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Singapore, The God of Mall Things

SINGAPORE | Monday, 7 May 2012 | Views [978]

I arrived about mid-morning after a short hop from Penang airport. With roughly 2 days in Singapore, I figure there's no need to take a taxi and rush to my hotel. Singapore is a small place, but it still took 1 hour on the MRT to my hotel in Chinatown. Centrally located for the things I had in mind. Actually, centrally located is a bit redundant considering how small the place is.

At 2.50 Singapore dollors (about £1.25) to Chinatown, the MTR is dirt cheap. This is the last time I'll be using that phrase in Singapore. OK, I know that Singapore is one of the most expensive places in Asia, even food is relatively expensive. I'm like what, you want $2.80 for a piece of bread ... FINE, BUT I WANT MY CHANGE! The extra cost is quite a shock having gotten used to the cheap food and pretty much everything else in neighboring Malaysia.

I hadn't realised Chinatown was the backpacking area of Singapore. There's plenty of dormantories here advertising bed availability. Not that I would have tried the excitement of sharing with potential psychopaths. I'm not impressed with my hotel. I know that property is at a premium and hotels here are expensive, but I figured $102 a night would get me a lot better than a room with a bathroom with broken tiles, a broken shower, badly worn carpets and a "springy" bed.

For lunch, I walk around Chinatown for a bit, found a restuarant that look classy enough to serve veggie food and a bit surprised to end up paying 14 bucks for a plate of rice and another plate of vegetables. 

To my great surprise, there's a Tin Tin shop just a short walk from the Pagoda Street exit of Chinatown MRT station:

My one bag rule and no delivery outside of Asia meant I very sadly left this shop empty handed. Still, I got to browse the shop, bringng back many long forgotten, but happy childhood memories of Tin Tin.

On the same street is a Chinese Heritage Museum. At $10, the admission is quite pricy, but very professional and well presented. Obviously it's all about the history of Chinese people in the country. I was most surprised to learn about the great hardship of the Chinese migrants as well as the continuing poverty that exists even to this day. The bare facts of Singapore is that being one of the highest per capita, richest places on the planet, makes it seem like a poverty-less country. In reality, there's a geat amount if income disparity. A look around the streets of Chinatown, especially in the early mornings and you can see plenty of very elderly ladies and gents trying to scratch a living from collecting rubbish and other items for recycling. If you've ever been to Hong Kong, then you'll know what I mean. Either way, it's truly sad sight. 

Another thing that is becoming noticeable is the constant reminders of the rules. Everywhere are signs about what can or can't be done, and not just signs, but announcements as well. It works rather well, people here are exceedingly polite. Of course, with such harsh penalties for what some would consider to be minor infractions, even I'm resolved to be my best behaviour. So no jaywalking for me. I'll even give any libraries a miss in case I get sushed to death.

According to the tourist map I've acquired, there are 3 shopping malls within walking distance and I simply couldn't resist the call of the malls. This is a really great shop selling DC superhero themed goods. Loved the store and bought this Green Lanturn t-shirt. Actually, it was the store bag that I really liked, so I could have tried to save myself 29 bucks and attemptd to just "bag" the bag.

Guilt-ridden about having spent too much already, I'm resolved to get back onto the tourist loop of Singapore and get the MRT to Raffles Place. I begin by walking towards Cavenagh bridge. These are some pretty cool sculptures on the way:

And the bridge, not sure if anyone still tries to cross with cattle:

The Merlin, symbol of Singapaore. For a country with a supposedly zero tolerance towards drug use, I wonder if the rule was enforced at the committee that came up with the Merlion:

And some pretty nifty looking buildings:

Various sites from the remainder of the walk:

I end my first day back in Chinatown. Grabbed some dinner, while listening to a street performance of Chinese opera:

Here's a map of my walk:

Day 2

Another tourist loop, but this time concentrating on the cultural side and a lot of walking. I start the walk from my hotel to Pagoda Street to grabbed some breakfast. Bun and coffee in hand, I walk down to the end of Pagoda street. These are some of my favourites sights on the way

A stall selling boxes:


A fat cat:

At the end of the street is Sri Mariamman Temple. Here's a picture of the intricately carved roof thingy on top of the main entrances. They sure put cows anywhere:

A scene from inside the temple, I think they were blessing an infant:

Another short walk and I'm at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple:

The guardians at the fron entrance:

Inside the temple:

I head back to Chinatown MRT and take the tube to Little India MRT. No confusion about where I'm headed. Just outside the MRT is something called Tekka Centre. Wasn't sure what it was, but the constant stream of people entering aroused my curiosity. It's some kind of low-end market selling cheap (mainly South Asian) clothing and the usual market stall goods. Plenty of Chinese and South Asian food stalls. The food here is dirt cheap so I grabbed lunch here. Turns out that there's also a meat market, just follow your nose and you'll find it:

With a full stomach, I head down into the main road, Serangoon Road. This place truly is Little India. The street is just rows upon row of small shops/stalls that sell all sorts of Indian items. Most of which appeare to be aimed at locals. Near the end of the road is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, which I just managed to get in (and out before the mid-afternoon closing time):

To round off Little India, I head into Mustafa Centre. Despite the name, it's not remotely related to anything Arabic. More shops, slightly more upmarket than the Tekka Centre, but a nice enough place for a snack and break.

My next destination is Arab street, about 1km walk from Mustafa centre. A pretty looking Mosque on the way, which sadly is no longer in use and up for sale :

Just from the architecture, you'd think this place was just another block with colonial style housing. The scent of Shisha, told me I was nearing my destination. Actually, Arab street is a slight understatement. It should really be called Arab 4 streets (no, that's not a protest movement). Really not much to see here except the grand mosque and even that was hidden behind a lot of construction works.

Still, it was a nice place to chill out and have a coffee. With that, I ended my cultural tour. Sorry Singapore, if I ever come back, it'll only be for the shopping.

Tags: chinatown, little india, sightseeing, singapore


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