Singapore may be small but it’s certainly not lacking cultural diversity. The primary ethnicities of the population are Chinese (≈ 74%), Malay (≈ 13%) and Indian (≈ 9%). What’s cool about Singapore is that there are neighborhoods that completely bring to life those statistics, districts where the influence of a particular ethnicity is obvious. This post is here to point you in the direction of those neighborhoods, offer you some guidance for when you’re there, and in general get you excited for the excursion.
I personally visited these areas with Marie, who loves photography and whom I mentioned in my previous post. Lucky for me, the focus of her lens regularly helped me see things I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. Without even needing to say so, she taught me that to be there at the perfect moment requires being there in the first place. So as you explore Singapore, I encourage you not just to check off sightseeing boxes but to take your time. Hopefully you’ll discover lots of things that aren’t mentioned in this post.
I recommend first visiting the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. From there, walk down different streets and notice how lounging in public is very much the norm.
If you’re a foodie, seek out New Bridge Road to find a store that sells bak-kwa (barbecued pork), stop by the Maxwell Food Centre for some tasty authentic food, or pick a trendy restaurant along Keong Saik Road.
With a strong Malay presence, Kampong Glam has an entirely different vibe.
If you’re into quirky shops and trendy cafés/restaurants/bars, you will love it here. I recommend browsing the shops on Haji Lane (one of my favorites was Spring Summer Fall Winter) and stopping for a drink at Shop Wonderland.
For lunch, Marie and I had a lovely time sitting outside while enjoying a mezze platter to counteract the heat at Derwish Turkish Restaurant.
In this neighborhood, you’re sure to see lots of color.
I recommend starting your journey by walking through the Tekka Centre.
Then make your way to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple; I promise the visit is a much more enjoyable experience than trying to pronounce that name.
Last but certainly not least, Tiong Bahru is a mix of old and new.
Singapore has seen rapid changes but the buildings of Tiong Bahru Estate remain from the 1930s. After some quick background research, walk around the friendly neighborhood and notice details like laundry drying on bamboo sticks and people practicing tai chi.
Then make your way to Yong Siak Street for a complete hipster experience. Walking down the street you’ll discover all of the following spots easily, but here are some pictures just so you know what to expect.
The baked goods at Plain Vanilla are plain delicious.
The craftsmanship at Strangelets is worth checking out.
Books Actually will increase the chances you leave Singapore with a heavier suitcase.
And last but not least, an empty stomach is a prerequisite for this excursion because you should try at least one of the restaurants in the area. I loved brunch at F0rty H4nds, Open Door Policy looked like another solid brunch option, and Bincho at Hua Bee one street over is a local favorite that serves Chinese food at the front, and Japanese food at the back (there’s a door separating the two sections so ask for direction if you need it).
Four districts later, you’ll already have learned so much about this city-state. Coming soon is a post about Singapore’s outdoor activities and green spaces. Until next time!