Hari Raya Bazaar
Every year, during the Muslim month of Ramadan, the streets along Geylang are transformed into a bustling, brightly-coloured bazaar where people from all walks of life are attracted to the vendors selling anything and everything from great-tasting Muslim food to lush carpets and fine silks and furniture.
During this period of time, visiting the bazaar observing the festive season in Geylang is highly recommended. During these events, there is much to see, eat and experience. For one, look out for sumptuous Hari Raya dishes, the famed Ramli burgers and the specialty muslim 'kuehs'. Whilst munching on your food, stroll through the multitude of make-shift stores selling everything from cloth (to spruce up your house) to specialty custom-made flower arrangements.
Moreover, the atmosphere of the events are of jubiliance. There is a cheery feel to the place as Muslims end their fast for the day and coming down to the bazaar gives them a chance to stretch their toes as well as fill up their stomachs. Moreover, there is a general 'bro feel' among the crowds for everyone has gone through the same ordeal throughout the day. Its really a relief that its evening again!
I would normally recommend visits during evening hours as this is the time where the bazaar is at its noisiest and most active. The first hand experience and subsequent takeaways is indeed eye opening.
Despite any slight cynicism I might show in some of my reviews, it remains a truism that Singapore is a wonderful place to be in when it comes to the celebration of festivals. From colourful street parades to religious processions and street light-ups, Singapore comes alive.
Any one of the celebrations associated with the main ethnic groups, plus Christmas, provide the tourist (and the local) with the anticipation that there is always something to look forward to throughout the year.
During Ramadan the predominantly Malay district of Geylang Serai is transformed into a world of colourful stalls, sounds, lights and colour. The bazaars spring up all over the place. Crowds throng the streets and markets to buy everything from fabrics to food.
Hari Raya Puasa is the festival which marks the end of Ramadan, which lasts one month and during which Muslims must fast. More importantly, families come together, seek for forgiveness for anything that may have offended, and look forward to the future.
I admire the Malays. How can they walk buy, even buy all that food, and not even take a quick bite whilst waiting for Buka Puasa? That of course, misses the point. This is a religious festival at heart. The colour and excesses perhaps are just an expression of the significance it has n the lives of believers.
There's plenty of food, plenty of merchandise. There are plenty of traditional dresses (both male and female) for you to choose from. The atmosphere has always been festive though a well-performing economy seems to drive the festive atmosphere even higher.
Having said that, I remember the bazaars during the years when our economy was booming. It was heady to say the least. Toxicating even. Back then, when the old Geylang Serai was in existence, I'd dare say the atmosphere was the best and the nostalgic amongst us would agree, I'd dare say.
I adore the wide array of traditional attires sold there. The prices are negotiable too making it all the more supremely appealing. Despite the verbal competition between amiable stall owners, Hari Raya Bazaar is indeed the greatest avenue for anything between traditionalism and modernism. Traditional items with a modern twist. They're all there, affordably.
It's best to go to the Bazaar at night, where the festive mode is more felt. Towards the end of the fasting month, crowds will become bigger, items cheaper, and the whole atmosphere is really quite exhilarating.
It does get tiring after a few hours walking around, what with all the people and activities going about. I would usually get cranky by then, and would want to go back home.
But as (some of) the Malays say, "it's not Raya if you don't go to Geylang".
Aside from food, the bazaar also has beautiful traditional and modern malay ‘baju kurungs’ on sale, carpets, vases, flowers, fairy lights and things that the Malays are keen to buy in preparation for Hari Raya. Sometimes, there are also performances by well-known Malay singers and entertainers in order to hype up the bazaar. The whole place will be blasting with Hari Raya songs and people will sing along to them while shopping.
It is truly a unique cultural experience and it is something that has been there for decades. I love Hari Raya bazaar and will continue to do so as long as I live.
Despite Hari Raya being a malay festival, I had the illogical notion that there would be quite a few Chinese there to enjoy the festivities as well. Turns out I was wrong about that. During my hour plus tour of the bazaar, I saw about 5 Chinese the whole time I was there. Not that I'm complaining, that's just an observation. I just thought people would have been more interested in culture than this.
Anyway, the place was crowded and bustling, even though nothing stands out in particular. It really is just a bigger version of the pasar malams we see every other day.. complete with my friend selling motorbikes there. Yup, apparently, selling automobiles is becoming commonplace in the bigger pasar malams as well. Indeed, my friend says that sales have been brisk since many of our malay brothers are tempted to purchase new rides for the new year!
There's a variety of food cultures that can be found in the Hari Raya Bazaar alone. Compared to any other normal bazaars that was some times held at HDB areas all year round, not much food is being offered. If you are truly a food lover and don't mind grazing down the oily fats, then the Hari Raya Bazaar is just for you.
Other than food,there's of course household decorations, footwear, apparels, pants, ethnic costumes, kitchen utensils and etc. It's not a wasted trip when you are hungering a different fresh taste of food for your taste buds.
Of course, it is an influencing factor that bazaars are now a year-long thing that pops up in random locations across the island from time to time, so the Hari Raya Bazaar is not quite so special anymore. It is quite sad that it has lost its magic for me. Perhaps in the future, there may be less repetitive stalls that will entice me to make my way down to Geylang again.
The highlight of these bazaars for me, is the food. What else but the delicious, lip smacking, greasy and cheap grub, with a homely taste rarely found in mass produced goods.
This year's bazaar was a hit for me, I literally went to check out every single food stall and eyed their offerings. I'm thrilled, as not often can I find so many Malay snack stalls at one go. And then, being the crazy me, I visited every stall selling the kuih dadar and bought them home to try every one.
Enough of my antics. Besides food, they do sell other things like decorations and such for use during the hari raya. It is indeed a time of joy and happiness for them.
I can't wait for the next bazaar!