan, Lu Gan and Jiao Gan).

As the official light up and opening ceremony for 2013 Chinese New Year celebration is tomorrow, many stalls have yet to "move in".

Dark sky! Vendors shudder whenever they see it as rain would deter shoppers from visiting; hence it could greatly affect their business. Good luck to them!

It didn't take too long before it started pouring!

Stall vendors wasted no time in covering their wares with plastic sheets! The worse thing to happen with already lesser customers is to have damaged goods.

Cat Mountain Durians for sale! Not an ideal thing to have if you are going to be stuck in a big crowd where your durian breath can result in major discomfort for those near you.

Prosperity sweets - as usual, i would bid my time and wait till the eve when the price would drop like hell!!!

Taiwanese jellies; another familiar sight during this time.

S$1.80 for every 100 grams may appear light on your wallet but the jellies are heavy!! You could hardly grab a handful for 100 grams.

Japanese mushrooms - starting from tomorrow, you would see them encouraging passerby to try out stewed mushrooms cooked from their products.

Sampling is a must to increase sales.

This stall has never failed to secure a spot in the bazaar and it attracts business by having a wide range of festive cookies in smaller tubs!

Pricing wise; pretty affordable.

Strategic move by Singtel - CNY is the only festival that Singaporeans are given two days of holiday and it helps to have interesting overseas channels other than free to air channels to impress one's guests.

These packets of fried cod jerkies were really addictive! *psst; you can wait till the eve although do note that the stocks clear super super fast*

Melon seeds in sacks! In the past, there was only the original one i am aware of. Now, i can count at least twelve types with each one having its own unique flavour! Thankfully, i am not a big fan of melon seeds.

S$10 Peranakan shoes for the kids that did not reflect the labour intensive beadwork required for authenticity. Duh right since a real pair would easily cost a few hundred dollars!

I was wondering what is the current price for festive sweets and i found it in this picture; S$1.20 per 100 grams. Fast forward to the eve and you could likely get a few kilograms for S$10.

Traditional peanuts for S$5 a pack; same price as last year! 

Dried persimmons! I bought half a kilogram for my family. For those who have yet to try it, do so as they are so delicious! Don't eat too many though as dried persimmons are considered to be heaty and would result in a bad sore throat.

Healthy macadamias from Australia! Flavours include wasabi, abalone, garlic, salted and honey!

Two boxes - they caught my attention as there was so much empty space. I understand why after seeing the content; bird's nest that cost at least S$228 / 100g!

One vendor was busy preparing the stall; King of Peanut has quite a number of stalls within the bazaar and i guess it would not harm to have one opening later than the rest.

Elderly shopper checking out the cushion covers. One thing i like about Chinatown is that on one hand, it is touristy while on the other hand, it is very much localised with public housing in the vicinity.

Street decoration, as far as bazaar streets are concerned, was really quite a disappointment. Maybe things would improve in the next few days.

You have a King of Peanut; you would have a King of Melon Seeds. They could have belonged to the same owner since the design of the stalls does appear similar.

Red packets again. Red denotes danger in the Western world although for Chinese, it signifies prosperity and good luck; hence the custom to dispense red packets during Chinese New Year.

Dried nuts! I am so tempted to get the cashew nuts but i am known to over-indulge, often leading to terrible diarrhea during the festive holiday.

Sampling allowed!

Today is the first time i am seeing those pots of lemon-stacked plant. Anyone knows what it is? Frankly, it does look obscene.

Pinwheels that were said to be the same as those from Wong Tai Sin temple in Hong Kong. Not sure how true the claim is although you may wish to note it only costs S$6.80 each.

Air revitaliser for sale. I would strongly recommend having an air revitaliser at home as it helps to reduce the air pollutants in the house and if you buy the correct solution; your house would exude a pleasant smell to welcome your guests!

Black edition peanut (黑金刚花生) - Mum was looking for this so desperately last year! Unlike conventional peanuts, this variety has black nuts.

Want a good idea for gifts? Get customised signboards and street signs!

Starting from tomorrow, cars would be barred from entering! Good riddance if you ask me since i was almost hit by a car this afternoon.

Sign up for a wedding package in the bazaar where there is no air-conditioning!?!?!

Beginner chopsticks - kids nowadays have it easy.... There was no such thing when i was young and i picked up the correct way of holding chopsticks due to a bet with a friend.

Handbags, wallets, pouches.

Waxed products favoured by the Cantonese. As Hokkien, my stomach is only accustomed to the waxed sausages known as Lap Cheong.

金华火腿 - a cured ham delicacy from Zhejiang province in China; according to wikipedia, it is used to "flavour stewed and braised foods as well as for making the stocks and broths of many Chinese soups".

Henna Tattoos - it would be interesting if you could request for auspicious festive sayings like "Gong Xi Fa Cai" across the forehead.

Tiny ornaments to hang on pussy willows; festive plants which represent upcoming prosperity for families.

招财猫 or wealth ushering cat is a figurine most Chinese can identify. However, are you aware that colour matters; white ushers bliss, gold ushers wealth and silver ushers wish?

Iconic dollies!

Dried and pickled fruits; things i used to hate when i was young and could never understand why my parents would buy them. Age changes people.

New Year cake! The key is to pray for mould on these sweet cakes as the action of moulding sounds like prosperity in Mandarin! My mother would dip them in flour (after removing the mould) and fried them in boiling oil. Anyone has other cooking methods?

Green pomelos - they signify abundance for the family.

I am unsure what these bottle gourds imply although it must be some auspicious significance to the new year.

Regardless of the festive season, life goes on for this elderly hawker who has been doing the trade at the same place everyday. The fruits in the picture look and taste like rambutans but they are not rambutans!

This is the narrow street known as Sago Street and please be prepared to be squeezed along this street on new year's eve should you happen to be there.

Clothings for kids! My sister has already secured a cheongsam for Jovyn!

Traditional Chinese Paper Cuttings - surprisingly, although my dad loves to decorate the house to welcome the new year, he has never purchased paper cuttings.

He could always start with something small; like these mini portrait paper cuts. I could already identify myself  with one of them!

There were way too mnay shops selling new year decorations! Guess a visit with my dad is necessary for him to beautiful the house living room.

Gigantic Civil Defence vehicle making its way down the crowded street - likely the preparation for tomorrow's opening ceremony.

Preparation is also ongoing to put up banners for the streets.

Cube lanterns found in one of the marquees that could most likely be an extension of the bazaar; evidence that the snake structure has yet to be completed.

Auspicious items to hang on your phones or bags. At only S$1 a piece, i regretted not buying any!

I was under the assumption that this man was showcasing his calligraphy skills by writing a pair of beautiful Chinese couplets. I realised shortly after that he wrote the following: 3 for S$5. =_=

Party poppers and sparklers - for the sake of safety in a highly urbanised environment, Singaporeans have to make sacrifices by playing with these less exciting alternatives! Okay, truth is, the penalty to smuggle them into Singapore is very high!

Another visit at night might take place soon. In the meantime, i would like to wish everyone a Happy Snake Year! Hope it would bring me better luck, a better job and more money!

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Location of Bazaar
Pagoda Street, Smith Street, Sago Street, Temple Street and Trengganu Street.
Date
From 18 January till night of 09 February 2013
[Or 12.30am of 10 February 2013]

Time
11.00am to 10.30pm
[Recommend to visit after 4pm]

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