4 minutes reading time Singapore
As a tourist, we often seek to absorb the different cultures – traditions, values, cuisine and festivals – from all the unique destinations. And more often than not, there is more than one culture to learn from and engage with. Singapore, a melting pot of Southeast and South Asia’s diverse communities, is one such location.
Here are some of the cultural experiences that often fly under the tourist radar.
Even though Singapore has a large Chinese community, there is still a dedicated Chinatown in the heart of the city, possibly a souvenir left behind by colonisation. The area is famous for the most authentic Chinese food stalls and several street side stores selling unique trinkets like Chinese calligraphy artworks and jade jewellery. Chinatown is also home to some of the most beautiful Chinese temples, and even an exquisite Hindu temple, paying homage to the diversity harmoniously present in the country.
Haw Par Villa
Another spot to immerse yourself in the values and traditions of the Chinese culture is the Haw Par Villa. The recreational park is adorned with painted sculptures and fascinating murals depicting Chinese folklore and mythology, specifically the “10 Courts of Hell”. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, the Haw Par Villa has countless interesting stories ready to be told. The park occasionally organises events that provide a great opportunity to mingle with the locals and get to know their way of life.
Golden Mile Complex
Situated within a few miles of the city centre, the Golden Mile Complex encompasses all things Thai. From some of the best Thai restaurants to provisional stores and even Bangkok-style marketplaces and discotheques, you will encounter a completely different atmosphere when you enter this majestic building full of charm and flavor. The Songkran Celebrations, or the Water Splashing Festival, for the Buddhist new Year is also celebrated within this building in the month of April.
Home for the Indian and Bangladeshi community residing in Singapore, Little India is top of the list of the most vibrant areas in Singapore, even more so during the Deepawali Celebrations from October to November. With an abundance of Indian flavours, textiles, religious centres and locals always willing to interact, Little India has so much to explore. The district also has its very own dedicated heritage walking trail that is a must for any visitor looking to get an inside look on the culture.
Located amidst the daunting skyscrapers of central Singapore, Arab Street is the best way to get to know the Muslim community in Singapore. Lined with restaurants serving the most delicious Turkish and Malay delicacies, the area also houses the grand Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre. The area is also known for handwoven carpets and intricate glass lamps. Adjoining Arab Street is another interesting alleyway called Haji Lane, where you will find numerous quirky retails stores selling all kinds of locally sourced items and hole-in-the-wall bars with the best live music performances in the whole country.
East Coast and Joo Chiat Roads
A street that stands at the intersection of traditional architecture and modernisation, both East Coast and Joo Chiat Roads are lined with colourful “shophouses” housing some of the best restaurants, bars and unique retail shops. The area is predominantly occupied by the expat community leading to extensive modernisation. However, none of the historical charm, from the unique architecture to the long-standing local delicacies, has been lost. This area is also home to some Michelin Star restaurants that are always the best way to try out the local cuisines.
So, the next time you are visiting Singapore and hope to take away unique souvenirs and lots of cultural knowledge, do be sure to explore some of these hotspots!