Back (Alley) Home
He has found freedom through living alone on the streets of Chinatown for the past 15 years, even if it means being kept awake by the raucous squeaking of the rats at night. 


Mr Chew Peng Hock's humble abode works out to be a store front in a back alley, where he sells the things that he has collected, all for a few dollars to buy his favourite traditional chinese liquor.


Affectionately known as 'Tiger-baby', he likens his shop to the nearby Sheng Siong supermarket, but was quick to add that his shop has more item varieties and opens for 24-hours a day.


Mr Chew earns just enough for his meals and to drink his favourite traditional chinese liquor — often used for cooking for its high 20% alcohol content.


On most nights, he would push his trolley through bars and vintage cafes at Ann Siang Hill, in search of valuable unwanted items from rubbish bins and anything that ends up being discarded in the back alleys. 


“Singapore a lot of people wasting things, especially during Chinese New Year. Everything I have are all free,” he said.


When Mr Chew says he is headed back home, he meant going back to that same back alley, where he keeps his prized possessions, including his life.

Mr Chew spent more than 10 years of his youth in Boys’ Town Singapore for frequently getting into fights. After spending several years out at sea as a Sea Mechanic, Mr Chew said he got into a fight that led him to serve a 10-years sentence — later reduced to six years due to good behaviour. 

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The same route he takes every time he goes to buy his bottle of traditional chinese wine. Despite it coming in a larger bottle, Mr Chew goes for the smaller one so that he gets a bit of exercise walking through the streets of Chinatown. 

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During the day, Mr Chew’s customers would look through the items sold at his stall thoroughly, hoping to buy something to support his business. He often compliments repeatedly on how the items suit his customers well, in hopes of a quick sale.

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Mr Chew's home at the back alley contains trash and unwanted items discarded by others. He would conveniently dispose of his trash in the drains, together with his prized possessions, at the same place he'll be sleeping that night.

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From his top to his footwear, Mr Chew only wears what he finds and what others give to him to sell. He would change his clothes when they are torn, so as to save him the hassle of washing them.

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Others may shy away from him because of his outlook and how he often reeks of alcohol, but Mr Chew never fails to greet passers-by. For tourists visiting Singapore, he would greet them with "How are you? Welcome to Singapore!".

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Mr Chew does not have a good appetite and would often get through the day with a single meal. This caused him to lose a lot of weight over the years — a change not visible from the baggy oversized clothes he wears.

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Mr Chew takes a break to watch a video played on the television outside a departmental store, while gulping down traditional chinese wine.

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If Mr Chew is not here in the day, he could only be out getting his alcohol fix. If he is not here in the night, he is likely to be out collecting unwanted items discarded by others, to be sold the following day at his store.

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Mr Chew has trouble falling asleep at night, choosing to explore the Ann Siang Hill neighbourhood instead, a popular hangout location for the young and rich in Singapore.

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On most nights, Mr Chew would search the rubbish and recycling bins in Chinatown, in hopes of finding items that can be sold at his stall the next day, in order to pay for his living expenses.

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Being a night owl, he tries to walk around Ann Siang Hill, often going to his usual spot to watch others drinking and having a good meal with their loved ones.

“I am lonely but also very happy. I want to see people drinking and being happy themselves,” he said.

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When the restaurant patrons bid each other goodbye with hugs and often kisses, Mr Chew pushes his trolley slowly back to his home, smoking unfinished cigarette buds that were thrown on the floor, and wonder if it is already time to turn in for the night. 

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Mr Chew shows one of the items he has picked up from a trash bin in the area. He will be selling it the next day to hopefully earn some money for his next meal.

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The dangers of living on the streets are apparent as you are deprived of the safety of a locked living space, but Mr Chew said he is well-prepared to fend for himself when the time calls for it.

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While he isn’t fearful of death, Mr Chew is afraid of the day when he would no longer be able to do things like going to the toilet by himself. He is afraid of the day when no one would be there to help push him on a wheelchair. 

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Mr Chew waits for the arrival of the lorry and the lady boss who will buy the pieces of cardboards he has collected through the night, just like the other elderly people here, to be sold again to a third party.

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Mr Chew lights one of the cigarette butts in his stash, which he collects by picking up unfinished cigarettes on the floor everywhere he goes.

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Mr Chew Peng Hock spends most of his time alone at his makeshift home at Mohamed Ali Lane, alongside his large collection of items that he picked up from around the neighbourhood in order to sell the next day. ..Being here most of the time, Mr Chew is som

He enjoys spending time alone at night in an alley at Mohamed Ali Lane where he both works and stays. While many of the other vendors have already gone home in the evening, Mr Chew’s stall continues to be opened 24/7 to customers who pass by here late at night. 

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