Welcome to Little India. I’ve come to love it. In a city which is so modern and organised that visiting it can feel unadventurous, Little India is one district which feels exotic, lively, exciting and, well, very, very Asian.
“Singapore in general has brilliant cuisine”
Packed into a few streets are the smells, the colours, the turbans, the saris and dhotis, the hawkers, the religious observance, the street food and even a little squalor, rare in 21st century Singapore. Missing is the confronting poverty, the begging and the health risks many travellers to real India find challenging.
A half day strolling the streets will be enough to see Little India’s main markets, temples and shopping centres.
The Tekka Market is the main food outlet in the area, and Little India Arcade, the place to look for souvenirs and arts and crafts. It’s mostly junk of course, though interesting to watch the wood carvers at work on the street.
The most spectacular Hindu temple is Sri Veerakaliamman Temple in Serangoon Rd. It’s dedicated to the goddess Kali, she of the six arms, and features spectacularly gruesome statues of the goddess waving around severed heads and eating people’s intestines. I was assured the victims all deserved their fates. If that sounds a bit confronting, visitors are welcome to enter the temple, as long as they remove their shoes and behave respectfully. Discreet photography is permitted.
Shopping is Singapore’s primary sport, and in Little India the rule still applies, but the prices are much cheaper. Serangoon Road is lined with tailors, goldsmiths and phone card businesses, and it’s a good place to get a t-shirt to replace the disgusting ones you’ve been living in on the road.
The Mustafa Centre sells everything, if you can face the crowds. It was recently closed for a week due to breaching fire regulations. Be prepared to have any bags you are carrying sealed as you enter the door – nothing personal; there are shoplifters about.
Nightlife is not Little India’s forte, so better to make the focus of your evenings food. Singapore in general has brilliant cuisine, and Little India is no different, with great food at very reasonable prices. Don’t be put off by the shabby decor of the local eateries – the quality of the cuisine will make up for it and there is very little danger of being poisoned by anything you eat. For less than $20 you can eat a really good meal. Alcohol, particularly wine, is relatively expensive, though local beer is reasonable priced.