THE Old Market or Lau Pa Sat, as it is called in the Hokkien dialect, has been a favourite eating place for Singaporeans since the early 1970s.
It was established as a fish market on the south end of Market Street in 1824 in a directive issued by Singapore's founder, Sir Stamford Raffles.
Originally built in an rectangular shape, it was later re-designed by George Coleman as an octagonal-shaped building. It then became known as Coleman's Market.
With the reclamation of Telok Ayer Bay, this market had to be closed. A new market with the same octagonal shape was built on its present site in 1894 using Victorian cast-iron frames with intricate filigree ornamentation shipped from Glasgow.
Today, after a multi-million dollar renovation programme which has preserved its unique architecture, it is Singapore's first ''festival market''.
It has brought most of the old magic back, complete with a moving ''jacquemart'' in the shape of a turn-of-the-century Chinese street vendor which strikes 23 bells and plays melodies in the 10-storey high bell tower.
It is now said that in Lau Pa Sat you can enjoy the ''new old days''. It is a melting pot of the most delicious Asian ''street food''.
Here you will find everything from spicy skewered barbecued satay to strands of egg noodles, Mongolian grilled meats, Indian paratha, home-cooked nonya curries, authentic cuisine from the Indonesian town of Padang, piquant Vietnamese specialities, Hainanese beef noodles and chicken rice, exotic rice dumpling snacks to reasonably priced Asian feasts.
One can dine in the food hall or under the stars along the night food market next to Lau Pa Sat.
Those on the lookout can also pick up quaint and unusual bargains from the trolley carts or kiosks including silks of many colours, quirky crafts from Bali, silver and gold accessories, fresh flowers, and a host of interesting and exotic artifacts from all over Asia. The choice is dazzling.
Lau Pa Sat will also fascinate you with its performances by Chinese stilt-walkers, magicians, traditional Malay, Indian, and Chinese dancers and musicians, and storytellers.
It can easily immerse you in the various ethnic festivals that Singapore celebrates every year.
They are festivals that celebrate life, love and legends.
It is easy to visit Lau Pa Sat. All you have to do is jump on any one of the vintage-style Lau Pa Sat open-top double-decker buses which ply the business district along Orchard Road.