Pagoda Street

50) Do you need a tailor for this New Year?

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Pagoda Street got its name from the temple next door – Sri Mariamman Temple.  It was one of the earliest streets of Singapore and was well known for its opium-smoking dens in the early 19th century.  The street turned into a coolie-trading center in later part of the century and extended its role to coolie-station and in the mid-20th century turn itself as a textile/tailoring place.

“洋服” in Chinese literally means western style clothing, you can see in the picture they were many shop fronts written in this words.  According to records, it has 18 tailor shops in the 50s along this street.

At one time, two brothers whose names Chan Cheak Tin and Chan Kai Kah own 5 tailor shops in the street, and all end with the name “Cheong”.  In 1972, Queen Elizabeth II visited Pagoda Street.

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And now, you may be able to have a glimpse of the historic background behind these Indian’s tailor shop.

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A corner in the Chinese Heritage Museum reflects the typical front portion of the tailor shop.

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Does the tailoring accessories remind you of the yesteryear of black and white?

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How about the pendulum weight, ruler and measuring tape?

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Middle portion of the shop reveals home-based lifestyles of the tailor.  Sewing machine, baby hammock, the off-colored plastic carrier, does that hark back to some old memories?

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How about the metal baby tram and the bicycle?  Does that recall stories to our folks or childhood?

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There is no sight of any water dispenser or fridge at this corner of the pantry.  Perhaps, the feather duster looks quite similar.

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Picture of stars!  The paper cut-outs in the middle is the original famous Kung-Fu movie, acting out by Jack Lee now.

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Kitchen reflects simple and prudent lifestyle of that era.

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What about the condition of the lavatories?  It’ll be an experience to use it then!

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Today, the sunny area here welcomes all from, all walks of life.

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And now, you can easily get a chilly authentic ice cream from the roadside cart.  This is how I define “blessing”.

44) I can’t find my way back home!

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This is not an ordinary street buzzing with pushcarts selling souvenirs in the core of Chinatown.  It has a certain background we should recall or try not to recall…the Sago Street.

By courtesy of
By courtesy of

Sago Street alias “sei yang gai” in Cantonese refers to “street of the dead”.  Back to the last century, funeral parlours stretching from one end to another are not an uncommon sight.

In the funeral living room, you see bodies covered merely with cloth lying on pallets in open cubicle, each with a table placed with offering items.  As the shops are usually small and dimly lighted, the atmosphere then was chilly and creepy.  It is definitely not for the feeble hearted.

When I was young, I remember having to pass by a few lying bodies just to reach the toilet situated right behind the backyard of the shop.  To me, attending funeral wake is always a hair-raising event.  It’s a frightening experience and one that left a deep impression behind.


The picture was captured in the Chinatown Heritage Centre at Pagoda Street (a few lanes away from Sago Street) depicting the bitterness of life during that century.


Those offerings are the basic needs for the deceased, it’s offered to serve them with a better life at the other side of the world.


Today, if your soul traveled back home from the other side of the world, you maybe surprised by the overwhelming tourist crowd, waking you up next to the side of your soul bed.  Or maybe you would consider starting a new life again, this time with a more graceful surrounding.