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Street Cobblers: A dying trade?


When I was young, I read novels from the Victorian period and these novels had accounts or descriptions of street side cobblers who will not only shine your shoes but also fix them for you for a nominal price relative to the shoes themselves.

Fast forward a hundred years, it appears that such a trade is dying out or at best evolving where cobblers move off the streets into small shops hidden by a corner in a mall. Lets face the facts. When was the last time you saw a cobbler by the street?

Perhaps I was wrong.

While going through my facebook feed, I happened to come across an interesting clip of a cobbler still practising his trade along the streets of Singapore:

The cobbler is a Mr Lee Tai Chin who took up cobbling in his golden years having left the construction industry during the economic downturn in the early 2000s.

According to the news article that I read, he now “spends his busy days in a makeshift tented stall dealing with a constant flow of customers, who bring him all manner of footwear from pasar malam (night market) knockoffs to branded sports shoes and S$1,000 Pradas“.

The prices appear to be affordable ranging from being “free” (for a very simple glue job) to S$18 (USD13) (to sew a shoe together to keep it as a whole). Seats are provided so customers can sit and wait for their shoes to be mended.

So if you are in need of a shoe repair and going to visit Singapore for a holiday or business, why not bring that old pair of shoes down to Waterloo Street for some tender loving care by Mr Lee or any other local cobblers?

While you wait, consider visiting these few places nearby:

A few reviews taken from Tripadvisor

This temple of one of many famous and popular temple local visit. It was build with Chinese craftmen and the shrine and statues are of traditional Chinese buddhism artform. Apart from this, visitors can go to the counter and get the bamboo oracle, and get a fortune, or some query in mind answered by shaking the bamboo oracle and get an interpretation from the number on the stick.”

Not the largest of temples but very busy, on entering there are free josh sticks for you to light, place in the sanded area and say a prayer. Very colourful, not allowed to take photos, worth a visit.”

A few reviews taken from Tripadvisor

It has the best marble statues and sculptures of Narasimha and MahaVisnu adorning the sanctum Santorum of lord Krishna. It also has a standalone Surya Bhagavan vigraham for surya devotees. Andal and her dad are on the temple perimeter. So is Ramanujan – the great Vishnu Saint/scholar. It’s the intimacy and beauty of the temple that makes it worth visiting esp for the morning Pujas. Buy a lotus from the vendors outside and say a prayer. It’s a very moving experience for devotees seeking peace of mind or a shot of inspiration. Or both.”

The place is colorful and exotic. There was some sort of ceremony going on when I was there. Makes me resolved to go to India in the near future!

If you enjoyed this tiny snippet of life in Singapore, please remember to like and also click the follow button below so that wordpress’ digital pixies can keep you updated on my new posts.

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