Little India: colourful, bustling and spicy

This is my first post for my travel adventure series to Singapore. As I mentioned, I had ten wonderful days in this amazing island nation. I only got back last weekend, so I’ve still been unwinding, getting back to our normal routines.

This was my second visit to Singapore. I think the last time I actually spent time here was eight years ago. So it was lovely to revisit this country (and city). Singapore is actually tiny in comparison to other countries. You can drive from one end to the other in less than an hour, depending on the traffic of course. Ten days may seem like a lot of time to spend in such a small place. However, there is just so much to see and do here. I tried to make sure we saw most of the major neighbourhoods, sectors and sites. I’m sure there are plenty more things we could see or revisit the next time we return. There are definitely plenty more places to eat and foods we that didn’t have the time or appetite to try. This is because this tiny country has a lot established culture and cuisines. Nearly every Asian countries food is represented, as well as different cuisines within their cultures. That’s not including all the other ethnicities from the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It’s just an amazing mixing pot of people from a variety of cultures, religions and walks of life, who all live in harmony.

For this trip, I organised an itinerary that kept us busy for the whole 10 days from morning until night. To make commuting more convenient we decided to book two hotels. Our first hotel was the One Farrer Hotel & Spa in Little India. I was really happy with this accommodation. The staff were lovely, the rooms were large, beds comfortable and facilities were gorgeous. So it was a nice surprise when we arrived from our eight-hour flight.

 

Since we were staying in Little India, it made sense that it was our first destination to explore. So as soon as we were settled in we took a walk through the neighbourhood. It’s such a vibrant and colourful place. The buildings are painted in an array of bright and pastel colours. There are also many amazing murals painted on the sides of buildings, depicting Little India’s colourful past. There are also many colourful elephants and plenty of playgrounds for little ones to get excited about.

Serangoon Road is the central shopping strip that runs through Little India. It is garnished with archways decorated with pictures of cows, bananas, rice pot etc. These archways also light up at night (see below). Although many of the stores began opening at midday, we later found that the neighbourhood really comes alive at night. Thats when you will see the most people out and all the businesses open.

If you’re interested in the street art in Little India, see The Occasional Traveller’s post on Where to Find Street Art in Singapore: Little India. She can tell you exactly where to go and a bit more about the artwork and artist.

 

Our first site to see was the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess and destroyer of evil, Kali. It is one of the oldest temples in Singapore and was built in 1881, by Indian workers and migrants. Kali would have been an important deity to the people, who would have needed to feel secure in this new land.

As soon as we arrived at the temple I was taken aback by the amazing exterior, which is covered in many small colourful statues. The inside is even more stunning. There are a variety of statues, murals and decorative art on every wall and ceiling of the interior. There are also more statues within shrines, both within the main shrines area and outside. While I was there I saw many of the Indian people sitting and eating some delicious food, which I saw being served there. I was a little hungry, but I didn’t get a friendly invitation to partake. I’m assuming this was only for the Hindus followers. It sure looked more appetising than the crackers and grape juice they serve in Christian churches. If you know more about why and what Hindu’s eat-in temple, please let me know as I couldn’t find an explanation online.

 

A short walk around the corner we came to our next tourist stop, the former House of Tan Teng  Niah. This colourful building was built in 1900 and is the last surviving Chinese villa in the Little India area. It is a nod the days of Chinese industries of cattle trade, rattan works, pineapple factories and rubber smokehouses. The house was built by a Chinese towkay (businessman of good standing) for his wife. He owned a sugar cane sweet-making factories along Serangoon Road.

This colourful building is stunning and worth going to have a look at and get a photo. Unfortunately, you aren’t able to go inside. Nearby are some small hawker stalls where you can get a bite to eat and many little market stalls.

 

For lunch, I planned for us to have an authentic Indian hawker meal at the Tekka Centre. When we arrived we came in the wrong entrance through the fish market. We then found the grocery market and clothing, until finally, we came upon the hawker centre. I was game to try something, but Marco wasn’t so sure he wanted anything from here. It was his first day, so it was a bit of a culture shock. It was also not airconditioned, so Octavia and I shared an extremely large coconut to cool down.

 

We moved on to visited one of the restaurants that the concierge at the hotel recommended on Racecourse road. He recommended Banana Leaf Apolo or Muthu’s Curry, which both make the special Fish Head Curry dish. We decided to go with Muthu’s curry.

The restaurant was lovely inside and heavenly after walking for so long outside in the heat. The waiter staff were also very attentive and were able to show us photos of the dishes via there tablet. Marco ordered his usually Butter Chicken and Naan. The fish head curry was a little more expensive and I knew no one would share with me, so I when with the Masala Fish curry and rice. We also ordered some Samosas and was served complementary Pappadums, Eggplant pickle and Sambar. Everything tasted so good and fresh, however, it was a little spicier then we are used to. Octavia was more interested in eating naan and pappadums so we had to let her get her way this time. We were very happy with this restaurant and would recommend it if you’re wanting a more refined experience in Little India

 

Marco and Octavia were still pretty exhausted after the flight, so I walked them back to the hotel and then headed out on my own. Since I’m the only one that gets really excited by visiting temples and shopping I thought it was a good opportunity to be alone.

First I walked to the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, also known as the Temple of 1,000 Lights. This temple is dedicated to Buddha and was founded by a Thai monk in 1927. The architecture is Thai, which is evident by the stupa and Thai-styled roof. It features inside a 15 metre tall Buddha statue, which looms over the large room. It is called the Temple of 1,000 Lights because of lights surrounding the Buddha who is depicted in a posture when he attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya India.

 

Across the road, I found the Leong San Temple, which was actually a surprise. The name of the temple actually means Dragon Moutain Temple in Mandarin and it was founded back in 1917. It is one of the most ornate Buddhist temples in Singapore. The current structure was built in 1926 from imported Chinese materials.

As soon as I walked towards the temple I was blown away by the beautiful decoration on the exterior and the doors. Inside is also stunning, with numerous statues, ornaments and a bright gold altar dedicated to Confucius. Outside there was also a nice water feature, with miniature statues and waterfalls.

 

On my way back towards the centre of Little India, I walked along Race Course Road. I came across numerous Chinese stores selling natural crystals, precious stones and ornaments. Many of them didn’t have prices or they were just labelled by weight. They are worth checking out if you’re in the area and interested in precious crystals.

I also when to see the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, which was closed. I did go a couple of days later but it was being renovated, so there wasn’t much to see or take photos of. If you get a chance its definitely a stop you should make in the evening. I’m sure it will be just as beautiful as it previously was.

 

Next, I decided to do a bit of shopping. I made my way to Mustafa centre. This massive market style shopping centre is actually two department stores joined together. They sell everything from designer products, textiles, clothing, electronics and food. There is also a cafe downstairs.  It is also opened 24 hours, which sounded very exciting. To be honest I wasn’t blown away by this shopping centre. Perhaps it was because I was tired and I didn’t find anything I really wanted or needed. I’m sure it’s great if you live here or you’re after something in particular at a bargain price. I did return later in the week with Marco and Octavia to buy chocolates and tea. There was just so much variety of food products and the prices were also pretty reasonable.

 

My last solo destination was the City Square Mall, which I also returned to again later with Marco and Octavia. This is Singapore’s first Eco Mall due to its the environment approach that was taken when constructing the mall and many environmentally friendly features.

As soon as I walked in I was greeted by the Paw Patrol for the Chinese New Year events. This year is the year of the dog so we would find reference to this throughout our trip. I then explored the rest of the mall. Inside the mall, there is plenty of retail stores, food store, restaurants and Food Republic hawker centre.  There are also plenty of activities for kids, both inside and out. Later, when I returned to the mall with the rest of the family, Octavia had lots of fun playing with the legos display, set up for kids. She couldn’t do the outside rides and playground because it was pouring down rain.

While we were playing with the Lego’s I met a Singaporean-Chinese woman with her child. We got talking about how much Singapore has changed since we visited last and how we are raising our children. Her child wasn’t interested in talking Chinese yet, but she is hoping he will learn her ethnic language when he goes to school.

 

For dinner, we wanted to try something else, rather than Indian. As much as I love Indian, even the mildest dishes seemed to be a bit too spicy for Octavia and their menus aren’t very kid friendly. So I had two restaurants in mind at the City Square Mall, the Wok Master or Face to Face Noodle House (closed permanently since we visited). Marco really wanted to go up to the Food Republic hawker centre, but I thought Wok Master the was the best choice since it had an extensive menu including kids meals.

When we arrived we were greeted by lovely waitresses that were very nice and attentive to Octavia. The dining room was quite large, clean and modern. After some deliberation, we decided on a few dishes to try. I ordered for Octavia the Panda Bear Rice meal, which was Tomato Rice shaped as a bear decorated with cheese and chocolate (meant to be seaweed); karaage chicken with mayo, grapes and egg salad. We ordered the Signature Claypot Crayfish Laksa, Kampong Seafood Mee Goreng and Cold Lemon Honey Drink (set). We were all very happy with our meals. Octavia really liked having a special cute dish prepared for her and nearly finished the dish. I was over the moon because on our holiday all she would eat was croissants. Our dishes were really flavoursome and delicious. They tasted fresh and didn’t have that potent flavour you usually get from premade jarred sauces.

 

After dinner, we were on the hunt for desserts. We found the Japanese patisserie, Châteraisé. I have been crazy for mochi since visiting Japan and the patisserie had some many flavours as well as many different specialities. We ordered the chocolate mochi, strawberry mochi, bun filled with chestnut, bun of fried dough cookie and double fantasy cream bun. There was no sitting, so we took them back to the hotel to enjoy.

 

The next night we revisited Little India, which is really the best time for eating out and shopping in this area. The streets are lite up with colourful archways, all the stores and markets are open and people are out and about. There are a variety of items you can buy, from electronics, toys, clothes and accessories. Many of the clothing stores had men stationed outside behind a desk with a sewing machine, ready to make alterations for customers. Poor little Octavia had a huge day with us visiting China Town and slept through nearly the entire evening.

 

For dinner, we wanted to try something a bit more casual. I had a few places in mind, including Komala Vilas, Ananda Bhavan or Khansama Tandoori. I really felt like vegetarian Indian food, so we decided on Komala Vilas Restaurant (Serangoon Road), which an authentic vegetarian restaurant and a favourite among the locals. It has actually been open since 1947 and has few locations, including a sweet and savoury store (next door).

When we arrived it was quite busy, so we were ushered upstairs, where we saw a few Westerners but mainly Indian people. Once we ordered we were given our cutlery in a paper towel. The restaurant is was definitely no-frills and a little old, but the place was clean and the dishes coming out looked very generous.

Marco ordered the Vegetable Briyani, which came with saffron rice, chappati, vegetable curry, vegetable kuruma, dhal, raita, payasam, pickle, thairu and appalam (papadum). I ordered the Dosai meal, which came with a paper dosai, three vegetable curries, sambar, kulambu, rasam, payasam, thairu and appalam (papadum). If your not sure what any of those are, all I can say is that some were spicy then others, but each had a distinctive flavour. We both really enjoyed the different little dishes, some more than others. What I really enjoyed after I had eaten all the savoury was payasam, which was warm, sweet pudding. Octavia actually slept through the entire dinner, so I didn’t need to worry about what she would and wouldn’t eat, but I think she would of really like the pudding.

 

I hope you enjoyed my experience in Little India, Singapore. It was really a vibrant place, the food was amazing, the temples were stunning and was close thing to visiting India as we are probably going to get for a while. It is also a mecca for vegetarians, with plenty of restaurants dedicated or catering for vegetarians.

If your interested in visiting this area and want to find out more I recommend checking out this article: Little India Singapore Everything You Need to Know About Little India. I found it really helpful for where to shop and what to see. Traveller – Flight Reviews & Travel Videos also made a great video in Little India and the top things to do while there.

Have you visited Little India in Singapore? What are your thoughts?

 

6 thoughts on “Little India: colourful, bustling and spicy

    1. Thanks Raj. I really would love to. It is also another dream of mine But to be honest I am a little scared to see India and other parts of Asia again. I got a parasite years ago when I went to Indonesia and it took me many years to get better. After that experience I know what to do if it were to happen and how to recover. I just worry because my daughter is still so little and it would be very scary if she were to get as sick as I did. I hope when she is older I can take a holiday without her to India.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree, being a tropical country there’s some issue with some parasites but not that serious like Indonesia as it comes under equatorial belt but India is way above equator. North India is above tropic of cancer and and in South due to mountains you will be find it quite pleasing. Hope someday you will visit India. Thanks.

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      2. Thanks for letting me know that Raj. I really didn’t realise that. I will have to look more into it. I looked at an article the other day for countries with clean water and santiation. Many countries including all of Eastern Europe, most of Asia and Middle East came up as not safe. It must depend where you visit though. India is definetely somewhere I need to visit and experience 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, definitely locations matter especially for large land masses and developing/underdeveloped world. And yes I didn’t know that Eastern Europe also faces water and sanitation issue, that’s something new to me. Thanks for mentioning this.

        Liked by 1 person

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