The name Kreta Ayer means "water cart" in Malay. It refers to bullock carts used to carry water. For the same reason, Kreta Ayer Road is called Goo Chia Chooi ("water bullock cart [road]") in Hokkien. The water carts passed through Kreta Ayer Road on its way into the city. In this respect, Kreta Ayer Road played a similar rôle as Burmah Road in Penang.
In today's modern society we often forget how life was like in the early 19th century, when Kreta Ayer Road was laid out. At that time, there was no electricity or piped water. Battalions of bullock carts were used to bring fresh water to the houses in the Singapore township. Of course, much of the residential houses were thatched, with brick shophouses appearing only later on.
Kreta Ayer Road was a working class neighbourhood. From the late 19th century until the early part of the 20th century, it was the destination for earthy pleasures, as brothels and opium dens were the main commercial establishments at that time. Since then the street has been gentrified for
References Toponymics - A Study of Singapore Street Names by Victor R Savage and Brenda S.A. Yeoh (2004), ISBN 981-210-364-3
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