João here again, this time writing about Singapore. Constança and I are still on our crazy backpacking honeymoon through Asia and Oceania. We’ve already seen so much and we’re not even half-way through the trip.
Our time in Singapore was brief, yet we got to understand the many reasons why Singapore is such a hot-spot for Millennial travelers. Singapore felt like an oasis in Asia. Despite being a huge, industrial and business-oriented city, most buildings and infrastructure are wrapped in greenery. This gives the area a distinct feeling—one of balance and spaciousness. Indeed, it was the first thing Constança and I noticed.
There are flowers all over. Indoor and outdoor vertical gardens, lakes, and fountains everywhere. Even the tall skyscrapers in the renovated Marina Bay neighborhood made up of futuristic architecture, are embellished with nature. This really is, as they call it, the Garden City. And one can tell there’s been considerable planning and financing behind the urban development. Keeping in mind that the city of Singapore is, in fact, a whole country, it’s fascinating to witness how when real estate is lacking (meaning actual land space), growth happens upwards. And that’s why you see these gigantic skyscrapers that have become the face of Singapore.
However, despite its many tributes to modernity, Singapore has treasured its relatively recent history and roots. Amidst the towering steel and glass buildings, you can still find little corners of local life where the city-state’s pace is as relaxed as if it were a village. The various tight-knit neighborhoods foster a sense of community, which we found particularly apparent in the themes illustrated by Singapore’s street art. We encountered painted scenes that depicted everyday life, such as going to the barber or preparing a meal.
Our favorite areas were Little India and the Arab Quarter. The mix of cultures blended seamlessly with its environment, and the food spec-ta-cu-lar. Not only the way food tastes but also the charm and ambiance of the local eateries. It was definitely worth the visit, despite the brevity of our stay.
There’s much more to Singapore than what you may have seen on Crazy Rich Asians. So we thought we might share with you some of the best things to do in our favorite neighborhoods around town.
If you want to know more about our Honeymoon adventures, read up on how we encountered proboscis monkeys, pigmy elephants, crocodiles, owls and all other kinds of wild animals on our trip to Borneo.
What to do in Little India & the Arab Quarter, Singapore
Indian Heritage Centre is a great spot to learn about the history behind the Indian community of Singapore. You’ll find exhibitions with artifacts and awesome programming here. Check out their event calendar when you're there.
Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is one of the oldest Hindu temples around. It’s colorful architecture and incredible detail will be a feast for the eyes.
Sri Srinivas Perumal Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. You’ll also find small statues of other Hindu deities ready for worship. Remember this is sacred space for many locals, so dress modestly during your visit.
House of Tan Teng Niah is the best place to sneak in a selfie. This villa is super colorful and looks like a psychedelic doll house. But don’t be tricked, this place dates back to 1900 and is one of few remaining Chinese structures in Little India, built during the colonization of Singapore.
Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple is a Buddhist monastery also known as the Temple of a Thousand Lights. Despite being a small temple, this place houses a huge statue of Buddha that’s almost 50-feet high and weighs 300 tons. Impressive.
Abdul Gafoor Mosque is a mosque that’s known for it’s very unique architecture. You’ll notice it’s a mix of styles that you probably won’t find anywhere else due to its Indian, Moorish, and Victorian influences.
Masjid Sultan is an impressive mosque in both architecture and siz. It can accommodate 5000 worshipers. And it’s impossible to miss its golden dome when walking around the area.
Mustafa Centre is the place to go if you’re a shopaholic. This department store is open 24-hours a day. You’ll find anything you need here.
Little India Arcade is an indoor market housed in a building from the 1920s. You’ll find authentic Indian clothing and knick knacks here. If you’re looking for souvenir shopping, this is the spot.
Arab Street and Bussorah Street are the best places to find cheap eats and do some shopping. Definitely get lost here and discover the local fabric stores, casual Mediterranean restaurants, and handmade goods.
Tekka Centre is a busy food market where you can find fresh ingredients as well as local food stands with diverse cuisine. Don’t miss out on the Indian food, you’ll find some cheap deals here for curry and naan bread.
The Banana Leaf Apolo is a nice reasonably-priced Indian restaurant that serves food on freshly cut banana leaves. The staff here was very friendly and we left feeling full.
Komala Vilas is one of Singapore’s oldest Indian vegetarian restaurants. So if you love your veggies, you should definitely give this place a chance. The place is small and usually packed, but you’ll find cheap delicious eats.
Remember there’s much more to Singapore than the photos of those huge skyscrapers you’ve probably seen online. Try taking the less traveled route and have fun discovering the multicultural local life Singapore has to offer!