Enjoying Singapore: Traditional Singapore
Traditional Singapore

There is very precious little of old Singapore left. Whatever remains has been consciously preserved, restored, brought to life with a tinge of artifice. Still, the streets of traditional Singapore are worth a visit to savour the bustle as the ethnic communities go about their modern lives in quaint shophouses.

Arab Street

Arabs were among the first traders to arrive in Singapore, bringing with them the Islamic religion and converting many indigenous Malays to their belief. Today, the old sections of Arab Street provide a glimpse into the Muslim way of life.
You can't miss the landmark Sultan Mosque (built in 1928) with its golden dome and vast prayer hall. The shops along Arab Street offer colourful textiles from all over Asia at low prices. Also on sale are saris and batik, basketry, leather goods, cane and rattan, jewellery and hand-beaten brass, perfumes and other small treasures.

Getting there: Take the MRT to Bugis (E1) station and walk along Victoria Street towards Arab Street.


Scenes of Chinese culture abound--noisy coffeeshops, medical halls, calligraphers, clog-makers, trishaw drivers and old temples. Much of Chinatown has been renovated. The stretch along Tanjong Pagar now has several pubs and eating places in restored shophouses.

Shopping In Chinatown

The best time to visit is during the run-up to the Chinese New Year (in January or early February), when the whole of Chinatown is lit up and buzzing with activity from night stalls selling various delicacies and decorations.

Getting there: Take the MRT to Outram (W2) station. Walk towards People's Park Complex. Just after the Complex is the Pearl's Hill Police Headquarters. Cross over the road and you'll be in the area commonly called Chinatown.

Little India

Around Serangoon Road, Little India captures the vibrant and colourful culture of the local Indian community. Stop by the Sri Veerama Kaliaman and Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temples if time allows.

There are lots of small shops selling glittering silks, temple garlands, gold jewellery and spices. At the other end of Serangoon Road, in Serangoon Plaza just before Kitchener Road, you'll find Mohammed Mustaffa & Samsuddin Company. Don't be fooled by the relatively modest exterior--inside is a maze of consumer goods at some of the lowest fixed prices in Singapore.

Getting there: Take SBS buses 64, 65, 106 or 111 from Orchard Road.

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