Heart of Chinatown at Ann Siang Hill, Singapore.
Text and Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2013
I have an affinity for quiet corners in today’s current targeted 7 million inhabitants Singapore. And whether explained by quantum theories of alternate realities, or on a less philosophical level, simply taking the time to find that quiet spot during peak hours in the heart of bustling Chinatown, PS Café at Ann Siang Hill is an utterly serene and cosy meeting place.
Ann Siang Hill is the name of a one-way road located in Chinatown in Singapore. Situated immediately inland of the old harbour, it is today one of the more authentic areas that remain of old Singapore, right at the heart of where all trade of the olden days of this developing city would have taken place.
The history of the place reverberates in you as you navigate your way around the area, and through the crowds.
The Chinese used to call this area qing shan ting. This was also where the Chinese immigrants would go when they wanted to send money home to their families in China, as this was the traditional site of remittance houses. Letter writers and calligraphers also had their businesses here. Beyond ethnic groups in the early 1900s, due to the proximity of the area to the quayside, most everyone who wanted to trade and who wanted to build a network of sorts in the pioneering free port days, would find themselves busy along the intersections of Ann Siang, Amoy and Telok Ayer, Robinson Road being just a tad farther ahead at the core of Singapore’s central business district.
Today the area is carefully remodeled to fashionable streets, with boutiques and cafés where you can sit down for a meeting, read a newspaper or flip up your iPhone to be as closely settled in the middle of the business world as ever.
As I sat chatting in the quiet surroundings of this once spacious shophouse, with its tall and narrow stairs and now black lacquered wooden finishings, I couldn’t help but contemplate how the area would make for a more comfortable after work hours or nights out in Singapore. Seeing through the crowds, the entire area is unhurried and languid, and while the scent of the spice trees might have long dissipated, the restaurants and small winding streets are apt for quiet exploration come dusk in Singapore.
I found it quaint and seductive that at peak hour at the central business district, I could find myself seated in the midst of early 20th century architecture, in a place that played classical music in the background and on top of that, offering one of the more luscious chocolate cakes to be found in this city.
If nothing else, Ann Siang Hill is worth a visit due to its utterly unhurried and languid atmosphere. While the lingering scent of the spices are long gone, the restaurants and small winding streets are apt for quiet exploration come dusk.