After having a hearty lunch at a food court near Paya Lebar MRT station, we were ready to explore the Katong district directly to the south. The sun was piercing through our clothes, and even Singaporeans were complaining of an exceptionally merciless heat. We were not in a hurry at all, and moved slowly down one of the main streets: Joo Chiat Road. Here, we already saw what we had come for: the Peranakan houses, built by descendants of Chinese immigrants who moved into South East Asia in the 15th and 16th century. Where much of the city centre of Singapore is being converted into a highly modern and flashy metropole, and where other districts of the city mostly have rather uniform, efficient building blocks, the Peranakan houses add a touch of history to Singapore, and with it, character.
Many of the Peranakan houses are now shops, bars, banks, or have other commercial purposes. This often means they are well maintained, and some of the shops on Joo Chiat Road were interesting enough to explore from the inside. Walking down Joo Chiat, we arrived at the corner with Koon Seng Road, and immediately noticed that there were two rows of exceptionally beautiful samples of Peranakan houses on both sides, to our left. Luckily, the sun was on its way down now, and the light was losing the harshness it had before. The warm rays of light were highlighting houses that looked alike, yet were different because of their colour: violet, green, blue, yellow, white... Most well maintained, some where the paint was wearing out. Getting closer, we got a great view of the ornaments that make the houses even more beautiful. Stone lions guarding the gates, behind which we saw the typical front garden, flowery ceramics on the walls, dragons, and other details further embellish the Peranakan houses.
One of the inhabitants, upon seeing us enjoying his street, invited us in, which gave us a good opportunity to see one of the houses from the inside. The architectural style originated in Malacca, where the Dutch had imposed taxes based on the width of the houses; this explains why Peranakan houses are relatively narrow, but very deep - as we now saw. It reminded us of houses in Amsterdam which basically have similar dimensions. The house turned out to be remarkably cool inside, a clever system of natural ventilation provides for a very pleasant interior climate. We even got a refreshing fresh fruit juice before we got out in the street, in time to see the sun set o the pastel-coloured Peranakan houses. Later that week, we would come back to the same district, this time walking down Geylang Road, and adjacent streets. Here, we found more fine examples of Peranakan houses, with worn window shutters and richly decorated façades. While walking the area, we noticed a large amount of prostitutes openly offering their services - Katong certainly is a lively district, with a stronger feel of life than in some other parts of the city.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Peranakan houses (Singapore). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Peranakan houses. Read more about this site.