Little India is always buzzing with activity and the largest stores are not only an attraction but are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day. There are temples alongside little stores selling just a bout everything you can possibly imagine, from fragrant oils and flowers to designer jeans and slid gold statues. To really take in Little India you’ll need more than a day, so here are the five top things to make your visit more efficient. The closest train stations are Little India and Farrer Park.
1. Check Out the Gold Stores
Little India is lined with gold. Not in the literal sense, of course, but the area is home to Singapore's densest concentration of stores that specialise in selling and buying gold, diamonds, silver, and an assortment of precious and semi-precious stones. Logically, precious metal and stone merchants are often adjacent to traditional Indian jewellery shops. Jewellery-making, particulary with gold, has been an integral part of Indian culture for millenia, so you can expect to see some truly masterful and intricate pieces on display. Many stores sell jewellery and clothing under one roof, so go ahead and pair that twenty-four carat engraved gold necklace with a silk sari or brocaded sherwani jacket.
2. Temple Hop
There are plenty of temples in Little India, and each has its own mini ecosystem of stores, restaurants, and community spaces. In ancient India, temples were more than places of religious practices: they often provided social services, meals, and employment to the little villages that sprang up around them. While those days are gone, the temples still retain a distinctly communal feel. If you only have time for one temple visit, check out Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple opposite Mustafa Centre. Go during a prayer session and watch the procession move clockwise around the main structure, paying homage to Shiva, Ganesh, Parvati, and Murugan, among others. A simple donation is customary but not compulsory.
3. Shop 24/7
While there are countless places to shop in Little India, one attraction you shouldn't miss is Mustafa Centre. This gigantic superstore features three combined malls and is open 24 hours a day. Mustafa is famous for selling nearly everything under the sun (with alcohol and pork products being the notable exceptions). It's the place for spices, and electronics, and DVDs, and sporting goods, and healthcare, and stationery, and foreign exchange, and remittance services, and the list goes on. It’s even got a travel agency if you’re keen on exploring South East Asia or beyond. Mustafa is usually packed with shoppers during the day, but if you can wait til after midnight, you'll enjoy a much less crowded visit.
4. Eat Like a Local
Want to eat a traditional South Indian meal off a banana leaf? Then head to the one of the aptly called banana leaf restaurants for some delicious curries with rice and Indian flat breads, all served on a banana leaf and traditionally eaten with your hands (though you can ask for utensils if you prefer). And if you're an adventurous foodie, try the signature fish-head curry. Traditional to Singapore and Malaysia, fish-head curry is a delicacy in the region. The head of a red snapper is served in a spicy curry (you can ask for the spice levels to go up or down) together with vegetables. It’s served with rice or breads and is much enjoyed by the flock of tourists and locals who visit Little India just for this dish.
5. Photograph the Architecture
Little India is one of Singapore's more lively and bustling districts, but it still has moments of quiet. Just before or just after dawn, the place takes on a quiet, almost tranquil atmosphere. There are few people on the road and the temples are just beginning their prayers. This is the time to catch the sun coming out from behind a temple tower or old shophouse with a spiral staircase. The different-coloured buildings catch the light in a unique kaleidoscope that’s perfect for photography buffs. If you’re into photography (or even if you’e not but are looking for a special early morning experience) this is the place to be at dawn. It only happens for a brief time in the morning so get there early and capture the incredible scene.