Singapore is undoubtedly on the top list of places to visit among Indonesian travelers. Only an-hour-and- 50-minute flight away, a weekend break to Singapore sounds perfect for those wishing to escape the bustling Jakarta and immersing in the vibrant melting pot known as the little red dot. Look beyond the city’s sparkling skyscrapers and fancy shopping malls and explore the other side of this Lion City as Singapore has so much to offer in terms of historic and cultural heritage.
Wandering alone in Singapore is easy, given that they have a very organized public transportation system which can take you from one place to another very conveniently. The streets are clean and safe with pedestrian crossings, making it also pleasant to explore the city by foot.
One of Singapore’s famous cultural badges is their own quirky brand of English known as Singlish, which shows the diversity of the city’s inhabitants. If you ever wondered where Singlish and multicultural Singapore came from, a visit to Katong should answer your question. The charms of Katong lie within the shop houses that are rich in history and memories, dedicated to preserving the traditional arts and showcasing the life of the Peranakan community back to its heyday. To trace their heritage trails, simply stroll around this area to observe a line of classic buildings featuring an architectural fusion of Chinese Peranakan, Indian, European and Indonesian styles.
For a more local experience, a visit to Kim Choo Kueh Chang is a must. Kim Choo is a mini museum, shop and small cafe that holds regular workshops and tours for curious visitors who want to learn the history of the Peranakan culture. Just next to Kim Choo, witness how old the Peranakan traditions are kept alive at Rumah Bebe, a shop that sells pretty and colourful Nonya Kebaya, beadworks, embroidery, batik, jewellery, silverware and porcelain. In addition to heritage buildings, you can also find modern cafes, bookstores, as well as furniture shops, designed with arty and classic touches in this vintage side of the city.
When it comes to Singapore’s Malay community, there’s no other place quite like Kampong Glam and the famed Haji Lane. Historically named after the glam trees used to grow throughout the area, its name has evolved throughout the years to the more apt ‘Kampong Glam’ (short for ‘glamorous’), a title that embodies its reputation as being one of Singapore’s most stylish quarters.
If you are planning to get here, heed our advice and devote at least a half, if not a full day to explore everything this district proudly displays! Tick the tourist boxes by heading to the historic Sultan Mosque (3 Muscat Street) and marvel at the grandeur of its large golden domes. Constructed in 1824, this heritage site is highly regarded as one of the most important places of worship on the island.
Then, wrap your head around more of Singapore’s rich Malay history at the Malay Heritage Centre (85 Sultan Gate), the former palace of Sultan Hussein. Before having a lunch break, be sure to check out the Children Little Museum (42 Bussorah Street) too. This nostalgic place is filled with vintage toys and other antique treasures, tucked away in a two-storey shop-house and guarded by a quirky, man-sized robot at its entrance! To get a real taste of the ‘glam’ in this quarter, don’t go without exploring the seemingly endless lines of boutique stores that occupy the classic shop-houses along Haji Lane or grabbing a cup of coffe or tea at one of the quirky and vibrant cafes there.
For more cultural journey, head to the Little India. With its chaotic rainbow of colours, scents and sounds, you will feel the authenticity of a great country known as the jewel in the crown, once you walk in this district. Little India is a neighborhood made of its own design, marching to the strange, dissonant beat of its own weird drummer. Walk down Serangoon Road to find the unique mix of Hindu and Chinese temples, mosques and churches. And when you feel hungry after a long walk, challenge your taste buds with local fares like roti prata or nasi biryani which can be easily found in one of the Indian restaurants lining the streets. Before you leave the town, spare some time to shop at the 24-hour shopping mall Mustafa Centre where you can find almost anything, from groceries to electronics.
Finally, your cultural trip wouldn’t be complete unless you come to Chinatown. The district marked the area of settlement for many Chinese immigrants who arrived in the city during the British colony. Today, Chinatown is a vibrant and lively area comprises of five districts: Ann Siang Hill, Tanjong Pagar, Kreta Ayer, Bukit Pasoh and Telok Ayer. Start your trip from the Temple Street before visiting Chinatown Heritage Centre where you can retrace Singapore’s pioneers. Another unique point of Chinatown is besides displaying Buddhist temples, the district also hosts Hindu and Muslim houses of worship as well including Jamae Mosque and Sri Mariamman Temple. Take your time to discover Chinatown and amaze yourself in this colourful and energetic centre of culture. Plan an afternoon trip, as most shops open around lunch time.