Little India, Little Satisfaction

Little India is quite possibly the worst district in Singapore. Am I being harsh? After all, it does have a heritage going back centuries. But I found my visit to Little India to be somewhat anti-climactic.

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Going through all my millions of travel photos from around the world, I discovered when preparing this post that I had taken all of 3 photos – YES THREE – from Little India here in Singapore. I knew I had found it to be very underwhelming, but even I didn’t realise that I found it that bland to have taken so few photographic memories. So because of this fact, I will add a few extra photos to pad out my story, and credit them to the correct authors where possible.

Also, for more information on the area, this great write-up from Your Singapore will tell you all you need to know!

A typical Little India backstreet
A typical Little India backstreet

So why exactly did I have such unimpressive opinions of Little India? Well, unlike over at Chinatown, which was a busy and bustling district, I thought Little India appeared dirty and somewhat unsafe, which is extremely surprising here in Singapore, as it is known to be a VERY safe country, even for solo female travellers. I am told, however, that some female backpackers have felt very intimidated walking alone in Little India. Generally, people in Little India are very nice, but like their extended families back on the sub-continent, it seems some men have trouble keeping their eyes – or worse, hands – to themselves. But the area does have its own charm, of course; the roadside markets and tiny shops really make you feel as though you are in the chaos of Chennai or Bangalore! But this again brings up other problems, on a purely aesthetic level – it is too cramped! It is often hard to walk along the pathways without having to hop into the road momentarily because a basket of potatoes has fallen over in your path! This is truly India, and it is certainly a culture shock, notwithstanding the fact you are still in the Little Red Dot.

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One thing everybody will notice in Little India is the colour of some of the architecture. It really makes the area unique in Singapore, at least from the places I have seen in the country. Most residents of Little India in Singapore are actually descendants from families in the south of India – from the state of Tamil Nadu in particular – and this is reflected in the food on offer here (not to mention Tamil is one of the 4 official languages of Singapore). Originally, Indians in Singapore used to hang out in Chinatown, and they did not have their own ethnic enclave like they did today. Only when things got too crowded in Chinatown did the Indians get somewhere of their own, and I would love to have been around to study the politics of the time.

Photo courtesy of Richard Tulloch
Photo courtesy of Richard Tulloch
Photo courtesy of Urban Travel Blog
Photo courtesy of Urban Travel Blog

Food is certainly one of Little India’s main strongpoints. Although I am not a huge fan of Indian cuisine, I do like the sights and smells of the street snacks cooking before my very eyes. Just like over at Chinatown, and in Arab Street, local delicacies are regularly consumed by both tourists and residents of the enclave! Tekka Market is one of the highlights of Little India, and is where the main wheeling and dealing takes place, and I noticed almost every fruit and vegetable known to man on sale here – including durians, obviously! Tandoori restaurants of course litter the buildings and there are a good number of jewellers here too, which surprised me, as I would not consider Indian jewellery to be a particularly valuable asset, although I suspect it is mainly on show for the tourists and backpackers who frequent these streets.

So how does Little India compare to another of Singapore’s famous ethnic neighbourhoods, Chinatown? Please check out my post on Chinatown to read all about it.

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