Of the myriad reasons that explain travel’s magnetic hold, we think the strongest is the allure of the unknown. The most exciting part of a trip is anticipating what we will discover this time. A swanky new hangout? The next big Insta spot? The best breakfast you’ve ever had? The perfect gift you’ve spent months hunting for?
We like to think we can only have such experiences overseas (and indeed, some of our best memories were created abroad), but these wonderful delights can also be found right here in Singapore.
Thanks to her unique mix of heritages and cultures, Singapore is home to a vibrant mix of communities which each offer their own unique take on life and the world.
Perhaps there’s no better time than now to enjoy our unique position at the crossroads of East and West – 2019 marks the bicentennial anniversary of the arrival of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.
And there’s no better way to savour it all than with a staycation at one of the most colourful districts on the island.
Few people know this, but Little India was a vibrant district in the 1840s amongst the Europeans, mainly for the racecourse that was running back in the day. For the Indians, cattle trading was the primary trade. Interestingly, aside from being sources of meat and milk, cattle also served as a popular means of transportation by way of pulling bullock carts.
These two aspects of life in 19th Century Little India would prove to leave a lasting legacy in Singapore. Walk around Little India today and you’ll notice rather European sounding street names – Dunlop Street was named after a prominent European family and Belilios Lane was for cattle importer I.R. Belilios.
Where to Stay
The lanes of Little India, much like Chinatown, are lined with numerous shophouses which have been turned into boutique hotels.
Looking to capture the essence of the rich architectural history of the shophouses in Little India, The Daulat melds its stunning colonial facade with its contemporary interior design. The main pull would have to be the Loft Rooms and Suites which should no doubt be the fancy of many staycationers out there.
The hotel even has two bicycles for rental that you can take to the streets with. (Hint: head to the places below!)
Eat and Drink
The Tekka Centre is more than just a hawker centre – it’s an institution, a landmark of the community.
Built in 1915, the colourful wet market and food centre is unmistakable. Serving up predominantly Indian cuisine, you can get your Biryani (spicy rice dish with chicken or mutton curry) fix from Hanifa’s or Allauddin. If you’re up to try Indian Rojak (combination of salad, fried dough fritters, cuttlefish, and a whole lot more), Temasek Indian Rojak is a good place to start.
Of course, one can never forget a good cup of Teh Tarik(frothy hot milk tea) to end off your meal.
Can’t get enough of Indian food, especially dishes bearing Singapore’s unique twist? We recommend heading over to Muthu’s Curry on Race Course Road.
Ask for their signature Fish Head Curry, which continues to be a steadfast favourite among Singaporeans of all walks and heritage.
So well-liked is this dish that the Chinese community came up with their own adaptation!
See and Do
There are tons of things to do in this district, but you cannot miss the other landmark of Little India. Mustafa Centre is probably the heart and soul of shopping in the Indian enclave, a shopping experience quite like no other. They have stocks of everything under the sun, and I truly mean everything.
From a humble beginning in a small shop along Campbell Lane first conceived in 1971, its business has exponentially grown in size over the years. One can now walk from one end of the entire mall to the other and not know where you came in from.
If you need anything – from groceries to electronics to medication – literally anything at all, Mustafa’s your one-stop shop. Oh did I forget to mention that it’s open 24 hours as well?
Even though Little India is no Portobello Street of London, it is possibly the most colourful district in Singapore. There are traces of street art in some of the back alleys and buildings which make them a visual delight to wander about. Somewhere along Kerbau Road, you wouldn’t have not noticed the multi-coloured House of Tan Teng Niah, the last surviving Chinese villa built in 1900 by a businessman for his wife. Today, the house has become a popular photo spot for tourists and Instagrammers.