It’s to the benefit of Singapore that it contains completely different cultures within reach of a train ride. Walking tourists can thus experience a little bit of Asia all within one island. Such a great example would be the community of Little India.
Little India started off as the designated community for Indian laborers and immigrants under the urban planning of Sir Stanford Raffles back in the 19th century. Although the Indian populace is longer required to reside in this area, efforts have been made to keep the cultural heritage of this place alive. Little India is now the focal point of the Indian community of Singapore, and the last area where many of the traditional trades and practices still thrive.
The best place to start your walk is right off Little India MRT station at Exit C, facing Bukit Timah Road. A few shops down the path and you will see Tekka Market, a wet market that provides for the daily needs of the residents in the area. Along Dunlop Street is the Masjid Abdul Gapoor, a mosque that is fitted with a sundial at the entrance.
In Campbell Lane, you can see one of the oldest traditional trades, the flower garland shops. Here, vendors thread garlands (or jothi) of jasmine, marigolds, and roses, symbolizing purity, peace, and love respectively. These garlands are mostly use by religious devotees for enhancing the feet of temple statues, though some women also adorn themselves with these fragrant items.
For a throwback of times past, visit the corner of Cuff Road for the last traditional spice grinders. Here, the practice of spice grinding for use on the same day is still upheld, to impart their full flavor on food. Keep in mind that the store is open from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm, and is closed on Mondays.
Finally, cross Serangoon Road over to Sri Veerkamakaliamman Temple, the first of its kind to venerate Kali, the Goddess of Power. Built as early as 1855, the temple’s main shrine is a jet-black statue of Kali, flanked by her sons Ganesha and Murugan. Tuesdays and Fridays are the holy days when the activities are at its most spectacular. These are the best time to visit, but make sure to enter barefoot.
If you can still have the time or energy, visit Mustafa Centre, a modern shopper’s paradise, along Syed Alwi Road. It’s floor upon floor of endless merchandise, and best of all, it’s open 24 hours.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your walk around Little India:
*Dress modestly, especially if you’re planning to enter a place of worship.
*The best day to visit is during weekdays, and in the morning when the day is cooler. The best time to visit is during Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, colorfully celebrated during October/November. Another good date is January/February during Thaipusam. There, you can see devotees walk with kavadis (semi-circular wooden or metal arches with elaborate peacock feathers, tinsel, and flowers) pierced to their bodies with spikes and hooks.
*Allow for half a day to thoroughly enjoy the Little India experience.
*Get a henna tattoo. Try the Teh Tarik, a hand-pulled tea concoction with a bubbly froth from a special aeration process.
*Taste the Thosai, a pancake made of rice flour; Samosa, a triangular-shaped snack filled with potatoes, or Thairu, which is essentially yoghurt.
*For those interested in a guided tour, try Dhobis, Saris & a Spot of Curry.
Every Wednesday, 9:30 am- 12noon
Meeting place: Little India MRT outside Exit E (Buffalo Road)
SGD 25 Adults, SGD 15 Children 12 years & below
*If you prefer an audio tour, Desire Paths provides a 45-minute experience at your own pace. Headphones, discman and interactive CD-ROM cost SGD 18 per set.
Call 6329 1772, visit http://www.spell7.net, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for individual or group purposes, from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am to 430pm. You can pick up and return audio sets at 65 Kerbou Road.
You might also want to read our Singapore Walking Tours in Chinatown and Kampong Glam. For more details, visit http://www.singaporewalks.com or call (65) 6224 0136 and reserve your Singapore hotels online through AsiaHotels.com.