Located in Chinatown in the Central Business District in Singapore, Telok Ayer has a two-fold significance. It’s both the name of the area that Sir Stamford Raffles set aside for Chinese immigrants when the British ruled Singapore and it was also one of the first streets in this area. Fast-forward 150 years and it’s now a bustling tourist destination. Walking down Telok Ayer gives you a chance to glimpse into the past, as many of the building have been conserved and restored. The shophouses that you see appear much as they did in the 1800s, showing what life was like in this waterfront area. However, there are plenty of modern amenities, too, including quirky shops, cafes and plenty of places to dine.
The other draw to Telok Ayer is the many places of worship that you’ll find in close proximity to one another. Hokkien temples are located near mosques and shrines as well as a Methodist church. Grateful immigrants who wanted to thank their gods for a safe journey built most of these locations. While there are many examples to visit, some of the most interesting include: Thian Hock Keng Temple, the oldest Hokkien temple in Singapore, Nagore Durgha Shrine and Al-Abrar Mosque. Keep an eye out for heritage markers or explore one of the many museums in the area to learn more about this rich and diverse history.
Telok Ayer is located in Chinatown and can be accessed by both the MRT (Singapore’s mass transit) and the bus system, but the MRT is the easiest—just get off at DT18, the Telok Ayer MRT stop on the downtown line. From there you can wander the shops, learn more about the many religious sites or sit down for a bite to eat at one of the food centers.