As its name suggests, Little India is Singapore’s foremost Indian enclave. Its charm lies in the fact that many of olden-day trades can still be found by its roadsides, alleys and back lanes. Fortune-tellers and their parrots, flower vendors selling garlands of jasmine, kachang puteh (roasted nuts) sellers on pushcarts and street-side newspaper vendors are just some of the interesting sights to be found.
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I’ve lived in Singapore for all of my 18 years, but I never really did explore Little India except for one or two cursory school trips in primary school. Little did I realize how much I was missing out on!
I didn’t manage to explore Little India in its entirety and basically only stayed in Tekka Centre and its vicinity, however there were already so many things to see and do. We met a friendly Indian couple running a clothing stall and there we bought a few beautiful skirts imported from India. They were very helpful and even recommended another stall where we could get some other items we were looking for. Their hospitality and warmth made our experience in Little India a very memorable one.
My friend and I also got henna tattoos on our hands for $5. The henna artists were very skillful and finished drawing a complicated flower pattern in just 5 minutes. A great alternative for fickle people like me who can never get permanent tattoos because we’ll get bored of them after a week.
Feel like a tourist in your own country
I love visiting Little India, mainly because I've always been fascinated by Indian culture. The exotic tasting foods and intricate patterns of their cloths have always appealed to me. I enjoy being out of my comfort zone - being thrown into new and exotic environments where I am free to explore. Maybe all this has made me biased towards our Indian enclave.
If you are searching for cheap and lovely Indian saris, skirts or tops, Tekka Market is the place to go. After enjoying some delicious biryani for lunch at the hawker centre, snake through the winding lanes of shops on the second floor selling intricately patterned cloths for very affordable prices. Visiting Mustafa is also a good idea for anything and everything. From electronics to clothes to all kind of foods, Mustafa gives you the ultimate grocery shopping experience.
Explore the many back alleys, stroll down the colourful line of shophouses, get yourself a henna and embrace the cheery and bustling atmosphere. This is one of the few places left in Singapore that has largely retained its culture. Exploring the nooks and crannies of Little India is the closest you are going to get here to exploring India itself. But if you don't fancy the exoticism, I wouldn't recommend this place for you.
From the Tekka Centre to City Plaza, Little India spreads along Serangoon Road like CHinatown with one street.But this is wrong. The real treasures of LIttle India are in the lanes that link Serangoon Road to Jalan Besar. Streets with names such as Veerasamy, Baboo, Rotan, Kinta, RAngoon and the like.
It is in these side streets that some of the true delights of the place can be found. Wonderful eateries, including exceptional vegetarian food, delightful, whimsical shops selling everything from sewing machines to saris.
And of course, you could always end up at Mustafas. 24 hours of uninterrupted crowds, with hundreds of shoppers struggling through tiny, crammed, aisles to buy incredible arrays of goods at good prices.
And of course there are many temples, and a Methodist Church, if that is what might help more.
Always a little chaotic, always a little less than pristinely clean (but how does that differ from Chinatown?). And full of Indians. Friendly Indians.
It is a great place to visit. Chinatown? Kampung Glam? Geylang Serai? Little India? All marvelous microcosms of the races and peoples they represent, and all set in a polyglot morass of excitement and colour. Great.
Indians, Indians everywhere
I dont think I've ever seen sooo many Indian thronged up in one area before. I remember feeling so out of place walking the streets there, and honestly a little scared too.
Little india is somehow a contrast to other places in Singapore. Relatively cheap shopping-Mustafa centre is a must visit, you can find almost everything there. From souvenirs to clothes, to rugs to little gadgets. You name it.
Do note that unlike other parts of Sg, Little India is not that glamorous, not that clean too, and there's this smell , its unpleasant but I wouldnt go so far as to say that I hated it.
P/S: If you dont like crowds, stay away.
... where the crowd is loud
Little India as its name implies is a place where one can have a glimpse of an Indian setting just as Chinatown depicts China. This is another unique place in Singapore. Unique in a sense that being in the streets of Little India gives you a distinct Indian experience. The shops sell almost all the things you need. From the typical to atypical goods all at lower prices. I usually visit this place especially before special occasions to shop for ingredients.
What I don’t like in this place however is the crowd. The place is always packed with so many people and the crowd is not at all pleasant. There seem to be a lot of rough people at this place. There is pushing, loud talking and that distinctive smell everywhere. It is quite awful but I find it bearable in frequent visits.
With Indians swarming in Singapore, this place might be a home away from home to most of them. Aside from they get to meet their fellow Indians they can also enjoy the various Indian Restaurants around the area.
A taste of India
I moved to Little India since I was five years old. There used to be trishaw uncles waiting in line where now stands the bus stop in front of the Tekka Market main entrance. Where there used to be a carpark and a row of flame of the forest trees, now stands a shopping mall.
You must come visit Little India for the freshest spices, incredibly affordable yet fresh vegetables, great spread of Southern and Northern Indian cuisines, fresh meat selection and products from India such as turmeric soap was an exotic find for me (it has great effect on fragile skin).
Be warn if you are coming on weekends as parking is the most challenging task and then you will face the challenge of elbowing your way through the crowd of local and foreigners.
Shopping here on weekdays evenings is more enjoyable as people will be more willing to serve you and bargaining at some street shops will work better. Not forgetting Mustafa has recently been renovated and it opens 24 hours.
I personally feel that in Little India, your eyes are not as important as your tongue. Little India, is really a paradise for cheap shopping and fine Indian cuisine. I visited it regularly in the past few years whenever I felt like having Indian Rojak or briyani. The most famous briyani stores are located in Tekka food centre and marketplace, the stores in the southern section are predominately marketing this product as well as selling Indian style prepared drinks. Indian waiters can be found strolling around asking people if they want to buy a drink. The rojak stores are mainly in the north side, having a jumble of ingredients together with genuine Indian curry is heavenly for the tastebuds!
Next is the shopping, should you walk down Tekka Street, there is a jumble of cheap mama stores and barber shops. The entire street itself is a shopping district famous in Singapore.
Pedestrian is king
If you are driving along this road, pay extra attention. This is the part of Singapore where pedestrian is king and they can cross the road at any point and any time without even checking whether there is any car coming along the road.
It is also advisable to avoid this area especially during the weekends. I was invited by an Indian colleague to his wedding ceremony in an Indian temple there on a weekend. I really regretted that I had not found some simple excuse to not attend the ceremony.
It was relatively easy to find a car park but it was a nightmare navigating the streets to reach the temple. It was so crowded and the crowd totally had no concept of personal space, they would come so close to you to make you feel uncomfortable.
Waves of Darkness
Let me start off by saying that I have nothing against Indians. I have come across Indian locals, expats as well as foreign workers who were as nice as can be. However, when throngs of Indians start pushing and shoving other passengers in a crowded bus, it doesn't matter their race or religion. Wrong is wrong.
Because my old church is near Little India, I had the unfortunate luxury of being shoved about by these black sheeps every now and then. As a result, many locals avoid Little India because they can't stand their rowdiness or in some cases, smell.
The scene that greets you when you look out the bus window along Little India at night was also discouraging and straight outta a horror movie - waves upon waves of Indians jostling on the sidewalk. Which prompts you to ask yourself the inevitable question - If they are this pushy inside a cramped bus, how much worse is it goin to get out there?
I attempted to answer that question by hurtling myself into the thick of it one Deepavali season. Actually, I was with two friends and we were all curious whether we would have any interesting experiences at the end of the day. However, because we arrived at about 8pm on Deepavali eve, most of the crowd had already gone home together with their shows and stalls. It's a failed mission, though we did catch some traditional roadside snacks and over-exuberant Caucasians in partying costumes.
There's a price for spice
Little India does not seem little to me. It feels more like the whole of India was dumped there. I'm an Indian but I totally avoid going there in the weekends. I always call it an infestation, because it seems all the foreign workers are magnetically pulled there for the weekends. The place is crowded, it's littered badly and the people there are ruthless. It always seems like the end of the world there.
Then again, there's always a reason for me to go there in the weekdays. The FOOD. Little India is known for its Indian cuisine. We have Prata shops, briyani shops, chappati shops, fish head curry, restaurants, the famous teh Tarik, tekka market and so much more. The second you set foot into tekka market, the smell of food will lure you in. The Prata, oily yet so crispy. The briyani, with such fragrance in its rice that it makes flowers jealous, and the gravy, hours of preparation just for that exquisite spicy yet smooth taste. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water.
I'm off to little India now infact.