Nestled near Singapore’s bustling business district, Chinatown is Singapore’s largest historic quarter, where our early Chinese migrants lived.
Nowadays you will find that it is made up of exotic pre-war shophouses, where merchants still hawk their wares from delicate bales of silk and gold jewellery to traditional crafts and products.
Chinatown can be divided into four main districts – Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Pasoh, each with a distinctive flavour of its own. The heart of activity is in the Trengganu Street/Smith Street area. Wander around the colourful network of narrow streets and alleys where you will witness craftsmen peddle traditional crafts like calligraphy, painted masks and embroidered silk at reasonable prices, while medicine stores mix exotic ingredients to treat all sorts of ailments.
In 2014, Chinatown opened Chinatown Food Street, located at Smith Street. It has been refurbished to showcase a mix of local street food and restaurant options, along with programmes and interactive events which locals and visitors can participate in.
To learn more about the early Chinese migrants, visit the Chinatown Heritage Centre and journey through the museum as you discover insights into their daily lives. Or walk through the various temples which you will see along Chinatown, including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, a living cultural monument housing the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic in a magnificent Relic Stupa, composed of 420kg of gold donated by devotees; the Jamae Mosque, one of Singapore’s oldest mosque; or the Sri Mariamman Temple, the most revered Hindu temple in Singapore. Where else but in Singapore can you find three different temples along the same street?
If shopping is more your specialty, then a visit to the night market will be right up your alley, as there are more than 200 market stalls lining Pagoda, Trengganu and Sago streets, selling items such as dragon candles, street opera masks or traditional clothing. If you’re keen on the latest trends in fashion and food & drink, don’t miss Ann Siang Hill and Club Street, where you will find chic boutiques such as Aesop and egg33, designer hotels and eclectic restaurants and bars, such as Oxwell & Co. and PS.Cafe.
Be mesmerised by the beautiful architecture and elegantly-restored classic details along Keong Saik Road, which have been conserved as part of the Bukit Pasoh area, but also demostrates the juxtaposition of heritage and modern.
Serving as a focal point of Singapore’s Indian community, Little Indiaoffers a snapshot of life as it is on the streets of New Delhi and Mumbai. Here you will find a fusion of colours, sounds and scents, as the smell of spices, flowers, incense and perfume fill the air, as thousands of people from all walks of life go about their business.
Walk through the Little India Arcade for authentic Indian food, music and fashion, all housed in shophouses which date back to the 1920s. Here you will find silk saris, gold jewellery, knick knacks, silverware, handicrafts and other such goodies, as well as an opportunity to witness jasmine flowers being intricately woven into garlands, at roadside stalls before being taken to the temples as offerings.
Delve deeper into the Indian district and explore Serangoon Road and its inner lanes like Campbell Lane, Dunlop Street and Hindoo Road and discover wonderful secrets and stories in all of its nooks.
If you want to venture away from Singapore’s stylish, air-conditioned malls, then visit Sungei Road Thieves Market, one of the best and most popular flea markets in Singapore among tourists and locals alike. Once known as the place to go for stolen goods, there are now over 400 vendors selling legitimate items from vinyl records, cuckoo clocks, and local food and Buddhist amulets; where you can find a real bargain or two.
A visit to Little India is not complete without a visit to the Mustafa Centre, opened 24 hours a day, it stocks an estimated 150,000 different items, from groceries to electronics, clothes, cameras and home appliances to even hotel reservations, all at a fixed costs.