Singapore Fling: Little Arabia

The mosque by day…

And by night – when the streets took on an Arabian fairytale quality
One of the coolest neighbourhoods we visited in Singapore was Little Arabia. I think I loved it so much as it was something a little more unique, having visited many a Chinatown and several Indian neighbourhoods (and India!) before. With a huge mosque as its focal point, the area (known as ‘Kampong Glam’) had rows of streets lined with shophouses, with evocative street names like Kandahar, Muscat and Baghdad.
Similar to Singapore’s Chinatown, some streets seemed a little more ‘local’, like those lined with fabric stores, while others had a bit more of a contrived, touristy feel with ubiquitous souvenirs. Mostly though, the area was charming, particularly as the sun went down, the mosque was lit up, and we dined on delicious Muslim fare (at Sultan’s Cafe Corner) outdoors under palm trees and twinkling lights.
Delicious chicken murtabak

A highlight of the area was hip Haji Lane – aome to cute and highly unique clothing stores, Middle Eastern eateries, pokey stairways leading up to treasure troves of vintage goods, and pavements lined with mats and shisha pipes.


The lane seemed to attract photographers, black-clad arty looking guys, and even teens dressed like Harajuku girls – this was a Singapore a world away from its often conservative image.

The trip definitely opened my eyes to a side of Singapore some people don’t realise is there – one that’s not all about endless shopping malls and skyscrapers, but instead, unique and colourful neighbourhoods with pockets of quirky, cool places, like the Arab Quarter’s Haji Lane and Ann Siang Road in Chinatown. Overall – a great place for a weekend or mini-break!

Singapore Fling: Little India

Visiting Singapore’s Little India was like stepping into a scene straight from the sub-continent, with abundant colour, noise, crowds, chaos, lights, flowers, spices…the area was full of life and reminiscent of our explorations of India a few years back. It actually made me want to go back, despite my love/hate experience at the time.

Being a Sunday, the area was teeming with predominantly Indian (and Bangladeshi and Pakistani) men – supposedly the itinerant workers from the sub-continent head there on their one day off for a taste of home. The atmosphere was festive as it was Deepavali (or Diwali), the Indian festival of lights, so there were colourful banners and neon lights adorning the main streets.

We randomly picked a restaurant for one our all-time favourite dishes – dosais. The restaurant was called Sakunthala’s and was totally packed. It had a frenetic energy as staff buzzed around delivering plate-loads of tasty Indian fare served atop bright green banana leaves. Our masala dosais were suitably massive and very authentic, though a paper dosai (a crispy pancake minus the potato filling) may have been all that was needed to soak up the tasty chutney and sambal accompaniments.

Singapore Fling: Chinatown

During our Singapore long weekend we not only stayed in Chinatown but spent a bit of time exploring its colourful streets, checking out the shops, and of course, sampling the food. The area seemed to consist of several parts – the touristy part hawking souvenirs seen all over Asia (and every Chinatown around the world), the local area with great kitchenware shops and bustling restaurants, and the boutiquey area around and including Ann Siang Road.

Ann Siang Road was loaded with character – from Chinese clan houses to ornate tiles on the exterior of the buildings, to its mix of fashion boutiques and quirkier shops.

One of my favourite shops on Ann Siang Road was Asylum (at no. 22), selling magazines, travel books, lomo cameras and unique homewares. The other was a fantastic bookshop called Books Actually (at no. 5). Along with a great selection of books, the shop housed retro accessories, some cool photography (more lomo action) and there was even a little ‘cat viewing gallery’ – glass windows looking out to a teeny courtyard home to one very pampered looking cat.


We ate dinner at a nearby food centre (like a hawker centre – but a small version) called Tion Shian Eating House. The seafood with crispy noodles we tried was delicious yet the sauce quickly turned the noodles from crispy to soupy. The highlight was a plate of chicken wings accompanied by a red hot chilli dipping sauce and a small lime to suck afterwards if the heat got too much (according to the vendor). The wings were some of the best I’d ever tasted – crispy on the outside with tender meat – and all for the sum of a few dollars.

Singapore Fling

We ate, we shopped, we saw…Singapore! So after asking in a post ‘Is Singapore really boring?’ I’ve decided it’s not – well at least not for a long weekend, it could be a different story if you live there and have seen and done the cool areas to death.

For our four day Singapore fling we stayed in Chinatown at Hotel 1929. A series of old shophouses restored and converted into a boutique hotel, it was definitely cute but was not without its flaws – the rooms are TINY (though we came prepared for that) and the building is in need of some serious soundproofing – all night we heard the roar of cars hooning past and people yelling, screaming and partying literally til the sun came up!

That aside, the decor was retro modern, with a great chair collection in the lobby. The location was also fantastic – the street was lined with brightly painted shophouses and we could walk to other parts of Chinatown, including Ann Siang Road (perhaps my favourite spot of the trip)…