Singapore/Little India

Little India is, as the name promises, the centre for the large Indian community in Singapore. While a rather sanitized version of the real thing, Little India retains its distinct identity without degenerating into a mere tourist attraction and is one of the most colourful and attractive places to visit in Singapore.

Get in

Detail of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple

The North-East MRT line's Little India and Farrer Park stations, near Serangoon Road, are convenient entry points into the area. Bugis station on the East-West line is also within walking distance (see Bugis). The new Downtown line stops at Little India and Rochor.

Getting taxis in Little India can be difficult, especially at weekends. It's best to either book by phone or head to the major roads on the edges to flag one down.

Get around

Little India's main drag is Serangoon Road, which starts at Rochor Canal Rd and continues northward to Serangoon itself. The action is tightly concentrated a few blocks on either side of the road, and can be easily covered on foot.

See

Map of Little India

Little India's primary attraction is the district itself. Here too you can find the gaily painted shophouses that are an icon of Singapore, but now most of the Chinese signs (almost) disappear to be replaced with Tamil, Hindi, Bengali and other Indian scripts. Stores hawk saris and gold bangles, spices and incense waft in from the doorways and Bollywood's latest soundtracks blare from every other alleyway.

Do

The most extreme thing to do in Little India is to join the festival of Thaipusam, held yearly during the full moon in the lunar month of Thai (usually Jan/Feb). Male devotees attach ornate shrines to their flesh with piercing hooks known as kavadi and walk across town in a day-long procession. Female devotees usually just carry a pot of milk on their head and join the procession. The procession starts from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and proceeds to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple at Tank Road.

Around Deepavali, the Hindu festival of light, Serangoon Road is festively decorated (with lights, of course!) and open-air markets are set up to sell Deepavali goodies. Like Thaipusam, the exact date is set by the lunar calendar, but it takes place in October/November and is a public holiday. Near the beginning of Deepavali, the fire-walking festival of Thimithi is held, in which many male devotees walk across a platform of burning coal. Although the actual fire-walking takes place at the Sri Mariammam temple in Chinatown, the procession starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and makes its way to Chinatown early in the morning where the fire-walking commences.

A more low-key event happens every Sunday evening when a half-million workers from the subcontinent throng the streets of Little India to hang out on their day off. Most of the crowd is friendly enough, but inevitably a few get into drunken fights and there's a heavy police presence about to keep an eye on things.

Buy

The central streets of Little India are packed with stalls selling all sorts of Indian goods. Two giant shopping centres, however, are unique not just in Little India but all of Singapore:

Mustafa Centre

The other shopping options in Little India cater more to the Indian market:

Eat

Waiter, there's a fish head in my curry

One speciality of Little India is fish head curry, a uniquely Singaporean dish. It's one of the stranger-sounding and admittedly stranger-looking dishes around: no, you don't eat the head itself, but there's plenty of meat to be found inside as the head in question barely fits on a plate! Cooked so long that it falls apart when poked at, just dig in and pile up the bones on your table. Eyeballs are not eaten, but the Chinese think the connective tissue behind it is the best part of the dish.

There are two types of fish head curry in Singapore, Chinese and Indian. Little India's fish head places unsurprisingly mostly serve the Indian kind, which is usually spicy and hot. Most specialty restaurants are on or near Race Course Rd, conveniently located between the Little India and Farrer Park MRT stations.

The thing to eat in Little India is obviously Indian food. Both southern and northern cuisines are well represented, food is cheap even by Singaporean standards, portions are generous and vegetarians in particular will have a field day. Note that these are authentic Indian places and people around you will be eating the way Indians do, namely by hand it's best to shed your inhibitions and dig in, although cutlery can be provided on request.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

Race Course Rd has some funky pubs and bars. Desker Road is Singapore's dingiest quarter of ill repute and best avoided, especially on Sundays.

Little India has quite a few sarabat stalls offering local drinks, especially teh tarik ("pulled tea", a Malaysian variant of sweet, milky Indian chai), also available in iced. A particularly popular one can be found at the intersection of Perak and Dunlop Rds, next to the mosque.

Sleep

Barbershop sign in Tamil

Along with neighboring Bugis, Little India is Singapore's backpacker district and has many hostels offering cheap lodging, as well as some of the most affordable hotels in town. Note that some of the cheap hotels around Desker Rd cater to the sex trade.

Budget

Hostels

Hotels

Mid-range

Cope


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.