Singapore’s ethnic quarters

One of the first things you will notice when you are walking the streets of Singapore are their people. Singapore is made up of  a diverse group of people.  The country as of 2012  has 5.312 million people. 62% percent of these people are citizens while 38%  of the people are permanent residents,foreign workers or students.

Chinese make up for 75% of the people, Malay 14% and Indians 9%.With such a diverse group of people, ethnic quarters have formed in Singapore with Chinatown, Little India, Arab street and Kampong Glam, the Malay town. Each quarter is worth visiting to see how these people live, their culture and what they sell in their shops.

Chinatown

Chinatown, nearly every major city in the world has one. With their flashes of red signs and buildings to shrines and dragons to the kitche markets selling trinkets and other typical chinese souvenirs. Freshly cooked aromas of chinese food sizzle in woks, and dim sum sits in bamboo containers waiting for customers to order. Most Chinatowns are similar so why visit one especially in a country that is primarily Chinese like Singapore.

Simple just like I mentioned above Chinatown’s in the world are so vibrant, they lure tourists and Singapore’s Chinatown is no exception. The area also known as Niu Che Shui in Chinese means “Bullock Cart water”. The first thing I recommend would be to soak in the festive ambience by having a meal at one of the brightly coloured shophouses that flank the streets of Chinatown.

Afterwards wander down Pagoda street to Sri Mariaman temple, the oldest and most important Hindu temple in Singapore. Yes, that’s a Hindu temple in Chinatown. This is a very active temple, where Hindu’s come to worship.
 
Make sure to take your shoes off and have a wander around to look at the intricately carved gopuram (statuary above the entrance). Don’t be scared to enter, we contemplated outside the entrance for 10 minutes before entering and no one said anything to us. Then spend the rest of the time strolling around the market.

Other things that maybe of interest but we  did not visit is the Buddha tooth temple, host to the Matreya Buddha and reputedly one of Buddha Shakyumuni’s tooth. To get a better understanding of Chinatown, it may also be worth visiting Chinatown’s heritage museum that brings Chinatown to life.

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Chinatown Market

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Sri Mariaman temple

Little India

Little India, bursts in a riot of colours from the jasmine garlands hanging in the stalls, shop fronts and buildings are painted in shades of yellow, green, light blue and reds. Indians stand in their little shop fronts selling insents, jasmine, spice and brightly coloured saris , traditional dress of India, Bollywood music plays. It feel like being in India itself, but of course much cleaner, with only a few Singaporeans traipsing the streets.

Little India is filled with restaurants serving authentic  Indian food. Apollo Banana leaf restaurant is famous for its fish head curry.  Indians sit in small groups eating with their hands. Not only is the cutlery missing so too are the plates, who needs them when your food is served on a huge, green banana leaf.

Eating at this restaurant is a dining experience.  The fish head is gigantic with its big round  eye , white teeth pointing out, the fish is soaked in a brown curry. You may feel  apprehensive at first but once you try it you will find the fish breaks easily away from the bone. The fish is white and chunky. The curry has a perfect blend of spice. What is so great about Singapore is the food, a real foodies delight.
 
Tekka’s department store is known for its wet market. The market is an explosion of sights, smells and sounds. A real eye opener is seeing stingrays flopping around, turtles crawling over one another as well as a lot of other strange crustacean, shrimps, crabs and exotic fish. Of course most are alive and waiting to be sold to customers.
 
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 Tekka’s wet market

Kampong Glam

Kampong Glam which gets its name from the gelam tree that grew in abundance in the area. In 1822 the area was officially allocated to the Malay and Muslim community.

Singapore’s most important mosque, The Majid Sultan is found here. The present mosque was built in 1928 and features carpets that were donated by a prince of Saudia Arabia. You are able to enter the mosque if you are not dressed appropriately, there are cloaks available for free.

Rows of conserved shophouses, painted in hues of blues, yellow and whites are occupied by trendy restaurants, caterers, art galleries and craft shops along the streets of Bussorah, Baghdad and Kandahar

Arab street is where you will find bales of silk, batik, lace, organza.  It is where you come for carpets, antiques and rattan handicraft to spruce up your homes.

Singapore may lack major attractions but its through its people, its ethnic quarters that make this country come alive. A place you can come and learn what its like to be part of this country.

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