Immerse yourself in exotic Indian culture. Inhale the scent of incense and spices as you walk, perhaps picking up a sweetmeat or two as you go by. Get your fortune told or palm read, and decorate your hands with henna tattoos. Little India, centered on the Serangoon Road, seems to open up a gateway into another vibrant, colourful world. Just being here and soaking up the scents, sights and sounds is an experience you’ll get nowhere else in Singapore. Gaze in wonder at the intricate, elaborate carvings of ancient Hindu deities on its temples, namely the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, their beautifully combined colours adorning its gopuram (entrance tower).
Visit too other places of worship in the Little India vicinity, such as the Anguillia Mosque, Central Sikh Gurdwara or Buddhist Sakyamuni Buddha Gaya Temple and see how the different religions live and worship together in perfect harmony.
There are several Hindu celebrations throughout the year during which Little India explodes into a whirlwind of colour and sound. Following time-honoured traditions from the land of their forefathers, these festivals see the Indian community paying homage to deities in full force. Thaipusam is one of the more famous celebrations as even tourists flock to watch devotees carry elaborate, beautifully designed metal or wooden cage-like structures, or “kavadis”. The kavadis are pierced into their bodies and sometimes faces or tongues.
It is a process that takes several days of purification through prayer and fasting before the piercing begin. The festival covers a 3km route from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road, and is often held around January or February. Another popular festival is Deepavali, the festival of lights signifying the triumph of good (light) against evil (darkness). True to its name, Little India comes ablaze with hundreds of oil lamps and everyone comes in droves to shop for the festivities.
A trip to Little India would not be complete without bargain shopping! Head for the Mustafa Centre on Syed Alwi Road anytime of the day or night. Yes, it’s open 24 hours a day throughout the year. Watch your belongings though as it can get pretty crowded particularly on weekends. Whatever you’re looking for, be it clothes, the latest gadgets or even food items, quite likely you’ll find it here at ridiculously cheap prices. Tekka Centre is another place to go. This huge complex also includes a wet market and it seems like you can get anything there. Watch Chinese traders haggling in Tamil – yet again proof of Singapore’s multi-racial charm.
The tourist who chooses to stay in Little India doesn’t need a frilly hotel to complete his stay. Sleeping and waking to the exotic colour and scents outside your hotel room is all you need to complete your stay. The Asphodel Inn, tucked away just behind hustle and bustle of Serangoon Road is a convenient place to rest. Clean and simply furnished, the building itself is located at the corner of a quaint row of shophouses with rooms starting at SGD147 (USD101).
However one hotel that has been getting rave reviews for its superb service and value-for-money rates is the Parkroyal on Kitchener Road. Tuck into its sumptuous international and Asian buffets or enjoy any of its facilities such as the gym or swimming pool. There is even a lounge where you can unwind over a drink and sweet tunes. Cool, relaxing comfort at only SGD100 (USD69), you’ll be ready to jump up and go after a night of restful slumber.
In choosing a hotel, though, location really is everything. The Broadway Hotel Singapore has extremely reasonable prices, beginning at SGD80 (USD55) and is conveniently located near the Serangoon Road area and other attractions as well as the Bugis MRT station. In fact, during Thaipusam you could get a good view of the parade from the convenience (and shelter) of your hotel room.
For around the same rates but in a quaint little pre-war shophouse is the Albert Court Hotel which goes from SGD88 (USD61) a night. Also near the hub of Little India, this boutique hotel provides the few amenities and comforts that you need for a few nights of snoozing as you go about your little adventures. One thing that definitely stands out in this hotel is its elegant Peranakan (Straits Chinese) carvings and motifs featured everywhere in its facade and interiors. Feel as though you’re transported back into old Singapore as you enter the building, but with basic modern facilities. In a word? Perfect!
If you think ‘HarbourFront‘ is just another shipyard area, then you’ll be awestruck at the bustling hub that it has been converted into over the years. Although mainly filled with shipping offices and the Singapore Cruise Centre, what was once the southern-most point of Singapore’s main island is now also home to an immense shopping mall, the VivoCity, which is the largest in the country. Opened in 2006, this colossal world of retail and entertainment is so huge you’ll probably need a day just to walk from one end to the other! With hundreds of stores, mostly international names, it’s as if you’re already halfway out of Singapore.
The Singapore Cruise Centre itself still operates in the HarbourFront and Keppel Harbour vicinity, comprising of two terminals which see almost a million cruise passengers passing through each year. The centre also hosts retail outlets and duty free shopping. This is also where you would be able to take a cable car to Sentosa Island, at the HarbourFront Tower 2. Go up the Jewel Box, an entertainment complex atop Mount Faber with dining and shopping besides the cable car rides. Feel the ocean wind whipping through your hair and drink in salty sea scents – holidaying is always about the simple pleasures after all. One thing’s for sure, nothing beats a view of the harbour at night. Besides a gorgeous sunset, dozens of lights illuminate the area and are reflected in the sea. Picture perfect indeed!
Don’t worry about missing the bus back if you find the pull of shopping too strong here. Considering its distance from the city centre and most other parts of the main island, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to settle down here for the night and then make your way to Sentosa Island the next day, for instance. Warm, cheerful rooms are available at the Harbour Ville Hotel. This charming boutique hotel is strategically located with snug, cosy rooms and warm, personal service guarantees you a good night’s rest. Its rooms, starting at SGD 112 (USD77), are charmingly decorated with all the necessary amenities which will guarantee a pleasant, memorable stay. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the view.