Bright, beautiful and buzzing – Little India with kids is a 'must do' whether you live in Singapore or are just visiting. Here's how to ace the 'hood...
Singapore may be small in size, but it’s big in colour, culture and has neighbourhoods so diverse it deserves more than a pass-by on a bus. One of the most colourful of all? Little India, of course! And with Deepavali just around the corner, now’s the perfect pocket of the island to introduce your kids to temples rich in history, soak up delish local eats and visit the famous stores for Indian sweets and knick knacks… It’s all here in our guide to acing Little India with kids. Let the walkabout begin!
Where to start?
Start your adventure at Little India MRT, on the Northeast line (purple) or the Downtown line (blue) and head for the Race Course Road exit. Don’t worry, you won’t be trampled by horses – the racecourse was a part of Singapore’s colonial era, which is long gone, although the name stuck. Wander along Buffalo Road (no buffalo stampede to worry about, either) until you reach Tekka Market.
An assault on the senses: Tekka Market
Tekka Market is a fun and curious place. If you have early risers (is there any parent who doesn’t?), then it’s best to get there before 9am when the wet market is up and running (it opens at 5am for the really early birds). Prepare for an assault on your senses, with everything from fish and meat to fresh flowers and fruit to see and smell.
Once your nostrils have recovered, head to level two of the Tekka Market to try on and buy decadent saris, Punjabi suits, salwar kameez and Indian costume jewellery. Haggling is absolutely encouraged, if not expected.
Family fun activity: Find unfamiliar fruits and veggies in the wet market and ask the stall holders if you could give it a try – they are usually happy to let you have a free taste test before you buy.
Family fun activity: Flex those bartering skills and get the kids to haggle the price down on your stash.
Sweets treats for the kids (and grown-ups!): Little India Arcade
Look out for a building that is as bright as the wares you’ll find inside! A short stroll from Tekka Market will lead you to Little India Arcade on Campbell Road. Here you’ll find the full Indian shopping experience, perfect for ticking wooden elephants, peacock feathers, hand block printing blocks, embroidered bags, Bollywood movie DVDs, dazzling bangles and Indian sweets off your shopping list. Moghul Sweet Shop is worth tracking down for its Indian desserts, including spicy samosas… yum!
Family fun activity: This is the spot to get your hands decorated with a gorgeous henna tattoo. Pick from traditional designs or even cartoon characters and then wear your art proudly. Henna body art can last up to three weeks. You can also go on a peacock feather hunt!
Fill you tummy: Get your lunch on
Locals and visitors alike all agree that Banana Leaf Apolo along Race Course Road is THE place to eat at lunchtime and is renowned for its Fish Head Curry. Make a reservation because there’s alway a queue. If you chance upon it, be patient because the wait is absolutely worth it. If curry – fish head or otherwise – is not your thing (what?!) then feast on biryani, naan or fluffy prata. Picky eaters can plump for plain, but the more adventurous should give prata stuffed with cheese, meat and eggs a whirl. Another place for good naan is Usman’s Restaurant on Serangoon Road – you can’t go wrong with cheese or garlic naan!
Family fun activity: For a more novel lunchtime dining experience, try Lagnaa Barefoot Dining – the clue is in the name! Sit barefoot on the floor and chow down on some delish Indian food.
Soak in the culture: Temple time!
Now that you’re all shopped out, full to the brim with wonderful food and sporting a henna tat, it’s time to take in some culture. Hinduism is big in Little India, and there are plenty of temples to explore. We particularly like The Sri Veeramakakaliamman Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Kali. Don’t forget to check out our guide to Singapore temples for more cultural hotspots in the area.
Family fun activity: Count how many times you see the Lord Ganesha (Kali’s son, who has an elephant head) in the temple.
Enter a maze disguising itself as a department store: Mustafa Centre
It is impossible to venture into Little India without being lured into Mustafa on Syed Alwi Road, an enormous department store that stocks everything but the kitchen sink (and actually – probably even kitchen sinks). Ace your Singapore supermarket experience in the grocery section before heading into the electronics department to look at all the latest gadgets your kids think they want. It’s open 24/7, so you have all the time in the world (but maybe not all the patience).
Family fun activity: Make a list of obscure items you might need for your kitchen cupboards, and then challenge the kids to track them down.
Go on a local history lesson: Indian Heritage Centre
The galleries in the ultra-modern Indian Heritage Centre are chronologically arranged and span the period from the first to the 21st century (yes, kids, there’s stuff in there that’s older than us). Lots of fun history to be learned, plus there’s air con!
Family fun activity: Grab a copy of the Little India Heritage Trail booklet at the Visitor Centre and go exploring to tick off all the recommended sites.
All that glitters IS gold: Serangoon Road
The streets are not paved with gold, but Serangoon Road is paved with jewellery shops selling authentic gold! For a truly impressive array of 18k and 22k gold, gold and more gold, there are stores galore showcasing the prettiest earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets. We love browsing in Gokulam Jewels and Crafts, Firma Jewellery and Ishtara Jewellery to name but a few. This is also the part of the ‘hood to wind up your day with a super-relaxing massage in one of the ayurvedic medicine centres – the guys at Kerala Ayurveda Centre will soon bring you some inner calm (even with the kids in tow).
Family fun activity: Keep an eye out for the fortune-telling parrot that can often be found somewhere along Serangoon Road. He’s a pretty clever bird!
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Lead image: xiquinhosilva via Flickr