One of my favourite things to do with the boys is explore the urban neighbourhoods of Singapore, and Little India is one of my favourite areas. Bursting with life, colour, smells and a little bit of chaos, it’s a really great area to visit. When I first visited Little India way back in the early 90’s on a trip through Singapore, I felt like I was taken back to the “Motherland” (even though I know my Indian mates don’t agree) but it’s the smells of spices and jasmin that stir the memories. But more than that – I love Little India because it feels so different to the bright and sparkling streets of Singapore. It just makes me feel like I’ve stepped into another world. Suffice to say, the boys absolutely loved it and they got lots of lovely attention as well.
We drove to Little India, but the SMRT station is right at the top of Serangoon/Bukit Timah Road, and there are plenty of buses coming into the area as well. If driving, there’s an open public car park right in the middle of Serangoon Rd (make sure you have tokens) – closer to the Mustafa end – and that’s where we started our adventure. First step was walking back up towards Bukit Timah Road and exploring Tekka Market. This was very cool.
The boys’ senses were assaulted on every level as they watched the butchers cutting up all manner of animal – which really does stink. The highlight was coming face-to-face with a sheep’s head, which caused some consternation, because before we left home that morning they were watching “Shaun the Sheep.” Many parents might not want to do stuff like this with their kids, but I think it’s healthy for them to see where their meat comes from. We haven’t had any nightmares since – so it was all good. Maybe not so if you have a super sensitive child.
The funniest thing about this area is there are a lot of tourists coming through – many of whom have obviously never visited a country where the brutality of life is on display. While Singapore is a first world country, Tekka Market provides an upscale experience of what you get in a developing country, but for many it was too much. We saw a lot of people gagging and making a run for it. Let’s hope they don’t stray too far off the beaten track, because that was nothing!
From the meat section we headed to see the fish and spent AGES in the seafood section – my boys love to look at sea creatures – even dead ones. Getting them to eat it is another thing. The frenetic activity was amazing to watch, and they got to pick up crabs, touch sharks (L I am one of those people against shark fin soup), look at sting rays, muscles, lobsters and much more. Not to forget the guys and girls working this area are absolutely manic with activity – boy they work hard. The boys had a ball and were certainly very welcome. We wandered around the rest of the market on the ground floor, with the fruit & veg, as well as the dried food section (some funky smells here too), but it was definitely the meat and seafood that were appreciated the most.
After a refreshing beverage in the food court, we went upstairs to look at all of the lovely, colourful and sparkling clothes, then across the road to the Little India Arcade. This is actually a pretty cool place, and while most of it comes from Thailand, there are definitely lots of great things to purchase. The boys got snapped up by one of the stall owners and before I knew it were having scorpion Henna tattoos. They were thrilled with their first ink (as was Dad) and have since been a little bit disappointed that they faded. They can wait until they’re 18 if they want the real thing.
We wandered back down Serangoon Road, heading toward Mustafas and discovered “The Jungle Tandoor” on the way. We didn’t plan on having a formal lunch, but the staff were convincing, we were hot and it ended up being a great decision. Inside is one of the most surreal places I’ve ever dined in – a fantastic indoor fake rainforest, full of animals and all sorts of noises, as well as fluorescent lighting – think 80s discotheque if you’re old enough. It was really great, the food OK (although spicy) and I can definitely recommend it if you want to take the kids somewhere interesting to eat. My boys aren’t the sort to take into a formal restaurant setting, but they were made to feel welcome and shock, horror – they even ate some Indian food! It’s got a good toilet as well.
From there we did the final trek to Mustafas, and let’s just say we didn’t get past the toy section. It’s HUGE and full of toys in action, so the boys were ecstatic and got a wee toy for their good behaviour. By this point – it had been about four hours – we were going to head into the supermarket section of Mustafas – which is an adventure in its own right – but the boys were exhausted and just wanted to go home.
There’s a lot more you can do in Little India, but visiting the main areas along Serangoon Road kept my little loves happy and engaged. You could also look at doing Temple visits, explore into the backstreets, eat at more traditional and cheaper restaurants, and of course, spend hours and hours in Mustafas. It’s a brilliant place.
The best time to go is during the week or early on Saturday. We left Little India about 2pm on Saturday and it was starting to get very busy. Sunday it is crazy here, and while that might turn many off because it’s hard to keep track of your youngsters with so many people around, you could do it if you went early enough. It’s really hot in Little India, so be prepared for the heat, take lots of water and hats, and take advantage of toilets as you find them – some are not as nice as others.
So there you go, one of my favourite urban adventures to do with the kids that I know we will do many times. Oh and if you want to buy some seafood from Tekka Market, make sure you do it at the end of your adventure. I wanted to get some calamari but it wouldn’t have lasted in the heat, so we’ll do it reverse next time.
Enjoy and please let me know if you go and what you think? Or if you’ve been before and have anything to recommend?