I usually avoid the Chinatown area during Chinese New Year, since squeezing through the crazy crowds, is not something I’d put myself or the kids through.
However, this year, I thought I’d spend a couple of hours in the afternoon, wandering around, and it was more pleasant than I expected. Perhaps it was because it was in the day, and perhaps because it’s not the week (or day!) right before CNY, so the crowds were manageable, and the atmosphere was very festive.
There were lanterns criss-crossing overhead on all the little streets, which were lined on both sides with temporary stalls, selling all sorts of goodies for CNY.
The waxed duck/waxed chicken/preserved chinese sausages (larp cheong)/waxed legs of ham stalls were the most impressive. Long rows of this special produce that is most often seen and eaten during this festive season.
The waxed legs of ham (our very own versions of the Hamon that is so common in the streets of Madrid), are so solid, that it takes an electric saw, no less (pictured below) to cut through them! This man was sawing at it for quite a while.
I love Chinese calligraphy, and I think this was one of the more interesting scrolls I saw during my walk that day… Beautiful, beautiful script, and a somewhat unique sentiment. I do hope to pick up calligraphy formally sometime…
Then I saw an uncle writing more traditional 春联 (Spring couplet greetings), but with unconventional headgear. Is that a cowboy hat or what? He had just completed a scroll, and there was a crowd around his stall. I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition of something so ancient (brush and ink calligraphy), against something rather modern (flame orange electric hairdryer)! Guess there’s no need to be a Luddite and whatever combination that drives efficiency should be used!
I’ve also been seeing quite a few of my friends post photos of their family paper cuttings on Instagram and the like. So thanks to the brilliant directions (Chinatown MRT exit A, walk straight, turn right) from my friend MummyDelphine (who also has a specific post on this on her blog), I made my way down to get a set for my own little family!
It’s not exactly cheap ($10 per character cut out of suede-like red paper, and an extra $10 for the frame), but they do personalise it with the Chinese characters of your name, so I took it as paying for craftsmanship! Plus my Chinese name is crazy hard to write, not to mention cut out. They can also cut out your likeness on the spot, but that goes for a more hefty $25 per portrait, for a slightly larger paper character (top of photo above).
I was very pleased with the final product, but later wished I had asked for a better frame. Ah well, it works so I guess it’s always good not to be too fussy.
I recall doing a Chinese class project on paper cutting in secondary school, and my final folio had at least 10 paper cuttings that I did myself. I suppose I could make the set above if I really wanted, but the names would take a lot of time.
I then saw these really elaborate and huge paper cuttings, and I thought the ones on the left were particularly interesting because they were Goat-themed. I’m not sure about these, but I think most paper cuttings (especially those sold at supermarkets) are all factory/machine cut. Intricate, but not quite the same as handmade.
I rounded up my little afternoon tour near this quaint statue of a Samsui woman with her buckets, towering above Food Street. I think the sugarcane uncle was looking at me somewhat disapprovingly, haha!
I doubt I’d be back again with the kids, but if you are looking for the best bargains, definitely pop by late at night on Chinese New Year Eve, when stalls will be closing and trying their best to rid themselves of all their stock. I’ve even heard of stalls leaving bunches of pussy willows along the streets, as a free for all, since it’s a means of helping them ‘dispose’ of it. So will you be popping by Chinatown this year? 🙂