A walk down Chinatown’s roaring Chinese New Year light-up

Exploring the sights and sounds of Chinatown’s biggest annual event.

Caleb Lau

Grew up a musician, found a calling in photography and writing. Still in love with all of them.

Published: 13 January 2022, 11:47 AM

As day turns to dusk, bright colours begin to glow along the streets of Chinatown. 

Into its 20th year, the Chinese New Year light-up, spearheaded by the Chinatown Festivals Organising Committee, makes its comeback along New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street. 

The light-up began last Friday (Jan 7) and will run till Mar 2 this year.

Here are some highlights from my visit one evening to this historical precinct.

Gone is the ox of yesteryear, and in its place majestic tigers overlook the main intersection of Upper Cross Street and New Bridge Road. Ringing into the year of the tiger, the centrepiece features a family of five Bengal tigers, symbolising reunion, harmony and prosperity. 

One perches proudly atop a cliff, whilst the others stand around beneath it in a playful posture.


The added touch of koi fish amplifies the display’s three-dimensionality, making it almost life-like. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


Many gather along the overhead bridge adjacent to Chinatown Point for a good vantage point to photograph the tiger display. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


The light-up spans 880 metres, featuring over 300 lanterns and some 60 tigers. 

Starting from the intersection of Upper Cross Street and New Bridge Road, it tells the journey of a cub growing into adulthood, wandering through scattered blossom trees and bamboo.


The light-up is divided into three sections showing different stages of a tiger’s life. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


The display is best viewed standing on the sidewalk of Eu Tong Sen Street. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


A five-minute walk from the intersection at Pagoda Street brought me to the Chinatown Street Market, which extends through Smith Street, Trengganu Street and Sago Street.

Though the Chinese New Year bazaar was put on hold for a second year, the joyful spirit seems to be kept alive here. 

Despite initial woes vendors faced of low human traffic last December, most stall spaces were occupied when I visited on Jan 10, selling the usual Chinese New Year fare of home decorations and goodies.

In the lead up to Chinese New Year, these stalls will open till the wee hours of the night too.


The wide walkway barely accommodates the evening crowd during the street market’s opening week. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


In spite of rising concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant, stalls selling Chinese New Year goods maintain a lively atmosphere. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


Though the market is focused mainly on traditional decorations, it is visited by people of all ages, most here for family time instead of serious shopping. 

Between 7.30pm to 8.30pm, the foot traffic looked to be at its highest, as many visitors arrived on their post-dinner walk.


Aside from the pubs and restaurants located at the intersection of Pagoda Street, there were little to no options for a quick bite along the street market. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


A three-minute walk from the Street Market, the Oriental Chinese Restaurant is a late night hot spot for many youths. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


I ended my walk with the modern exhibits at Chinatown Point. 

These urban-looking decorations, such as the fairly light dome outside the entrance, proved to be a popular photo-taking spot as well. Within the mall’s atrium lies some Chinese Zodiac prediction panels as well as a wishing tree.


At night, the curvature and glow of the dome makes for an aesthetic background. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


Amongst the many exhibits in the atrium, most spent their time reading their Zodiac predictions. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/CALEB LAU


All in all, the sights and sounds of the area did hit me with a tinge of nostalgia. Feeling the jolly mood around me brought back happy memories, holding my grandparents’ hands as we manoeuvred through the bustling crowd to view the Chinese New Year displays.

As the light-up continues till Mar 2, you can check out the other upcoming activities at Chinatown on the Festivals’ website and Facebook page.

You may like these