As a multi-racial society, Singapore offers both residents and foreigners lots of cultural gems, reflecting the different racial groups that co-exist harmoniously. In this first installment of the Singapore Cultural Gems Series, we will take a little virtual trip down to Little India, one of Singapore’s busiest areas!
The British initially designated Little India, part of the settlement area for Indian migrants during their rule of Singapore. Back then, the British was promoting ethnic segregation of migrants from China, Malaysia and India, amongst others, and had allocated different racial groups specific areas. As such, this has resulted in today’s cultural gems that exist around the country.
Walking around Little India will definitely wake up your senses. The alluring scent of fresh flowers beautifully arranged on garlands and the myriad of spices sold will be sure to tease your sense of smell. Marvel at the bright colours of exquisitely designed Indian suits, known as the Punjabi suits, and the wide selections of bangles and bindis (a forehead decoration worn largely by Indians). Popular Bollywood music will accompany you as you make your way down the alleys for your shopping needs.
Little India is lined with rows and rows of preserved shop-houses, which are reflective of the Indian and European neo-classical designs. The government of Singapore has restored these old and colourful buildings to ensure safety. While these shop-houses may appear small in sizes from the exterior, people are often quite pleasantly surprised to find that they are in fact pretty spacious on the inside.
Many Singaporeans often head to Little India to do their grocery shopping. For those of you who are looking to purchase vegetables, poultry and spices at cheaper pricings, it is recommended that you proceed to the Tekka Market, that offers you a wide selection of the above items at about 20 to 50 per cent cheaper prices than the supermarkets. If the markets are not your scene, you also have the alternative of buying the vegetables and spices at one of the many shops in the narrow alleys, which also offer decent prices.
Little India is also a good place to go to for an authentic Indian meal as a wide variety of eateries line the streets. You can easily have a cheap and satisfying meal that might cost you about $1.50 (US$1.20) per person, or opt to eat at one of the restaurants, which can cost you up to around $50 (US$39) per person. Fish head curries are a popular dish at Little India, where many foreigners can be seen eating this dish with their hands while drinking a mug of beer (it apparently enhances the taste of the dish)! The fresh sweet Indian delicacies that are being sold in this area should also not be missed and can be easily found at most of the eateries.
If you would like a mall that sells just about everything and anything (and I mean this quite literally), then head down to the heart of Little India, where you will find Mustafa Centre. The best thing about this mall is that it is a 24 hour shopping centre, so if you wake up at 2am, feeling bored and restless, you can conveniently head down to the mall and do your grocery shopping or purchase an electronic goods, amongst many other things, while most people are asleep! It is also to be noted that the pricing at Mustafa Centre is usually fairly cheap compared with most depart stores.
Little India is quite the bustling area, regardless of the time of day, or night, and is one of the cultural gems of Singapore that should not be missed!