The cosmopolitan society of Singapore is home to a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences. Since most of the immigrants that settled in Singapore were a mixture of Chinese, Malay, Indian and European descent, it birthed a multicultural society that is evident to this day. Suffice to say, it is a melting pot of cultures that have shaped most of Singapore’s history. One of the best ways to acquaint yourself with the diverse culture of Singapore would be to explore the cultural enclaves of Singapore, especially if you have just moved to the country. From the bustling Chinatown to the vibrant atmosphere of Little India, these cultural spots will offer you a glimpse into the lively multicultural scene in Singapore.
Cultural Enclaves in Singapore
Once home to Singapore’s Chinese immigration population, this enclave captivates both locals and tourists with its blend of old and contemporary architecture. From its historic temples to its high-rise office buildings, Chinatown is a place filled with sights that are the culmination of the old and new. In addition to the buildings that encapsulate the charms of yesteryears, Chinatown is a nightlife hotspot. There are a number of charming bars, cafes and eateries that you can explore in this area. Interestingly enough, Chinatown is home to a number of religious sites including the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Sri Mariamman Temple and the Jamae Mosque. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple captivates visitors with its rich art and history of Buddhism. It is renowned for capturing Buddhist and Hindu spiritualism in its architecture. A short stroll from there will take you to the Sri Mariamman Temple, which is noted to be the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. And beyond that, on Mosque street is the Jamae Mosque, which was built as a place of worship for Chinatown’s Tamil Muslim population. After immersing yourself in the multi-ethnic cultural exploration of Chinatown, head down to the lively night market to bargain and buy some trinkets that are uniquely Singapore.
To proclaim that Little India is a feast for your senses is an understatement. The culmination of sights, flavours, fragrances, sounds makes Little India take your senses to new heights. The vibrant district is filled with a treasure trove of stores selling everything from traditional garments to intricate, hand-made gold jewellery. Additionally, the district is home to rich Indian delicacies and sumptuous food from different parts of India. During Deepavali, and the days leading up to the Hindu festival of lights, Little India transforms into a bustling area filled with crowded bazaars that sell Indian decorations, trinkets, special festive snacks and many more. One place you can’t miss while you’re here is the Mustafa Centre. The 24-hour shopping centre is a vast complex sells almost everything and anything you would ever need or want. Comprised of six levels, this shopping complex sells electronics, clothing, groceries, etc. In addition to that, there are also a number of services available including travel agencies and money converters. If you’re taking your children here, keep them within eyeshot as it is extremely easy to lose them here.
Arab Street offers an experience like none other with its distinctive Middle Eastern ambience. While sauntering down the alleyways and labyrinth of streets, you will come across numerous eateries serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, stores selling elaborate hand-made carpets, handicraft, and trinkets that reflect the unique culture of the Middle East. Arab Street is most notable for the prominent Masjid Sultan or Sultan Mosque, which sits along 3 Muscat Street. Comprised of massive golden domes and a huge prayer hall, the mosque was initially built for the Sultan Hussein Shah, the first reigning sultan of Singapore. The mosque was recognised as a national monument in 1975 and since then it has become a focal point for the Muslim Community in Singapore. The best time to drop by Arab Street is during Ramadan, which is the Muslim month of fasting. Throughout this period, visitors can peruse the night market and the plethora of food stalls that sell food and snacks of every kind. If you would like to gain a more comprehensive insight into the history of the mosque, consider joining an informative guided tour that takes place every so often. And you don’t have to worry about encountering a language barrier as most of these guides can speak a number of languages including English, Malay, Chinese and Japanese.
Geylang Serai is another place that encapsulates the distinctive culture of the Malay population in Singapore. The former trade emporium is one of the country’s oldest Malay settlements. The colourful and unique past of Geylang Serai is encapsulated in the religious establishments, restored shophouses and various traditional halal eateries that punctuate its streets. The area is also noted to be one of the biggest and busiest wet markets in Singapore. If you would like to treat your palates to some authentic Malay cuisine, then look no further, this place sells everything from Goreng Pisang (banana fritters) to Beef Rendang (braised meat cooked in coconut milk and spices).