With its beautiful temples, exotic markets and delicious food, Singapore’s Little India neighbourhood is not to be missed. Even if you only have a couple hours to spare you can still see the highlights of this ethnic enclave. This quick walking tour takes about two hours, including time for some shopping and a cup of masala tea, or you could rush through it in one hour.
The easiest way to get to Little India is by MRT. As you exit the station, follow the signs or simply follow the the crowd toward Tekka Centre. This large market immerses you in the sights and smells of Little India and, if you’re hungry, you can fill up on cheap curries and mutton biriyani at its food stalls. On the ground level you’ll also find the wet market selling fresh meat, vegetables and tropical fruit (try the mangoes imported from Pakistan!).
When you’re done exploring the market, exit to Serangoon Road and cross the street to find the Little India Arcade. This cluster of 1920s shophouses has been given conservation status and contains dozens of shops selling everything Indian, such as saris, Ayurvedic medicine and traditional sweets like jalebi and gulab jamun.
Back on Serangoon Road, continue walking south past the little shops that line the street. The bangle bracelets, sandalwood incense, and Bollywood CDs only cost a few dollars and make great souvenirs. Keep an eye out for the parrot fortune tellers who use a trained parakeet to select a tarot card and tell your future. It’s a vanishing art, so the experience is definitely worth a few dollars if you see one.
When the sidewalks fill with vendors selling incense and flower garlands, you’ll know you’ve found the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. As long as you take off your shoes, visitors are allowed to go inside and see the statues and carvings of the Hindu deities up close. Consider leaving an offering for the elephant-headed god Ganesha — he’s “the remover of obstacles” and will make your travels smoother. Photography is permitted inside the temple, please just remember to be respectful of people there to worship.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, take a break at one of the small vegetarian restaurants near the temple. My pick is Suriya Restaurant directly across from the temple on Serangoon Road, which makes delicious masala tea and masala thosai (savoury crepes filled with curried vegetables).
Next, continue walking down Serangoon Road until it intersects with Syed Alwi Road. Take a right and walk one block to Mustafa Centre. This shopping mecca is open 24 hours a day sells everything — if Mustafa doesn’t have it, it probably doesn’t exist in Singapore! In addition to the electronics, Indian spices, gold jewellery and souvenirs, Mustafa Centre has the best money-changers in Singapore and its own travel agency.
When your shopping bags are full, it’s a quick walk from Mustafa Centre to Farrer Road MRT station for quick transportation back to your hotel.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 15th November, 2014.