Beautiful temples, world-class shopping and divine food – it doesn’t get much better than Singapore’s Little India.
Of all the ethnic enclaves in Singapore, Little India is the city at its most liveliest and colourful. With narrow little lanes and a bustling community, things can get a little messy here – quite unlike the rest of orderly Singapore. Keep your cameras ready for unexpected sights, and come with an empty stomach to eat all the good food around here. Here’s our guide to the top 10 things you should do in Little India.
The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple is also called the Temple of a Thousand Lights, due to the 15-metre-tall, 300-ton statue surrounded by what seems to be thousands of little lights housed within its walls. This Buddhist temple in Singapore’s Little India is an eclectic mix of Chinese, Thai and Indian styles dating back to 1927. First constructed by Thai monk Venerable Vutthisasara as a simple zinc roof shed, it was later built in to its current form through donations by Aw Boon Har and Aw Boon Par – the entrepreneurial brothers who created the medicinal ointment Tiger Balm and Haw Par Villa.
This shiny modern building inspired by the Indian baoli (or stepwell) sticks out amidst the narrow streets and old shophouses found in Little India. This four-storey building houses a significant collection of artefacts promoting the diverse Indian diaspora and heritage, including a permanent exhibition of the history of the Indian community in Singapore. It’s educational, never too jam-packed with people, and a great spot to chill out and soak in some heritage on a hot afternoon.
The Little India Arcade is a collection of shophouses that date back to the 1920s, with narrow alleyways selling all sorts of sundry and novelties alongside street food stalls and other eateries. It is a tourist favourite to pick up all sorts of Indian souvenirs, whether it’s fresh floral garlands or intricate textiles, or even a traditional henna tattoo if you so desire. The building has been preserved to retain some of that nostalgic flavour from its early Colonial days.
One of the best places for a good hearty meal in Little India is the Banana Leaf Apolo, famed for its traditional Indian practise of serving food on freshly cut banana leaves, giving the food some additional natural flavours. With over 40 years of experience and several outlets around the island serving both north and south Indian cuisine, the fish head curry is the star dish for your foray into Indian food, but don’t miss out on mutton mysore, chicken masala and briyanis.
Komala Vilas is an institution in the Little India dining scene, a family-run restaurant especially famous for its southern Indian vegetarian cuisine – come here for delicious dosai. The masala dosai, a rice and lentil pancake topped with mashed potato is a crowd-pleaser, especially combined with its lentil-based vegetable stew Sambar, and capped off with a good cup of South Indian coffee. There are several branches within the Little India area, but this one at Serangoon Road is the original outlet opened in 1947.
Visit our article on the best bars in Little India for more inspiration.