Although most of Singapore has been touched by modernity, there are some parts which are still in-between – modern and yet traditional, without losing its natural charm to development. One such area is Geylang which at one time was the centre of Singapore’s ethnic Malay community. This area used to be filled with plantations and later, factories, which resulted in a population boom due to the demand for workers.
During its heyday, Geylang was populated by wealthy Malays and Arabs. An attempt to preserve this includes the establishment of The Malay Village and Malay Heritage Centre, both museums showcasing the lives of Malays who used to live in the area before its redevelopment in the 1960s. The heritage centre is located in what used to be the Sultan’s Palace and Yellow Mansion and conducts plenty of Malay cultural programmes and workshops.
A great time to be here would be during the Muslim month of Ramadhan when the local Malays come out to shop, generally at Arab Street near Bugis area, in preparation for the coming Eid. During this period the entire area takes on a festive feel, lighting up in a burst of colour and sound. Quaint little shops selling bolts of cloth and carpets lend an ‘Arabian Nights‘ feel to the area. You can get rather good bargains here too – brightly-hued displays and haggling are only part of the fun! And good food is , of course, available everywhere here. Just drop into one of the many little eateries and enjoy a hearty meal totally worth the trip. A Another must-see here is the beautiful Sultan Mosque, yet another national monument and one still very much used as a place of worship. Visitors are allowed to take a look inside, although do ensure you’re suitably covered.
The southern part of Geylang however, has acquired a rather sordid reputation. Here the day begins just before sunset as Singapore’s red-light district comes to life. However, its popularity is not just for its gambling dens and working ladies (or men). At night, it is a colourful and vibrant area famous for its cheap and delicious food choices, besides budget accommodation for those who have the heart for a bit of adventure. Despite its status, the area is not as rough as in other countries but women would still be safer off in groups.
Accommodation is cheap in Geylang area, ideal for backpackers or young tourists travelling in groups.
At SGD94 (USD64) the Santa Grand Hotel Aljunied Singapore is the perfect budget hotel with plenty of food available nearby almost around the clock. It even has a fitness centre – just in case you don’t want to break your daily exercise routines. Rooms are individually designed without too much fuss, yet with beds cosy enough to jump into at the end of your day.
With even less frills but no less comfort is the Hotel 81 Star just a few doors away. It has internet access too; surely helpful when it comes to uploading all the pictures you’ve taken on your long walks and hikes. You could also tag along on a city tour arranged by the hotel. The rooms which will greet you here – priced at SGD59 (USD40) are simply furnished and a cool shower is all you need before heading to Never Neverland.
As far as budget accommodation in the area goes, though, The Fragrance Hotel Ruby Singapore is undoubtedly a favourite among tourists – more so because of its extremely affordable yet clean and comfortable rooms. Having your bare necessities tended to, combined with the charm and warm hospitality of its staff, will ensure that you enjoy staying here for as long as it takes to get to know Singapore. After all, with rooms starting at SGD47 (USD32) that means you won’t have to worry about exceeding your budget. Just concentrate on enjoying every moment and having a good time in the Lion City!