Detail of the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple
Little India is, as the name promises, the centre for the large Indian community in Singapore. While a rather sanitized version of the real thing, Little India retains its distinct identity without degenerating into a mere tourist attraction and is one of the most colourful and attractive places to visit in Singapore.
The North-East MRT line's Little India and Farrer Park stations, near Serangoon Road, are convenient entry points into the area. Bugis station on the East-West line is also within walking distance (see Bugis).
Getting taxis in Little India can be difficult, especially on weekends. It's best to either book by phone or head to the major roads on the edges to flag one down.
Little India's main drag is Serangoon Road, which starts at Rochor Canal Rd and continues northward to Serangoon itself, where it ends at Punggol. The action is tightly concentrated a few blocks on either side of the road, and can be easily covered on foot.
Little India's primary attraction is the town itself. Here too you can find the gaily painted shophouses that are an icon of Singapore, but now most of the Tamil signs (almost) disappear to be replaced with Hindi, Bengali and other Indian scripts. Stores hawk saris and gold bangles, spices and incense waft in from the doorways and Bollywood's latest sound tracks blare from every other alleyway.
- Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, 141 Serangoon Road, . Little India's busiest and oldest temple, dating back to 1881 — although the present structure was completed in 1986. The temple is particularly busy on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Be sure to take your shoes off before venturing inside. Free.
The most extreme thing to do in Little India is to join the festival of Thaipusam, held yearly during the full moon in the lunar month of Thai (usually Jan/Feb). Male devotees attach ornate shrines to their flesh with piercing hooks known as kavadi and walk across town in a day-long procession. Female devotees would usually just carry a pot of milk on their head and join the procession. The procession starts from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and proceeds to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple at Tank Road.
Around Deepavali, the Hindu festival of light, Serangoon Road is festively decorated (with lights, of course!) and open-air markets are set up to sell Deepavali goodies. Like Thaipusam, the exact date is set by the lunar calendar, but it takes place in October/November and is a public holiday. Near the beginning of Deepavali, the fire walking festival of Thimithi is held, where many male devotees will walk across a platform of burning coal. Though the actual fire walking takes place at the Sri Mariammam temple in Chinatown, the procession starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and makes its way to Chinatown early in the morning where the fire walking commences.
A more low-key event happens every Sunday evening when a half-million workers from the subcontinent turn up in Little India to hang out on their day off. Most of the crowd is friendly enough, but inevitably a few get into drunken fights and there's a heavy police presence about to keep an eye on things.
The central streets of Little India are packed with stalls selling all sorts of Indian goods. Two giant shopping centres, however, are unique not just in Little India but all of Singapore:
- Tekka Market, 665 Buffalo Rd. Little India is a cacophony of car horns, bicycle bells and the vibrant chatter of its residents. This explosion of sights, smells and sounds in Tekka Market is only a short walk from Little India MRT Station. Tekka (as it is locally known), has a plethora of stalls selling Indian, Malay and Chinese food that draws crowds from all over Singapore. There’s also a wet market stocked with the freshest vegetables, meat, fish, spices and flowers. Also available are souvenirs such as brass oil lamps and pots, or fresh garlands of jasmine, whose scent is the signature aroma of Little India.
- Tekka Mall (The Verge), 2 Serangoon Rd. Little India's first and only modern air-conditioned shopping mall, and rather soulless when compared to the bustle outside. In the process of being re-branded as the IT-oriented The Verge in a bid to compete with Sim Lim, just around the corner. The adjoining Foodmore food court is not bad if you want something other than Indian food. One can also find a comforting ayurlly massage parlour at the fifth floor. A supermart at the basement and a travel agency on the second floor. Plus, many more shops catering to all interests. Fast becoming a place to go shopping.
- Mustafa Centre, 145 Syed Alwi Rd (off Serangoon Rd near Farrer Park MRT), ☎ +65 6295 5855, . Singapore's supreme discount department store: floor after floor of absolutely everything at rock-bottom prices, ranging from Rolex watches and washing machines to fresh mangoes, bags of lentils, tailored suits and airline tickets. Open 24 hours; the exchange counters in front are probably the best place in Singapore to exchange any currency you can think of (and many you can't) at competitive rates. Mustafa Centre also offers travel, hotel reservation and visa assistance services. Note: There are now many mini-Mustafa outlets scattered along Serangoon Rd, but the original and by far the largest is the one facing Syed Alwi Rd.
- Sim Lim Square, 1 Rochor Canal Rd, . Not actually in Little India but right across the street, Sim Lim is Singapore's Akihabara, a giant electronics mecca squeezed into one building, with hundreds upon hundreds of tightly packed specialist stores offering some of the most competitive prices for computers and consumers electronics in Asia; however, a fair number of stores are also of questionable legitimacy so buyers beware. The first floor is for tourists, the upper floors and the back corridors are where the real deals can be found. In general avoid the first and second floor shops as they have a tendency to grossly overcharge tourists. Watch out for pricing tricks (omitting tax, selling included accessories separately and similar misleading or deceptive tactics) and the occasional outright substitution fraud; unless you know exactly what you're doing and/or need something unusual, you might want to shop at Mustafa instead. The third floors and above are the real haven for computer geeks looking for cheap bargains and to upgrade or put together a system. Sim Lim Tower, just across the street, also has a few shops but pales in comparison sizewise.
- City Square Mall, 180 Kitchener Road (North East Line - Farrer Park), . A first eco-friendly shopping mall in Singapore. Offering a wide array of value-for-money merchandise and services, exciting promotional activities, street fare as well as international cuisine, City Square Mall is envisioned as a miniature 'town-centre' which provides the perfect setting for the community to meet, play and shop while acquiring an eco-learning experience.
The other shopping options in Little India cater more to the Indian market:
- Little India Arcade, Campbell Ln. A narrow pathway through a cluster of restored shophouses, filled to the brim with Indian clothing, accessories, incense and a rather good Indian sweet shop at (#01-16).
- Naranjan Electronics, 154 Race Course Rd (Farrer Park MRT). Small shop for basic electronics like digital cameras and mobile phones, with bargain-basement prices. Please note the rock bottom prices comes with no 'warranty' or 'service' what so ever. Many of items are not for sale in Singapore. So try to check your goods before you leave though, as these guys have a strict (and theoretically illegal) no-returns-whatsoever policy.
Waiter, there's a fish head in my curry
One speciality of Little India is fish head curry, a uniquely Singaporean dish. It's one of the stranger-sounding and admittedly stranger-looking dishes around: no, you don't eat the head itself, but there's plenty of meat to be found inside as the head in question barely fits on a plate! Cooked so long that it falls apart when poked at, just dig in and pile up the bones on your table. Eyeballs are not eaten, but the Chinese think the connective tissue behind it is the best part of the dish.
There are two types of fish head curry in Singapore, Chinese and Indian. Little India's fish head places unsurprisingly mostly serve the Indian kind, which is usually spicy and hot. Most speciality restaurants are on or near Race Course Rd, conveniently located between the Little India and Farrer Park MRT stations.
The thing to eat in Little India is obviously Indian food. Both southern and northern cuisines are well represented, food is cheap even by Singaporean standards, portions are generous and vegetarians in particular will have a field day. Note that these are authentic Indian places and people around you will be eating the way Indians do, namely with their hands — it's best to shed your inhibitions and dig in, although cutlery can be provided on request.
- Countryside Cafe & Bar, 71, Dunlop Street (Opp. Sim Lim Tower, road leading to the Bar.), ☎ +65 6292 0071. A cosy, reasonably priced Bar and cafe offering International Beers, Wines, Hard Liquor, Cocktails and soft Drinks and a range of Western, Indian, Japanese, Thai and Local food.
- Selmor Restaurant, 48 Serangoon Road, Little India, 217959. A cheap Indian restaurant with great food and service. Large Tiger Beer $5. The cheese prata is excellent and so fresh. Hmmm Budget.
- Khansama tandoori Restaurant, 166 Serangoon Road Junction of Norris Road Rd, ☎ +65 6299 0 300 (fax: +65 6775 0 300), . Vegetarian & Non Vegetarian authentic Indian Food Caters Singapore's Most Famous and Most Crowded Restaurant Serves Tandoori Vegetarian and Non vegetarian Dishes namely Tandoori Chicken, Kebabs, Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer, Garlic Naan Bread, Mango Lassi, Mutton Rogan Josh, Garlic Prawns etc INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SEATING Very Lively Atmosphere. Recommended by many tourists and locals open until midnight 12.30 DELIVERS ALL OVER SINGAPORE UNTILL 1.00 AM . $ VALUE FOR MONEY.
- Jaggis North Indian Cuisine, 34 Race Course Rd, ☎ +65 296 6141 (fax: +65 296 0780), . Caters to meat-eaters too with a selection of tandoori dishes. Set meals available, or mix and match at the counter. $3 and up.
- Jungle Tandoor Restaurant, 102 Serangoon Road Junction of Cuff Road, ☎ +65 6299 0 400 (fax: +65 6775 0 300), . Vegetarian & Non Vegetarian authentic Indian Food Singapore's Most Famous and Most Crowded Restaurant Serves Tandoori Vegetarian and Non vegetarian Dishes namely Tandoori Chicken, Kebabs, Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer, Garlic Naan Bread, Mango Lassi, Mutton Rogan Josh, Garlic Prawns etc INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SEATING Very Lively Jungle Atmosphere. Recommended by many most of the dining guides . $ VALUE FOR MONEY - unique air conditioned jungle theme.
- Kasturi Restaurant, 1 Roberts Lane, ☎ +65 6299 5510. North Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani cuisine, meals from $2 upwards.
- Komala Vilas, 76-78 Serangoon Road (and other branches around town), ☎ +65 6293 6980, . 11:30-22:30. A Singaporean institution featuring purely vegetarian Indian food. Downstairs is fast food, head up for restaurant-style seating and serving. Sets start at less than $3 and even the largest platter of breads and dips will cost less than $7. Note that gourmands prefer the original outlet over the many franchised fast-food copies, and that not all dishes are available all day. South Indian set meal upstairs is $6.50 with top-ups. Also, check out Komala Vilas outside Ferrar Park MRT close to Mustafa.
- Saravana Bhavan, 84 Syed Alwi Rd, ☎ +65 6297 7755, . 08:00-23:00. The Singapore branch of a restaurant chain from Chennai, serving up vegetarian Indian food. Get a massive set lunch for $4.80 or just order your favourites for a few dollars a piece. Try the rava dosa, a steal at $2.60.
- Sagar Ratna, 103 Syed Alwi Road (just across from Mustafa Cafe). Opened in the second half of 2005. Franchisee of a South Indian restaurant from Delhi, and serves up decent fare for reasonable prices. Set meals ($5-7) are good value, ordering a la carte will cost you more. The rasam (spicy lentil soup) in particular never fails to impress. Strictly pure vegetarian.
- Banana Leaf Apolo, 54-58 Race Course Rd. 10 AM-10 PM daily. A well-known place for all sorts of South Indian food; no prizes for guessing what serves as the plate. Most visitors come here for the fish head curry, even the "small" size is enough for 3-4 and will cost you $18, plus $2.50 a head for rice, pappadams and dips.
- Khansama, 166 Serangoon Road, ☎ +65 6299 0300. Cheap coffeeshop-style eats downstairs (under $5) and a midrange A/C restaurant upstairs (mains $5-10). Generous portions if you don't mind their touts. Best known for its tandoori dishes and a wide selection of chaat appetizers.
- Khansama tandoori Restaurant, 166 Serangoon Road Junction of Norris Road Rd, ☎ +65 6299 0 300 (fax: +65 6775 0 300), . Vegetarian & Non Vegetarian authentic Indian Food Caters Singapore's Most Famous and Most Crowded Restaurant Serves Tandoori Vegetarian and Non vegetarian Dishes namely Tandoori Chicken, Kebabs, Chicken Tikka Masala, Palak Paneer, Garlic Naan Bread, Mango Lassi, Mutton Rogan Josh, Garlic Prawns etc INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SEATING Very Lively Atmosphere. Recommended by many tourists and locals . $ VALUE FOR MONEY.
- Lagnaa, 6 Upper Dickson Road (East off Serangoon Road, on the Southern side of the street), ☎ +65 6296 1215. Delicious Indian food from a very friendly owner. Upstairs is barefoot only with a very relaxed atmosphere. Offers cooking courses and also a "slave" deal: work for 3 hours to have one wish granted. Not especially cheap or authentic, but seen as fun and good for backpackers. Try the rum-chai. Mains around S$9 (a la carte).
- Muthus Curry, 72-78 Race Course Rd. 10:00-22:00 daily. Muthu's has a respectable claim to coming up with the idea of fish head curry; now run by the founder's son, this shop continues to draw the crowds. Fish head $16-25 (serves 3-4).
- Delhi Restaurant, 60 Race Course Rd (2nd branch on Serangoon Rd). Offers a more upmarket experience with vested waiters and a stack of awards posted on the wall. The menu features northern Indian food and has non-vegetarian selections as well; order a couple of Kingfisher beers to get pappadam with an excellent mint dip on the house. $30.
Race Course Rd has some funky pubs and bars. Desker Road is Singapore's dingiest quarter of ill repute and best avoided, especially on Sundays.
Little India has quite a few sarabat stalls offering local drinks, especially teh tarik ("pulled tea", a Malaysian variant of sweet, milky Indian chai), also available in iced. A particularly popular one can be found at the intersection of Perak and Dunlop Rds, next to the mosque.
- Prince of Wales Backpacker Pub, 101 Dunlop St, ☎ +65 6299 0130, . Brightly painted Australian corner pub/hostel transplanted in Singapore, with Gippsland Gold draught beer shipped in, near-nightly live music and fun theme nights (eg. free drinks for guys in skirts). Drinks around $10 (half price for in-house guests), dorms S$18, Private rooms with windows & private bathroom $60 aircon.
Along with neighbouring Bugis, Little India is Singapore's backpacker district and has many hostels offering cheap lodging, as well as some of the most affordable hotels in town. Note that some of the cheap hotels around Desker Rd cater to the sex trade.
- ABC Premium Hostel, 91A, 93A & 95A Owen Road (1 min Walk from MRT Farrer Park station EXIT D), ☎ (+65) 6298 9390 ([email protected]), . Includes free breakfast, Wi-Fi and locker. A quality backpackers hostel in the area. Extra comfort, great location, super clean and friendly staff. Dorms from $20/pax,.
- 1 Bedroom Private Rental (Can accomodate up to 4 guests), . checkin: 1:00 pm; checkout: 12:00 pm (noon. This budget room rental can accommodate up to 4 guests and is located just 5 minutes walk from the MRT station. There is also a public park and gym in the vicinity. You can do some light cooking in the shared kitchen. 53 USD.
- [email protected] Hostel, 15 Upper Weld Road (10 min Walk from MRT Little India exit C), ☎ +65 6262 2862, . Includes free breakfast, Wi-Fi and locker Dorms from $29/pax,.
- G4 Station Backpackers Hostel, 11 Mackenzie Road (3 min stroll from MRT Little India exit A), ☎ +65 66334 5644, . All prices are nett. & Booking through via site is even cheaper! Includes simple breakfast, free usage of PCs, Wi-Fi and lockers. Very clean with luggage storage and movie screenings and Nintendo Wii. Walk-in rates for dorms: $40/pax,.
- Ali's Nest, 23 Roberts Lane (off Serangoon Road, near Farrer Park MRT), ☎ +65 62 91 29 38, . Possibly the cheapest hostel in Singapore, but for a reason: some travellers complain of bedbugs. No sign outside so look for the number. Price includes breakfast of toast and tea/coffee. Ali is helpful and well travelled. rooms $20-30.
- Empire Residences, 202A Syed Alwi Road (corner of Jalan Besar), ☎ +65-91009123 ([email protected]), . New hostel located at the northern fringe of Little India, near Mustafa but rather far from the MRT. Free Wi-Fi and breakfast. Dorm $22-$35, single $80 up.
- Fragrance Hostel, 63 Dunlop Street (2nd block East of the intersection with Clive Street), ☎ +65 6295 6888 ([email protected]), . A new and clean, if slightly crowded, backpacker hostel/hotel. Rooms are 6 bunk dorms, but all have aircon. A member of the Fragrance Hotel Chain, which has branches of differing levels all around the city. Only a short walk from Little India MRT station, and right in the middle of Dunlop Street and the engaging madness of the Little India district. Dorm $20.
- Hangout @ Mt.Emily, 10A Upper Wilkie Road (7 min uphill from MRT Little India exit A), ☎ +65 6438 5588, . No frills, just fun, proclaims the recently renovated Mt. Emily Hostel. Sparkling clean primary colors and IKEA furniture make the rooms feel more like Oslo than Singapore. Free internet PCs, rooftop bar, laundry facilities, and lockers. Breakfast is certainly nothing special but rooms are clean and pleasant. It requires a walk down the hill and through a nice park to get to the MRT station or visit shops and restaurants. Dorm $40, doubles $120.
- The Inn Crowd, 73 Dunlop Street, . A friendly backpacker hostel with an excellent website. They run a free kick-scooter tour around Singapore, which is a great way to see some of the central districts of the city. Prices include breakfast and internet access. Dorm $20, double $59.
- Pass By Bed and Breakfast, 245 Jalan Besar, ☎ +65 6396 0812, . Nice, clean and friendly staff. All rooms have aircon. Free simple breakfast and internet. Be warned: the mattresses are covered in plastic, with a sheet on top. Dorm $18, twin $45.
- Prince of Wales, 101 Dunlop St., ☎ +65 6299 0130, . Free breakfast, wifi, and lockers. A hostel that also serves as a bar. The accompanying bar has a party almost every night and a beer garden with live bands. It can get a little loud but if you're the wild type it's perfect. Dorm $20, Double $40.
- Ambassador Hotel, 75 Desker Rd, ☎ +65 6392 3944, . Self-proclaimed charming boutique hotel, but it's smack dab in the middle of Singapore's dodgiest red-light district. Dingy inside - part of the same chain as Aspinals and Claremont. $90.
- Aspinals Hotel, 83 Syed Alwi Rd, ☎ +65 6392 3944, . Budget hotel near Mustafa. $90.
- Claremont Hotel, 301 Serangoon Rd, ☎ +65 6392 4855, . checkin: 02/04/2012; checkout: 05/04/2012. Recently renovated mid-range hotel, around the corner from Mustafa. $90.
- Penta Hotel, 33 Birch Rd (Farrer Park MRT), ☎ +65 6299 6311. checkin: 02/04/2012; checkout: 05/04/2012. Rooms have A/C and the location near Mustafa and the MRT is fairly good. $70.
- Shing Hotel, 165 Kitchener Road, ☎ +65 6291 2565, . Basic but adequate accommodation within striking distance of Mustafa — and Desker Rd. $40-70.
- Tekka Boarding Service, 462 Serangoon Rd, ☎ +65 6297 5038. Brand-new hotel promising minimalist design and maximum comfort. The prices certainly are among the cheapest around. $35/45 single/double.
- Tekka Hotel, 22 Belilios Ln, ☎ +65 6225 3378, . No-frills hotel in the heart of Little India. Internet connectivity in rooms. Cockroaches aplenty. $59/69 single/double.
- Royal India Hotel, 88 Syed Alwi Rd (opp Mustafa), ☎ +65 6297 7488, . Another cheap hotel that's perhaps a small cut above the rest — their website advertises "homogenous tiles flooring", and offers discounts for advance booking. $100.
- Albert Court Village Hotel, 180 Albert St, ☎ +65 6339 3939, . Tastefully converted from pre-war shophouses, this boutique hotel is located diagonally opposite the Little India MRT Station, a block from Sim Lim Square and right beside the newly opened Lasalle College of the Arts. $120.
- Parkroyal on Kitchener, 181 Kitchener Rd, ☎ +65 6428 3000, . Probably the most upscale hotel in the neighborhood, 5 minutes from Mustafa and the Farrer Park MRT. Good value if you're willing to pay a small premium. $135.
- Perak Hotel, 12 Perak Road, ☎ +65 6299 7733, . A tasteful, small, private guesthouse in a renovated Peranakan-style building. $150-180.
- LaundryMart Express, 22 Boon Keng Rd, 01-37 (Boon Keng MRT Exit B), ☎ +65 6294 2256, . 24 hr self service coin operated laundromat in the central area of Singapore. $5 for 10 kg, wash, dry, detergent and softener are provided.
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