Little India is quite possibly Singapore’s most colourful neighbourhood. Case in point, this gorgeous piece of art that greets you upon your exit from the MRT station.
Our plan for the day was simply to spend the afternoon at the Indian Heritage Centre. But along the way, we got sidetracked and enjoyed the detour so much.
Little India is best explored on foot. Take the train to Little India MRT station on the North-east line, and get out at Exit E. Walk along Buffalo Street and you’ll be greeted with a strong smell of flowers. There are many flower shops that string up flower garlands for sale (usually presented to and worn by a person of honour, like a wedding couple or a VIP at an event). We were very lucky to have met friendly storekeepers who were happy to chat. One of them even gave some flower samples to the kids who treasured them and held on to them for our entire walk.
It takes about half an hour to string a garland and it’s incredibly heavy around the neck! Stay and watch as they work – it’s fascinating!
Just across the street is Little India Arcade. In there, you’ll find two little shops that sell desserts (warning: you will have two choices: sweet, or very sweet!), trinkets for sale, and a couple of Henna outfits. We’ve done this several times and once, when we hesitated, we were offered an amazing price of $2 per design, just to seal the deal. And seal the deal, it did. The kids got really simple designs done, but they were happy enough, and for that price, so was I.
You’ll have to leave it on for about half an hour and after that, you can either peel the dried Henna off, or wash it off. The dye will stay on your hands for about a week.
The Indian Heritage Centre at 5 Campbell Lane was something we really enjoyed. It’s newly opened so it was exceptionally quiet on both occasions we visited. The last time we visited was a good half year ago, but the kids remembered spying on cats on the roof, so that was the first order of business.
Stand at the glass window right outside the 4th floor washroom; you might catch a glimpse of a few lazy cats. Today we saw 3 cats sunbathing on the roof!
The welcoming video was probably my most favourite section. Videos are looped so don’t worry if you miss one; just stay till the next one comes on. It’s short, and very well done. Also, it’s in a room with only one entry point, so the kids can move around if they’re not too keen on watching. The best and unexpected part of the video: watching the traffic light/man come to life!
The younger audience would probably enjoy the rubbing station and the interactive games. I really liked the Sims-inspired games. They were customised to share information on the various aspects of the Indian culture, for example, the kids got to colour a pongal, choose patterns for a sari, create a carpet, and ‘help’ the game characters make purchases. Exceptionally well done! On both visits, we spent the longest time at this section.
Some sections were a little creepy because there were sounds effects. It didn’t help that the place was so empty so the sounds were echoed and on some occasions, made me jump.
But it was very interesting to see so much history and to read about how the Indian community contributed to the country’s growth. Our 4-year old was fascinated with the concept of a milkman delivering milk on his bicycle!
Lots of interactive kiosks around, so that was fun. The exhibition areas take up 2 floors of the building, so it’s not very big and would take about 1-2 hours to view at a leisurely pace.
When hunger strikes, head to Tekka Market. The ground floor is filled with lots of food stalls – half the stalls serve Indian food (including Halal food), and the other half are run by Chinese hawkers. If you want a beer to accompany your meal, you’ll have to get it from a Chinese drinks stall. Yakader Muslim food stall came highly recommended by the lovely staff working at the Indian Heritage Centre and we all loved the chicken briyani.
Our dinner was made up of chicken briyani, freshly made naans, pratas and nasi goreng and was heavenly! Total cost? $14 for the 4 of us!
If you’ve still got energy to spare, take the escalators up to the second floor of Tekka Market. There, you’ll have to let your eyes adjust a little because it really is Colour Central. Most of the shops there sell saris for ladies, but you’ll also find a few that have a small kids’ section. They’re not pricey either ($7 for a set for little girls).
This was all done within the same vicinity. A little further down the road is the famous Sri Veeramakalimman Hindu temple. It is absolutely beautiful with so much to take in. Visitors are welcome but please remember to be respectful.
About the Indian Heritage Centre
5 Campbell Lane Singapore 209924
It’s free for Singaporeans and PRs to visit, and $4 for adults ($2 for seniors, and children). Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays. More information on opening hours can be found here. Little India MRT station is the closest station, and it’s about a 10 minute walk away, depending on whether or not you get sidetracked.
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