Bugis: a shopper haven

Last time I wrote about my Singapore trip we were visiting the amazing Muslim quarter, Kampong Glam.  I also mentioned in that post that the same day we the Bugis area. It is only a short walk from Kampong Glam, so a great way to fit in two neighbourhoods in one day if you’re strapped for time on your trip. It’s also a great place to do some shopping, which why I was so excited to visit this part of the city.

Bugis has an interesting history before it’s redevelopment as a retail district. Prior to the arrival of the British, there was a large canal which ran through the area. Indonesian peoples known as Buginese would sail up and trade with Singaporean merchants. Later it also became home to many hundreds of Japanese Karayuki-san (prostitutes). During this time there were issues with overcrowding and terrible hygiene, leading to many cholera outbreaks. As a result, the slums were cleared and many buildings were demolished and rebuilt. After the Second World War, the area became known for the trans woman that would gather in the area in the evenings. This was a popular tourist stop for Westerns, who came to drink, eat out, night market shopping and gawker at the trans woman. It wasn’t until the 1980’s the area had a major makeover, which included modern shopping malls, restaurants and nightclubs.


So from Haji Lane we walked to Bugis Street, which was only about a 10-minute walk. The streets were quite broad and the landscape is full of modern skyscrapers.


Bugis Street Market is the biggest market in Singapore, with over 800 stores, selling cheap souvenirs, accessories, clothes, electronics, houseware and cosmetics. It also operates during the night, which is great if you prefer late night shopping. We didn’t go in this day since it was just so hot and I had already bought cheap souvenirs from Kampong Glam.
Before we visited the shopping malls we made a stop Waterloo Street. This street is home to three religious temples, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho TempleMaghain Aboth Synagogue, and Sri Krishnan Temple. It was an extremely busy place and I noticed the many Chinese stores and stalls. Many of the stalls were selling these interesting looking flowers, which I haven’t seen before.


We came to Waterloo street to see the traditional Chinese Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. This temple has great importance for Chinese Singaporeans, who believe that praying to the Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, will bring them good luck. It is believed to be the luckiest and is probably the busiest temple in Singapore. Outside the entrance of the temple, numerous flower sellers and fortune tellers gather. We visited around midday and it was busy as usual. Luckily its size can accommodate many people.


We couldn’t wait to get into some air con and start shopping, so our first stop was Bugis+. This 10 storey shopping centre offers a huge range of fashion retailers to suit all budgets. It also has a variety of restaurants and hawkers stores on the top level, with a dedicated section for Japanese foods.


I got through the Bugis+ shops quite quickly, so I then made my way through the adjoining mall, Bugis Junction and BHG. There are so many fashion retailers here that I don’t know that I got through them all. Again they cater for all budgets and ages groups.  I quite liked these two malls, since I found a few more unique stores, rather than just the big flagship brands. I probably did my biggest shopping haul between these three malls on this trip so you can imagine how tired and bored my other two companions must have been. Marco tried to be patient but he eventually left O with me. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring a stroller on this trip, but Netflix on the phone managed to keep her happy while I looked and tried on clothes.


After all that shopping we were getting pretty hungry. There are so many choices in these malls as well. We decided to do lunch at the hawker centre Food Junction, which is within Bugis Junction. Here you can find 22 food stores selling different Asian cuisines. The store names indicate the type of food they specialise in. The whole level is quite a strange shape and its extremely business place. Finding a table is a little tricky, but people are coming and going constantly, so you can get one eventually.


Marco knew exactly what he wanted, so he went off first to get his lunch. He went to the Clay Pot store and ordered a Pork belly Clay Pot with Rice, which came with a complimentary broth.  Octavia and I wandered around for a while and then she decided we should have something from the Handmade Noodle store. So we ordered Dry noodles (dried fish, bok choy and sauce, with broth on the side) and Formosa pork dumplings. She was very extremely happy with what she was eating and didn’t let me really have any until she was full. The food was pretty good here and also very cheap.

Afterwards, Marco ordered a kopi from the Beverage store. He found it a little bitter and wanted to add some more sugar. Funny thing is that he added salt instead. He was a little grouchy after that.


This is the end of our visit to Bugis. After this, we returned to do some shopping at Haji Lane in Kampong Glam. The shopping there is also great, which wrote about this in my last post, Kampong Glam: eclectic, spirited Muslim Quarter.

If you love shopping you definitely want to make Bugis one of your tourist stops. There is just so much variety to suit every budget. If you’re on a tight budget you may prefer the hustle bustle of the Bugis Street Market. Or if you like me and going for quality and the comfort of air conditioning, then head over to the malls.

Have you visited Bugis?

What was your favourite place to shop or visit?

6 thoughts on “Bugis: a shopper haven

    1. Thanks Miss A 🙂 She did pretty well that day, but she did crash as soon after and slept for a bit longer than usual. I was quite surprised when I read about the trans woman because I never saw any in Singapore. They have pretty strict laws surrounding LGBT people so it may be why I didn’t come across any. Although didn’t get out much in the nightlife so perhaps that’s why as well.


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