New Chinatown Visitor Centre attracts over 10,000 in a week

SINGAPORE - A new visitors' centre in Chinatown which runs walking tours and heritage classes is fast-becoming a hit among visitors here.

The Chinatown Visitor Centre (CVC), which only opened on Jan 20, has already attracted more than 10,000 visitors to its premises.

The Chinatown Business Association which runs the place said it expects to serve over 20,000 visitors in the first month of operations. So far, it is already halfway there.

Located behind the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, it is Chinatown's first visitors' centre.

Other than being an information resource base, there will also be daily themed walking tours available.

From Chinese myths and taboos to dialect clans and heritage brands, the tours - organised in partnership with travel agent Tour East - are designed to give visitors a taste of the real Chinatown complete with experiential elements, such as live demonstrations, food tasting and opportunities to interact with the locals.

The Clan and Association Walking Tour, for example, takes visitors on a tour of the organisations in Chinatown and includes lion dance and Cantonese opera performances.

Other tours like the Chinese Custom Walking Tour involves visits to medical halls and shops selling ceremonial items; while the Food Walking Tour lets visitors sample a traditional local breakfast and shop for fresh produce at a wet market.

Dr Lily Neo, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, is upbeat about its potential to add buzz to the neighbourhood.

“The centre is an ideal anchor where people can get together and participate in activities to enjoy Chinatown the way they want to,” she said.

Decorated with wooden crates and vintage black and white photographs, there is also a shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and local merchandise such as hand-sewn plush dolls of the Samsui Woman and Kopi Uncle made by the senior citizens from Kreta Ayer Community Centre.

Other merchandise include tote bags, notebooks, tea leaves and wrapping paper.

In March, the centre will also begin to roll out classes to revive "vanishing trades" like clog-shoe making, lantern making, Chinese puppetry and opera singing.

maryanns@sph.com.sg