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Singapore/Bugis

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Sultan Mosque

Bugis and Kampong Glam are districts of Singapore, just to the east of the city center.

Understand[edit]

Bugis has a colorful past. Originally named after the people who prowled in the Straits before the arrival of the British, the area where Bugis Junction now stands was the original home of Singapore's small Hainanese community, famous for their large contribution to Singapore's culinary culture, before they moved to Beach Road in the early 20th century to make use of the docks and seafront. The same area was also home to Singapore's Japanese community before World War II, and was originally populated by girls from poorer parts of Japan who came to Singapore to work as prostitutes. The Japanese community then grew and in their heyday just prior to World War II, they were running many businesses and even had their own school and newspaper. However, the British repatriated all ethnic Japanese in Singapore after World War II, and did not allow any ethnic Japanese to enter Singapore for the next few years, thus spelling a temporary end for the Japanese community in Singapore. (The Japanese came back eventually, but these days they hang out around Robertson Quay.)

For a long time after the war, the area was Singapore's equivalent of Patpong, a red-light district known for its bars and transvestite prostitutes or katies (the anglicized version of the Thai kathoey). However, in 1985 the area was redeveloped with a vengeance, turning it into a sanitized shopping experience for the whole family.

Neighboring Kampong Glam, also known by the name of its main thoroughfare Arab Street, was where Singapore's Arab traders settled in the founding days of the colony, and was also the part of town allocated to the Malays when Raffles drew up his town plan. But here too, the original inhabitants fled in the 1920s as real-estate prices drove through the roof, and today the heart of Muslim Singapore beats in Geylang Serai on the East Coast.

So what's left then? A slice of modern Singapore at its most hyperactive: hundreds upon hundreds of shops and restaurants, several attractive promenades and a bazaar selling the cheapest T-shirts in town. Head here on a weekend to experience Singaporean consumerism at its finest.

Get in[edit]

Map of Bugis and Kampong Glam

The Bugis and Lavender MRT stations on the East-West line are the primary entry points into the district. If arriving by bus from Malaysia, you'll most likely be deposited at either the Queen St bus terminal or Golden Mile Complex, which lie on the edges of the area.

If exiting at Bugis, the key roads are Rochor Rd and Victoria St. Walk north on Victoria St until you spot the golden domes of the Sultan Mosque; turn left here for Arab St, or keep walking north for Lavender MRT. Alternatively, head west on Rochor Rd to reach Little India, within easy walking distance; or head south on Victoria St to return to Orchard Road.

Walking east will also land you to Kallang and Paya Lebar areas.

Get around[edit]

The pedestrian sections of Albert St and Waterloo St make exploring the area On foot a pleasure. Getting to Kampong Glam from Bugis is a slightly longer hike though, hop on any northbound bus on Victoria Rd for a few stops to shortcut the distance.

See[edit][add listing]

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

Except for the odd mosque or temple there are few attractions per se in Bugis. Do as the Singaporeans do and window-shop your way through, stopping for quick eats every now and then.

  • Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho, 178 Waterloo St. Dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. According to legend, wishes made in here come true, which would explain why it's always packed. The procedure goes like this: enter, light some joss sticks, pray for advice about a dilema, then shake a container of cham si(bamboo sticks) until one falls out. Throw a pair of red Jiao. If you get one on the round side and the other on the flat side, get a free matching slip with verses (also in English) explaining the Goddess's advice. Advice is not always given. If it is given, take it to one of the resident soothsayers for their interpretation. Free, although voluntary donations are accepted.  edit
  • Malay Heritage Centre, 85 Sultan Gate, [1]. M-Sa 10AM-6PM. Set on the grounds of beautifully restored Istana Kampong Glam, the site looks gorgeous from the outside but despite some half-hearted attempts at whiz-bang multimedia, the museum inside is rather disappointing.\\ Free entry onto the grounds, $3 for the museum.  edit
  • Sultan Mosque, 3 Muscat St (off North Bridge Rd). 9AM-1PM, 2-4PM daily. Also known as Masjid Sultan and the largest mosque in Singapore, the building is easily identified thanks to its golden domes, but there's not much to see inside. Note that shorts, short skirts or sleeveless T-shirts are not permissible attire, but you can borrow a cloak if needed. Free.  edit
  • Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, 4001 Beach Road. Also known as Masjid Hajjah Fatimah, it is probably Singapore's second most important mosque historically after Sultan Mosque. It was named after an aristocratic Malay woman who donated money to build it. Its design is a mix of local Malay Muslim and colonial British architecture. This minaret tower is also worth a look as it leans slightly off-centre towards the main prayer hall. As with all mosques, revealing clothing should be avoided. Free.  edit
  • Sri Krishnan Temple, 152 Waterloo St. A Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. Right next door to Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho, and there's a steady stream of Chinese visitors hedging their bets by making offerings to the Hindu gods too. Free.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Bugis Junction

Bugis in particular is all about shopping these days!

  • Bugis Junction, 200 Victoria Street (MRT Bugis), [2]. Singapore's teenage haven, built around the restored shophouses of Hylam and Malay Streets, covered with a roof for shopping in any weather. Anchor tenants include department store BHG and the minimalist Japanese home decoration shop Muji (BHG 2F); also check out the ever-surprising fountain in the middle of Bugis Square. The basement has a good selection of cheap to midrange eateries, and the Food Junction foodcourt on the 3rd floor is a cut above the usual.  edit
  • Bugis+, 201 Victoria St (opp Bugis Junction). The latest mall in Bugis, aimed squarely at the same teen market as Bugis Junction and housing more or less the same shops, plus an 9-screen Film Garde [3] cineplex. Latest add-on to this mall is the biggest Electronic Darts Arena in Singapore known as Dartssoul Cafe + Bar (www.facebook.com/dartssoulcafe), fill with 13 boards, cafe and bar in it which is the earliest to open and last to close. bored? Have some games, make some friends, drinks and chill out with the sports on big projector screen. Worth a look at night, when the panels outside pulse and shift in an impressive light show. Houses (at least for now) a unique food court, Ramen Champion, comprising nothing but ramen shops from Japan and that's worth a visit for ramen fans.  edit

Right across Victoria St, Bugis Street no longer has bars and transvestites, but it does have a bazaar (Bugis Village) that sells all sorts of vaguely touristy knick-knacks as well as mass-market streetwear. This is the cheapest place in Singapore to buy T-shirts for family back home, although the quality of those $2 shirts is pretty much what you'd expect. If you haven't sampled tropical fruits yet, take a look at the fruit stalls at the other end.

  • ButtOn Trendy Undies, bazaar, 2nd floor. Sells Singapore's funkiest collection of underwear. How about Hello Kitty panties or a Funky Year of the Monkey thong? All here and more!  edit

If you continue walking straight through Bugis Street, you'll reach the Albert Street and Waterloo Street pedestrian mall. Browse through shops offering Buddhist paraphernalia and take a peek at the two temples on Waterloo St. Keep going straight to reach electronics haven Sim Lim Square and beyond it Little India.

  • Sin Chew Chinese Cultural Products Supermart, 192 Waterloo St. True to the name, this store packs in vast quantities of Buddhas and Confucian deities, glittering in gold, blinking lights and all shades of kitsch. Note the statue of Hotei the "Laughing Buddha" outside — there is a steady crowd trooping up to rub his big belly, hoping to catch some of his good luck.  edit

Like Little India and Chinatown, Kampong Glam has been restored, refurbished and new life breathed into it, bringing back the former colour and vibrancy of the area. Rows of conserved shophouses can be found in Arab Street, Baghdad Street and Bussorah Street. Many of these shophouses have new tenants such as design and IT firms, art galleries, crafts and curios shops, food caterers and restaurants. They blend in with traditional businesses like textile and carpet shops, antiques and handicrafts shops including those selling traditional games, blacksmiths, and shops selling religious items used by Muslims. On Haji Lane, local independent fashion boutiques and quirky little shops offer a unique shopping experience. It has in recent years emerged as a prominent location for both second-hand clothing and trendy street fashion, featuring the works of both local designers and imported wares from Japan and the States.

Kampong Glam is also an area dotted with good restaurants, from Malaysian coffee shops and bakeries to fine modern European dining, like Le Pont De Vie. Many of the stores on Arab Street specialize in batik and silk. Be prepared to bargain.

  • Army Market, Beach Rd (Golden Mile Hawker Centre). Sells surplus equipment from the Singapore Armed Forces. Mostly popular with local soldiers shopping for replacements, but also of interest to low-budget camping enthusiasts or camouflage fetishists.  edit
  • Sungei Road Thieves Market, Sungei Rd (Bugis MRT). This flea market is open daily but is most active on weekend afternoons. It may not be as polished as other flea markets in Singapore but if you look carefully, you might spot hidden treasures in amongst the junk.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Bugis has a wide selection of restaurants catering to every taste. A highlight is the area near Arab Street, which specializes in halal (Muslim) food with quite a few Middle Eastern eateries too, most of which offer shisha water pipes as well. Golden Mile Complex, on Beach Rd, is favored by the local Thai population and consequently serves the cheapest and most authentic Thai food in town.

Budget[edit]

There is a large hawker centre at the intersection of Albert and Waterloo Sts, and plenty of others scattered through the area.

  • Deli Moroccan, 30 Bussorah Street, +65-91215121. Run by a Malay-Moroccan couple, this no-frills eatery serves up the best couscous and tagines in Singapore. Show up early, since service is slow and they tend to run out of the good stuff, and avoid on rainy days since there's very little indoor seating. $15.  edit
  • Golden Mile Claypot Rice, Golden Mile Food Center #01-65 (Beach Road). A humongous claypot bowl packed with rice, chicken and thick dark sauce will cost you just $5, but prepare to wait while they make it. You may want to opt out of the super-salty dried fish if you're not previously familiar with the stuff though. $5.  edit
  • Sajis Indian Food, Blk 261 Waterloo St #01-29, Stall 12. Daily, morning-7PM, closed last Monday of the month. Known for its Indian rojak, deep-fried goodies served with an amazing peanut dip. Halal. Around $3/plate.  edit
  • Zam Zam, 699 North Bridge Rd, +65-62987011. One of Singapore's best-known restaurants for all sorts of Muslim-Malay food. Celebrating their 100th year operation in 2007. Try their legendary murtabak, a type of stuffed pancake eaten with curry, although the nasi briyani spiced rice is also pretty good. $6.  edit

Mid-range[edit]

  • Next Door Cafe, 34 Arab Street. Tu-Th & Sun. 12PM-12AM, Fri & Sa 12PM-1AM. A european style cafe perfect for pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Also offers a wide range of alcoholic & soft drinks. Books, magazines and boardgames also available. Perfect place to chill out for lunch, dinner & any time in between! Place does not exist anymore; not sure if the place has been renamed.  edit
  • Ajisen, 200 Victoria Street, Parco Bugis Junction 01-01. Daily noon-10PM. A Japanese chain offering reasonably authentic Japanese ramen noodles — definitely worth trying if all you've had before are the instant kind. $10/bowl.  edit
  • Sofra Turkish Café & Restaurant, 100 Beach Road #02-42/44 (Shaw Tower), +65-6291-1433, [4]. Somewhat localized but cheap and tasty Turkish treats. $10-20.  edit
  • Diandin Leluk, 5001 Beach Rd #01-67/68 (Golden Mile Complex). Authentic greasy spoon Thai food by Thais for Thais, so steer clear if you can't handle the spicy stuff. The phad thai here is probably both the cheapest and the best in town. $5-10.  edit
  • Sufi Turkish Restaurant, 48 Arab Street. Authentic Turkish cuisine in the heart of Arab Street, Sufi serves up some of the best kebabs in town. Get away from the crowd and ask to sit in the back garden area! Shisha is also available at $12.  edit
  • Le Pont de Vie, 26 Kandahar Street (near Sultan Mosque), +65-62388682. Noon-2PM, 6:30-10PM. This relaxing retro styled shop house serves Mediterranean cuisine, with an unusual twist and good wines at reasonable prices. $29.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Le Pont de Vie, 26 Kandahar Street (near Sultan Mosque), +65-62388682. Noon-2PM, 6:30-10PM. This relaxing retro styled shop house serves Mediterranean cuisine, with an unusual twist and good wines at reasonable prices. $29.  edit
  • Olive Tree, 80 Middle Road Level 1 (InterContinental Singapore), +65-63387600. Serving Mediterranean cuisine, it has seafood and brunch buffets. Nice ambience but prices are a little high. $30 onwards.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

For a district once known by sailors as Boogie Street, modern-day Bugis is woefully short on dedicated places to drink, although you can of course get a cold beer at any hawker centre. Perhaps a better (if non-alcoholic) option is to kick back on one of Arab Street's many cafes with an Arab-style waterpipe (shisha) and a glass of mint tea. Figure on $10 for a pipeful.

  • Blu Jaz Cafe, 11 Bali Lane, +65-62923800, [5]. One of the few places in Kampong Glam that serve alcohol, including a long list of beers, and while food is served as well (pastas and Western-style mains $12-15), the main draws here are the laid-back ambience and the live music, which runs the gamut from rock to jazz. Grab a drink, a shisha and a seat outside on the sidewalk, screened from passing cars by a thicket of greenery, and just chill; or if you want to get your groove on, there's a DJ and dancefloor on the 2nd floor. Very popular on weekends, and on Thursdays there is a somewhat-funny Comedy Night held upstairs - more fun with a group of friends, especially during the audience participation ($10 to get in to Comedy Night.)  edit
  • Cafe Le Caire, 39 Arab Street, +65-62920979, [6]. Daily 10AM-5AM. The Middle Eastern food here is somewhat localized, but comes in generous portions — $15 for the mezze set is easily enough for two — but the main draw is the shisha ($12) and the vast tea menu. The cafe now sprawls across four shophouses and at night sets up tables on sidewalks all around as well, but it can still be hard to find a seat on weekends. No alcohol served.  edit
  • Divine, 600 North Bridge Road (Parkview Square), +65-63964466. Inside the Gothamesque Parkview Square building and offering a collection of 3000 wine bottles stacked 12 meters high, winged waitresses are hoisted up on a rope to fetch the better stuff. Now open to all, but dress to impress. Live jazz most nights, bottles from $80.  edit
  • Next Door Cafe, 34 Arab Street (off Beach Road), +65 6291 1351, [7]. Tu-Su noon-midnight. Low-key cafe with 40 types of beer and good thin-crust pizza. No air-con.  edit
  • Working Title, 48 Arab Street. A cafe with mismatched furniture located right under a Backpacker's hostel. Offers a good variety of craft beers ranging from IPA to stouts but only a limited menu for food. It is probably one of the cheapest establishments in the area where a bottle of beer would be available under $10  edit


Sleep[edit][add listing]

A few hotels are scattered about Bugis and Kampong Glam, with a few backpackers hostel being set-up in the area recently. Although backpackers might wish to head to neighboring Little India for more choices despite being slightly noisier at night.

Budget[edit]

  • Bugis Backpackers, 162B Rochor Road (within Bugis Village), [8]. Well located and run by a former backpacker. But slightly overpriced considering the facilities, and the staff can be a bit rude. Dorm bed $25.  edit
  • Pillow.talk Backpacker's hostel, 5 Hamilton Road (7 Mins walk from Lavender Mrt), +65 62925611, [9]. A small, cozy and clean hostel with a exotic and rustic Morrocan design, price include wifi, internet, bed linens, breakfast and locker. we are always glad to share travel experiences. Dorms from $24/bed per person for one night.  edit
  • Cozy Corner Guesthouse, 490 North Bridge Rd, +65-63388826, [10]. A/C. Internet. Dorms $12-$17, rooms $36-60.  edit
  • Royal Backpackers, 67 Jalan Besar Singapore 208814, +65-6299 1912 (), [11]. Clean and friendly.Free internet and Wifi.Hot shower.Air con.Free for child below 6years old and elder person above 65 years old.  edit
  • Sleepy Sam's, 55 Bussorah St (Near Sultan Mosque), [12]. Nice location and very friendly staff. Dorm bed $28.  edit

Mid-range[edit]

  • Beach Hotel Singapore, 95 Beach Rd, +65-63367712, [13]. A 5-minute walk away from the Bugis MRT. Starts at $130.  edit
  • Golden Landmark Hotel, 390 Victoria Street, +65-62972828, [14]. checkin: 1400; checkout: 1200. A comfortable if aging 3-star hotel with a nice pool deck, located next to the Raffles Hospital. $180.  edit
  • Harbour Ville Hotel, 512 Kampong Bahru Road, +65-62712771, [15]. 100 rooms, all equipped with air-conditioning and water heating system, and telephone services. Facilities and services are gym, concierge services and car parking facilities. From SGD 125.00.  edit
  • Ibis Singapore, 170 Bencoolen St, +65-65932888, [16]. Opened 2008, this is the French economy chain's first hotel in Singapore. 538 basic but comfortable rooms. From $121.  edit
  • Park View Hotel, 81 Beach Rd, +65-63388558, [17]. Standard-issue business hotel. The cheapest rooms have no windows. $110.  edit
  • South East Asia Hotel, 190 Waterloo St, +65-63382394, [18]. Cheap and comfortable hotel in Bugis on the Waterloo Street pedestrian mall, a 5-min stroll from Bugis MRT and around the corner from Sim Lim Square. Double: $100, Triple: $118.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • InterContinental Singapore, 80 Middle Rd (MRT Bugis), +65-63387600, [19]. Swanky modern hotel done up in an attractive pseudo-colonial shophouse style, well located in Bugis Junction itself. $380.  edit

Contact[edit]

  • Sun Byrd, #01-21 The Bencoolen, 180 Bencoolen St (opp Sim Lim). Broadband Internet for $1.20/30 minutes.  edit
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