23 October 2012


I do not often sign up for tours in my own country but, occasionally, I like to play tourist in my hometown. I did the same thing in America (love the Boston Duck and Trolley tours, by the way). I recently took a tour that focused on Singapore’s traditional trades, many of which are slowly dying with the families that run the operations.

The first stop on the tour was a practically-hidden shop on River Valley Road. The River Valley neighborhood, situated south of Orchard and north of Robertson Quay, is known for the Singapore River that runs through. The area is a very relaxed environment with plenty of greenery, shop houses and sidewalk restaurants.

We drove down the main road and stopped in a section of the neighborhood I recognized but never really spent much time. Situated between two sets of shop houses, set 50 meters or so from the road, was a garage-type shop that was filled from floor to ceiling in Asian art pieces.

On one side, large drums sit on the floor, gongs hang from display racks and stringed instruments drape from the ceiling.

The front counter holds rice paper fans and decorative pieces. Behind the counter are martial arts and defense weapons.

Statues, lanterns and home décor items are placed around the shop.

Mr. Eng from Eng Tiang Huat first showed us some elaborate Chinese opera costumes, masks and hair pieces.

The fabrics are so bright and intricate. They were absolutely beautiful! 

He also demonstrated the sounds and procedures for playing some traditional Asian instruments, including an Erhou, Gao-Hu, drums, cymbals and gongs.

Stop number two on the tour of four trades was our old friend the Joss Stick Man. With Hungry Ghost month over and the Spirit Festival quickly approaching, the owner was not very keen on a group of expat women flooding his shop at one of the busiest times of year. That left our tour guide to explain the process while we all wandered around the shop taking photos.

The joss sticks are made from cinnamon tree powder and sawdust.
When mixed with water, the powder makes a molding clay.

Joss sticks vary in size, width and color. 



Hi Rachel,
I'm a student from Temasek Polytechnic and am working on a project about dying trades in Singapore.
I happen to stumble upon your blog about this Joss Stick Man.
By any chance, do you still remember where is it located?
(Or is it located along River Vally Road with the Eng Tiang Hiat shop?)

Would really appreciate your help!
Thank you in advance.

Yu Hui

McKee said...

Hi Yu Hui,

The shop is in between the Ang Mo Kio and Lorong Chuan MRT stations. It's called Tey Guan Heng and is located at 4001 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, #01-25, 569622, on a side street that is lined with industrial shops - mostly car parts and tyres. The shop is about halfway down. They always have large joss sticks drying in the sun outside the shop so it shouldn't be hard to find. The front of the shop is inside the main door, which is always open. Best wishes on your project!


Hi Rachel,
Okay! I will check them out. Thanks so much for the information! Really appreciate it. (: