For many travelers, Singapore is nothing more than a stopover to their way to Thailand, the Philippines, or Bali. But a fascinating country that just oozes the word multicultural, Singapore is definitely worth a second look. Thanks to airline codeshares, it’s easy to build 1-2 days extra onto your trip for a couple hours or days in this intriguing city-state. Sometimes these extra days are a merciful bonus, considering jet lag!
One of the best places to center yourself is Kampong Glam, Singapore’s oldest neighborhood and the former Arab Quarter. Arab influences are very much a part of the area–from rug shops to incense parlors to the grand Sultan Mosque. Yet it still has a very trendy, hip vibe that’s hard to miss. It’s a unique look into the Arab World, right in the heart of Asia.
WIT Correspondent Wailana recently visited the neighborhood to check out everything it had to offer. Here are her best tips:
What to Do
Be sure to drop by the former residence of the Sultan of Johor–Istana Kampong Glam (85 Sultan Gate). This complex is a merge between British colonial architecture and Malay landscaping. Today it serves as a home to the Malay Heritage Center, where you can learn about Malay culture, heritage, and crafts.
While in Kampong Glam, you can’t miss the golden-domed Sultan Mosque (3 Muscat St), an icon that dominates the skyline. Built in the 1820s, between its intricate latticework, salmon patterns and chaperone palm trees, you can’t miss it. Non-muslims should check out the indoors, open daily from 9am to 1pm, and 2pm to 4pm.
Where to Shop
Haji Lane is a picturesque street lined with boutiques, cafes, and street art, and while arguably a tourist trap, is definitely worth checking out. Pick up a delicious meal in one of the streets halal cafés, or pick up a designer dress from a market stall. Some of my favorites included Tangers (73 Haji Ln), which does Korean, Japanese, French, and local designs, and nearby Molkan Fabrics (72 Arab St), which specializes in traditional attire like Malay songket suits and the two-piece baju kurung.
Where to Eat
The multi-faceted history of Singapore means that there will always be fantastic places to eat. In Kampong Glam, you can savor a range of tasty Hainanese, Indian, Malay, Japanese, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, and Western flavors that no know limit. Grab your cash and visit Singapore Zam Zam (697-699 North Bridge Rd) first of all, an Indian Muslim restaurant that has been a corner staple since 1908. Popular dishes include the briyani, spiced rice dish, roti prata, South Indian flatbread, and murtabak, stuffed, fried pancake. For the Indonesian flair, try Warong Nasi Pariaman (738 North Bridge Rd), which since 1948 has been serving up succulent steaming dishes like nasi padang (steamed rice with meat dishes) and ayam goreng (chicken deep fried in coconut).
Where to Stay
The adorable, white Sultan Hotel (101 Jalan Sultan, #01-01) is colonial architecture at its finest, with archways and floral-inspired latticework. Located on the edge of Jalan Sultan street, it’s just a short walk to the nearest light rail station, a nearby Hawker complex, and Chinatown.
Or spoil yourself at the luxurious, 5-star Naumi Hotel Singapore (41 Seah St), which aims to spoil with avant-garde curves, oasis-themed decor, lavish rooftop pool and a contemporary call to minimalism.
See you in Singapore!
Willamette Intl Travel regularly books trips to our clients that may include a free stopover. Ask us about options to explore the glittering city-state of Singapore.
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