An Afternoon in Little India, Singapore

by Rosemarie John on July 10, 2011

A fantastic shopping and cultural experience!

Immense yourself in rich culture, vivid colours and great bargains as you visit Little India in sunny Singapore. Emerging from a Tamil settlement where raising and trading cattle was its main activity around the 1900s, Little India today is a bustling mini India with anything and everything Indian available to buy. Located to the east of the Singapore River and stretching for miles on Serangoon Road, Little India has many streets that branch out offering more opportunities of a truly vibrant atmosphere.

The best way to get there is by MRT. Take the Purple North-East Line to Little India Station that brings you right smack onto Racecourse Road. Take a right and fill your tummy’s with some of the best Indian food you can find. Get back to the station and take a left into Buffalo Road to start you Little India adventure.

Buffalo Road is filled with vegetable and spice vendors selling their produce at affordable prices, cheaper than most supermarkets. Its a lovely sight to watch locals come out with their shopping cart in tow to get their weekly vegetable shopping done. Towards the end of Buffalo Road you will find yourself on the main Serangoon Road where most travellers find their trinkets. It is also home to the Sri Veerama Kaliaman Temple located at No. 141.

This Hindu temple welcomes visitors and should you wish to witness the daily prayer ceremony called ‘pooja’ the timings are as follows: 5.30am, 8am,12noon, 4pm, 6.30pm and 9pm. If you are going to take photos, it is better to turn off your flash in a sign of respect. Around the temple grounds you will find many vendors selling flowers and offerings for prayers. The Jasmine flower is most popular among Indian folk for it lovely scent.

Some of the key streets that branch out of Serangoon Road are Campbell Lane, Dunlop Street, Upper Dickson Road, Veerasamy Road and Syed Alwi Road towards the end. Mostly every street has something to offer from clothes to accessories and home décor to curios. The best part about shopping in Little India is that $10 goes a long way! Here’s what’s up on offer…

The Little India Arcade located on 48 Serangoon Road offers a huge rage of selections. Here, prices of items are not fixed and a bit of haggling skills are required. The common respected rule for haggling is to ask for at least a 20% discount, but you can try your luck with a 30% discount, sometimes it just does work! The arcade is a two level building of shop-houses dating back to the 1920s. This one-stop shop is filled with jewellery, handicrafts, silverware, silks, Indian clothing, bags, home furnishings and food outlets.

When you’re in the Arcade and need to quench your thirst, make sure to try a Bangladeshi produced mango drink called very aptly ‘Mangolee‘. Its a very sweet drink but on a hot day it flows down your throat so smoothly that you might end up having a second one!

You can also get  traditional Henna done on your arms, hands or legs. Henna has been used since ancient times  to adorn the arms and legs of young women’s during weddings and other cultural ceremonies. Today, its considered trendy body art for all to try. Just remember that for the patterns to come out nice, you will have to keep the Henna paste on for at least a good 30minutes, do not do this if you have no time to spare. Henna stains can last a few days to a month depending on the quality of the paste and individual skin type.

It is interesting to note that Henna has anti-fungal properties and is still used in many countries in the Mediterranean as a preservative for leather and cloth. Henna goes back to the bronze age  with its mention as a hair dye in Indian courts around 400 CE, in Rome during the golden age of the Roman Empire and in Spain during La Convivencia. The thought of something so ancient existing until today is just fabulous!

Little India is also famous for its goldsmiths, fashion boutique’s and small trinket stores that specially offer great bargains within the 10 dollar range.

Visit the Tekka Centre located on the corner of Bukit Timah Road and Serangoon Road for more bargains! Originally a slaughter house for cattle in the 1920s, Tekka was then moved to its current location in 1982 and is considered a landmark in Little India.

The ground floor is part hawker centre offering Indian, Chinese and Malay food while the other side is a wet market selling meat and seafood. The top floor is where travellers can find good buys on casual and dressy clothes minded by both Chinese and Indian shop owners. The only drawback about shopping here is that some parts are exposed to the strong pungent smell of seafood below.

Tekka Centre also sells hardware tools, religious paraphernalia, kitchen utensils, electronics and watches. It has several tailors specialising in clothing alteration and stitching. With $10, you can find your self with a casual top or baggy pants. Tekka is like the Great Singapore Sale with the only difference being that its a Great Sale everyday! For a better feel of where the roads branch out take a look at the Little India Street Directory here.

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