Bugis and Kampong Glam are districts of Singapore, just to the east of the city centre.


Sultan Mosque

Bugis has a colourful past. Originally named after the bloodthirsty race of pirates who prowled in the Straits before the arrival of the British, the area where Bugis Junction now stands was the original home of Singapore's small Hainanese community, famous for their large contribution to Singapore's culinary culture, before they moved to Beach Road in the early 20th century to make use of the docks and seafront. The area was then taken over by Singapore's Japanese community, and was originally populated by girls from poorer parts of Japan who came to Singapore to work as prostitutes. The Japanese community then grew and in their heyday just prior to World War II, were running many businesses and even had their own school and newspaper. However, the British repatriated all ethnic Japanese in Singapore after World War II, and did not allow any ethnic Japanese to enter Singapore for the next few years, thus spelling a temporary end for the Japanese community in Singapore. (The Japanese came back eventually, but these days they hang out around Robertson Quay.)

For a long time after the war, the area was Singapore's equivalent of Patpong, a red-light district known for its bars and transvestite prostitutes or katies (the anglicized version of the Thai kathoey), and was a popular hangout spot for American soldiers on their days off during the Vietnam War. However, in 1985 the area was redeveloped with a vengeance, turning it into a sanitized shopping experience for the whole family.

Neighboring Kampong Glam, also known by the name of its main thoroughfare Arab Street, was where Singapore's Arab traders settled in the founding days of the colony, and was also the part of town allocated to the Malays when Raffles drew up his town plan. But here too, the original inhabitants fled in the 1920s as real estate prices drove through the roof, and today the heart of Muslim Singapore beats in Geylang Serai on the East Coast.

So what's left then? A slice of modern Singapore at its most hyperactive: hundreds upon hundreds of shops and restaurants, several attractive promenades, and a bazaar selling the cheapest T-shirts in town. Head here on a weekend to experience Singaporean consumerism at its finest.

Get in

Map of Bugis and Kampong Glam

The Bugis (East-West and Downtown lines) and Lavender (East-West line) MRT stations are the primary entry points into the district. If arriving by bus from Malaysia, you'll most likely be deposited at either the Queen St bus terminal or Golden Mile Complex, which lie on the edges of the area.

If exiting at Bugis, the key roads are Rochor Rd and Victoria St. Walk north on Victoria St until you spot the golden domes of the Sultan Mosque; turn left here for Arab St, or keep walking north for Lavender MRT. Alternatively, head west on Rochor Rd to reach Little India, within easy walking distance; or head south on Victoria St to return to Orchard Road.

Get around

The pedestrian sections of Albert St and Waterloo St make exploring the area on foot a pleasure. Getting to Kampong Glam from Bugis is a slightly longer hike though, hop on any northbound bus on Victoria Rd for a few stops to shortcut the distance.


Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

Except for the odd mosque or temple there are few attractions per se in Bugis. Do as the Singaporeans do and window-shop your way through, stopping for quick eats every now and then.


Bugis Junction

Bugis in particular is all about shopping these days!

Right across Victoria St, Bugis Street no longer has bars and transvestites, but it does have a bazaar (Bugis Village) that sells all sorts of vaguely touristy knick-knacks as well as mass-market street wear. This is the cheapest place in Singapore to buy T-shirts for family back home, although the quality of those $2 shirts is pretty much what you'd expect. If you haven't sampled tropical fruits yet, take a look at the fruit stalls at the other end.

If you continue walking straight through Bugis Street, you'll reach the Albert Street and Waterloo Street pedestrian mall. Browse through shops offering Buddhist paraphernalia and take a peek at the two temples on Waterloo St. Keep going straight to reach electronics haven Sim Lim Square and beyond it Little India.

Haji Lane

Like Little India and Chinatown, Kampong Glam has been restored, refurbished and new life breathed into it, bringing back the former colour and vibrancy of the area. Rows of conserved shophouses can be found in Arab Street, Baghdad Street and Bussorah Street. Many of these shophouses have new tenants such as design and IT firms, art galleries, crafts and curios shops, food caterers and restaurants. They blend in with traditional businesses like textile and carpet shops, antiques and handicrafts shops including those selling traditional games, blacksmiths, and shops selling religious items used by Muslims. On Haji Lane, local independent fashion boutiques and quirky little shops offer a unique shopping experience. It has in recent years emerged as a prominent location for both second-hand clothing and trendy street fashion, featuring the works of both local designers and imported wares from Japan and the States.

Kampong Glam is also an area dotted with good restaurants, from Malaysian coffee shops and bakeries to fine modern European dining. Many of the stores on Arab Street specialize in batik and silk. Be prepared to bargain.


Bugis has a wide selection of restaurants catering to every taste. A highlight is the area near Arab Street, which specializes in halal (Muslim) food with quite a few Middle Eastern eateries too. Golden Mile Complex, on Beach Rd, is favoured by the local Thai population and consequently serves the cheapest and most authentic Thai food in town.


There is a large food hawker centre at the intersection of Albert and Waterloo St, and plenty of others scattered through the area.




For a district once known by sailors as Boogie Street, modern-day Bugis is woefully short on dedicated places to drink, although you can of course get a cold beer at any hawker centre. Until 2014, the area was well known for Arab-style water pipes (shisha), but these have now been banned in all Singapore, will all current shisha licenses set to expire by mid-2016.


A few hotels are scattered about Bugis and Kampong Glam, although backpackers might wish to head to neighbouring Little India instead.





Go next

For more culture, head to Chinatown or Little India. More upmarket shopping can be found at Orchard Road and Marina Bay. You can also visit the Nature Reserve or the Singapore Zoo at the north and west of Singapore. Also, you can visit Johor Bahru by bus 170 or Causeway Link at Queen St Terminal.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.