The Peranakan culture is the refined result of ancient Chinese settlers intermarrying with Malays, being peculiar to the Straits Settlements of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. There is some evidence to suggest possible royal origins, as Princesses of the Chinese Empire were assigned political marriages with the wealthy Malay aristocracy between the 15th and 17th centuries, to assure safe port for the Chinese fleet's maritime routes - and several occasions providing safe mooring for the gargantuan globe trotting fleet of Admiral Cheng Ho (1371 - 1433) at least five times on his seven voyages. Many Singapore Peranakans started arriving from 1819, when the British assumed administration of the vibrant regional trading hub and established a European town under Raffles.
Considered a living culture, there are many prominent Singaporeans of Peranakan descent, past and present - Goh Keng Swee, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and who opened the old Vespa factory in Singapore in 1965, local actor Ivan Heng, celebrity and arts patron Dick Lee, Tan Tock Seng (1798-1850) philantropist, Justice of the Peace, and founder of Singapore’s first hospital for the poor, Tan Keong Saik (1850–1909) wealthy Shipowner, Seah Liang Seah (1850–1925) Colonial Politician, See Ewe Lay (1851–1906) Founder of Singapore’s first major Chinese newspaper, and Chew Joo Chiat (1857–1926) gambier, nutmeg and coconut plantation owner - to name some.
Joo Chiat then is considered the Singapore cultural centre of the Peranakans, their considerable wealth evident in the colourful 19th century shophouses, an eclectic mix of Asian and Victorian architectural influences.
A ride around this enclave is a real multi sensory treat. The most famous of the shophouses in Koon Seng Road aside, there are plenty more hidden in quiet back lanes and quiet residential streets, some gorgeous examples with their frangipanni framed ornamental front gardens and elegant masonry.
Peranakan cuisine and desserts are famous - stop by and wander Joo Chiat Place and East Coast Road for the freshly made multi coloured, multi layered ‘Kueh’ cakes, the mini coconut sprinkled sweet ‘Ondeh’ or if you have a tongue for spices, go for banana leaf wrapped grilled fish cake on sticks ‘Otak-otak’.
Request to be dropped off at a Peranakan restaurant or dessert store, or enjoy a local ‘kopi shop’ - old shophouse coffee shops where locals hang out.
Buddhas and Yuppies
Discover local places of worship, the magnificently carved Hindu Sri Senpaga Vinayagar and Kuan Im Tng Buddhist Temple - quite a spectacle on Vesak Day - Buddha’s birthday - when the streets are thronging with devotees from all over the island. Joo Chiat is a popular upmarket living district, and heritage aside you’ll be riding through real neighbourhoods and witness people going about their daily lives.
How to book
The Peranakan Sidecar Tour caters for group sizes from 2 - 20, and can accomodate MICE and incentive group sizes of up to 60 in a day. For groups of 10 and above, the fleet of vintage sidecars is joined by vintage Volkswagen camper vans - adding to the spectacle and fun as visitors get to alternate between Roman Holiday and Scooby Doo.
Follow the booking link here to enquire about availability, group concessions and latest prices.