There’s an unofficial saying in India, that you will find Indians in every corner of the world. Most travelers will identify with the sweet wistful feeling that tugs your heart, whenever you come across a countryman in a foreign land. It makes you feel less lost, be like a part of the gang, and in general gives a warm, good feeling. Though most solo travelers love to be with themselves, occasionally nearly everybody nice to be in a familiar environment. Wandering around familiar ethnic pockets in the midst of foreign cities is a wonderful feeling and for me (and my fellow Chinese brethren), finding this comfort is quite easy. Nearly every major city in the world has a Little India and Chinatown and I find plenty of comfort in their spice-laden lanes. Of all these little slices of home that I have visited, Singapore Little India has struck me as most charming and it is definitely drop dead photogenic.
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Did you know that Singapore Little India streets are named after the early Eurasian settlers?
Spicy aroma of curries wafting out of small eateries, glimpses of kaleidoscopic sarees, the fragrance of incense and jasmine, and blasting of Bollywood songs are typical Singapore Little India sights and sounds. A historic district with great food culture and incredible shopping, Singapore Little India happens to be on every visitor’s itinerary and this buzzing area is popular among photographer’s too. Originally an area belonging to the Europeans and Eurasians community of Singapore, many country houses and a race course had once occupied this area. Till today, numerous roads of this district are named after its early colonial settlers who used to own them as their private tracks.
From brick kilns to an exotic ethnic pocket
With the passage of time, brick kilns run by Indians began to operate there and that heralded the growth of a full-fledged Indian community in Singapore. Little India developed hand in hand with Singapore’s Indian community and today flower-garland vendors, modern eateries, boutique hotels, arts, and culture groups fill its lanes. A vibrant old district full of all sensory excitement and cultural richness, here Bollywood/South Indian film music blares from the shops, incense, spices, and jasmine smell mingle in the air, women bedazzle in bright blingy saris and restaurants toss up incredible arrays of spicy curries. Singapore Little India fresh produce markets display exotic fruits and vegetables and temples get busy in the evenings.
Singapore Little India is a burst of colours
To top it all, recent restoration of old shophouses in bright and pastel shades have resulted in a cinematic effect which is cute, quaint and exotic at the same time. I find Singapore Little India to be an immensely charismatic district; one which makes senses spin, much like India itself. The lively Serangoon Road, which is the backbone of Little India dates back to 1822 and it is also one of Singapore’s oldest roads. The southwestern part of the district is packed with restaurants and shops selling nearly everything from costume jewelry, henna, kumkum powder, incense sticks, spices to coconuts. The shop displays are jaw-droppingly varied and the tight knot of lanes radiating from Serangoon Road is interesting to explore. These thin alleys house some of Singapore’s best street art, mosques, churches, temples and needless to say, are a photographer’s paradise.
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You cannot miss out its gastronomic delights
Singapore Little India is much like India itself. Crowded, action-packed, and moving at a frenetic pace, most of its visitors either love or hate it. But, if there is one thing, which is universally accepted about Singapore Little India, it would be the awesome food found at every nook and cranny. From the fresh banana leaf plated South Indian vegetarian food, North Indian tandoori delights, to local fusion fares like roti prata, fish head laksa, and teh tarik, Singapore Little India is a gastronomical potpourri.
Singapore Little India is a photographer’s paradise
The joy of food excels everything thing else in Singapore Little India. Even the fun of round the clock shopping for electronics, gold, groceries etc at the Mustafa Centre, and the cheap dubious bargains at the Thieves’ Market cannot be compared with it. Only sights like severed goats’ heads and glassy-eyed whole fishes at the Tekka wet market create more impressions due to their shock value. Even the colourful Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple seem to pale in importance, when delicious spicy aromas waft in and mingle with the incense fragrance, creating that quintessential India vibe. Because of its close proximity to the main city and a cool bohemian vibe, many great nightspots are located here with various artists actually calling this area home. With so much going on, there is no doubt as to why Singapore Little India is one of the most visited areas and in my eyes, it this action-packed character which makes the district so endearingly home like. It is indeed a slice of exotic India in the heart of Singapore.
Singapore Little India travel tips
Little India comes alive during Deepawali (usually October or November) and Pongal (mid-January) festivals when the whole area is awash with lights and joyous celebrations. Little India MRT is the closest MRT station. For a comprehensive Singapore Little India food guide, check out this awesome post. For the top things to do, click on this guide or check out the official website for more information.
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