While Chinatown and Little India are so big they have their own MRT station, Singapore does have other, less obvious ethnic neighbourhoods. Migrant workers from nearby countries like Thailand, Burma, the Philippines, and Indonesia all have their own enclaves where they go for a taste of home on their weekly day off (that’s right, just one).
Singapore’s “Little Thailand” is located in the Golden Mile Complex and, walking past the spirit house in the parking lot and into this multi-purpose mall, it’s easy to forget which country you’re in. From the obviously Thai faces to the clacking heels of lady-boys to the smell of fish sauce in the air, Golden Mile has the sights, sounds, and smells of the kingdom covered.
If you like Thai food you’ll be in heaven — seemingly more than half the shops in Golden Mile are dedicated to food and the restaurants are the real deal right down to the portraits of the royal family on the wall.
Try the Nong Khai Beer House for the spicy salads and dips of the northeast Isaan region washed down with big bottles of Singha. For more of a proper restaurant atmosphere Diandin Leluk is your best choice. Classics like tom yam goong, green curry, and larb come in big portions perfect for sharing, while one-plate dishes like pad Thai or basil chicken are a bargain at S$5. Many of the restaurants, Diandin Leluk included, have a take-away counter selling everything from packets of sticky rice and mango to skewered grilled fish.
For DIY cooking a supermarket on the 2nd floor specialises in imported Thai ingredients. This is the place to stock up on MaMa noodles, durian candy, massaman curry paste, and pink Fanta. There’s also a great produce section with Thai fruit, veggies, fresh herbs, and lots of seafood at lower prices than most Singaporean supermarkets. The store’s name may be “Thai Supermarket” but they also carry products from Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia.
Though there’s more to Golden Mile than just food, most of the merchandise will be of little interest unless you can speak Thai. Small shops sell Thai magazines and newspapers, the CDs and DVDs are in Thai, and the mobile phones for sale even have Thai letters on their keypads. If you have leftover Thai baht you can get a good rate at the money changers and you can get an authentic Thai massage at one the salons (from S$40 per hour).
Golden Mile is also noted for its nightlife with people coming to drink themselves silly at the Thai-style discos. The Thai beer and whiskey they serve are cheaper relative to the high prices at most Singapore bars, but many of the bars are quite seedy – use your discretion. The biggest party of the year is in mid-April during Songkran – the Thai New Year holiday – when the whole mall breaks out into an indoor water fight.
If this taste of Thailand has made you crave the real thing you’re in luck — Golden Mile is also a hub for international bus travel. Travel agencies like Five Star Tours have offices here and VIP coaches depart from outside Golden Mile to Malaysia and onward to Thailand.
Golden Mile isn't particularly close to any SMRT stations -- the closest are Lavender to the north and Nicoll Highway to the southwest, but are each a solid 30 minute walk away -- get a bus or taxi.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 1st May, 2015.