The Colorful Streets of Little India in Singapore

June 26, 2017
tan teng niah residence

On our second full day in Singapore, the air was muggy, the light was grey, and the temperatures hit the mid-thirties.

You can tell from the photos below that it was a dingy and miserable-ish kind of day.

But we were on holiday and weren’t going to let that stop us!

So after breakfast, we left our wonderfully air-conditioned hotel (the Village Hotel Albert Court), and crossed the road into a part of town known as Little India…

tan teng niah residence little india fruit stalllittle india

I’ve never been to actual India, but this is exactly what I imagine it’s like!

Hot and humid and vibrant and busy and colorful. Lots to see and explore. The smell of curry and incense in the air. Ladies wearing fabulous saris. Old men sleeping outside their front door. Shops selling vegetables, shops selling juices, shops selling spices from big baskets, shops selling strings of chillis from the ceiling…

We wandered through the streets with no specific destination in mind, and almost immediately stumbled upon the House of Tan Teng Niah. (Also known as That Super Colorful Building from Instagram!)

tan teng niah residencecolorful wall singapore little india tan teng niah

Ironically, it’s not actually an Indian building at all. Tan Teng Niah was a Chinese confectionary businessman, who built the house for his wife in the very early 1900s.

It used to be painted white though, and the Indian community do take credit for the rainbow of colours!

little india street art little india street artlittle india

Wandering on, we turned a few corners and stumbled upon the Sri Veeramakaliamman temple (try saying that fives times fast!).

It’s one of the most well-known temples in Singapore, as well as one of the oldest, and (in my opinion) most interesting to look at!

little india Sri VeeramakaliammanSri Veeramakaliamman temple singapore Sri Veeramakaliamman temple singapore

The temple is dedicated to Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, death, and destruction.

I didn’t take any photos inside, but just imagine lots of colour, and gilt edging, and figures of the gods. Imagine barefoot families, women dressed in fabulous saris, and children offering up garlands of fresh flowers to the gods. Imagine tourists wrapped in borrowed sarongs and tunics, holy men chanting prayers, and old men kneeling to accept blessings.

It’s so beautiful and interesting, and definitely worth the visit. (Best of all: it’s totally free.)

little india little india little india

From the temple, we slipped our shoes back on, and wandered off down a back street to explore.

We found colorful street art, raggedy dogs, beautifully carved antique ornaments, and more flower garlands than you could shake a stick at (they’re everywhere!). We passed a row of shops, with baskets of colorful spices spilling out of the doors and on to the streets, and barefoot old men (with long curly toenails…) asleep on chairs outside.

It was a wonderfully quiet, relaxed kind of morning, without any fussing or hurry. No places to be or things we absolutely had to do.

Eventually though, the heat got a bit too much for us, and we stopped at a local cafe for fresh apple juices (sharp green for me, sweet red for Gary), and a sit down in front of the fan. (Everywhere in Singapore has some sort of fan, even the tiniest, cheapest, most backstreet of coffee shops!)

little india street art little india little india

little india little india little india

We’d discovered the day before, that two of our London friends were also in Singapore that week. They’d been travelling in Asia for 6 months, and Singapore was their last stop before flying home. So we arranged to meet them for lunch at the Tekka Centre.

Hawker Centres in Singapore are crazy places. They’re hot and loud and busy, filled to the brim with locals and tourists alike, all looking for good food at ridiculously cheap prices. And Tekka in Little India doesn’t disappoint!

tekka centre little india

100% honesty: Gary and I went here on our first night, and I didn’t like it.

The food was INCREDIBLE (we had the best prata and chicken curry of our lives at Ar Rahman Royal Prata), but I was the only woman in the building, and felt uncomfortable as hell. I got a lot of stares, and a couple of shout-outs, and even though I didn’t feel unsafe exactly, I was still very glad I had Gary with me.

In the daytime though, it’s a completely different world. The courtyard is filled with sunshine, there are men and women of all ages wandering around, and the food is still incredible (and stupidly cheap – £2.50 for a giant plate of mutton biryani? Yes please!)

butter chicken little indiamurtabak little india

Christy and Matt shared a portion of butter chicken, served with yellow rice, while Gary and I both ordered a murtabak: a savoury pancake roll, stuffed with minced meat, onions and egg.

Charlie had to me raved about these, and I was desperate to try one. I had the mutton murtabak, and Gary chose chicken, and both were absolutely divine. Crispy on the outside, and filled to bursting with soft onions and savoury meat. They were absolutely DELICIOUS and actually one of my favourite foods from Singapore.

(My tummy’s rumbling as I write this. Anyone know a good Singaporean restaurant in London?!)

The stall provided plastic knives and forks, but we dug in the local way: picking up the slices, dipping them into curry sauce, and devouring it with our hands. Don’t worry though, there are huge sinks and taps, dotted around the centre, so you can wash your hands before and after your meal. (No one wants food poisoning on holiday thanksss very much!)

little indiaLITTLE INDIA, singapore

I think what I loved most about Little India is how authentic everything is.

There are no touristy areas. It’s all honest and real and completely local. Teens carrying iced coffees in plastic bags, women picking up fresh produce, old men chatting to neighbours, grannies praying, and everyone just living their daily lives, not bothered whether the holiday-makers are there or not.

It was one of the most fascinating parts of the city for me, and definitely worth a visit if you’re in Singapore!


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*Just as an FYI:

This was NOT a press trip or sponsored in any way.
We paid for everything ourselves. Thanks! :)


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