Wednesday, July 7, 2010

5 heartland neighborhoods for a taste of real Singapore

Singapore may be known for its wide variety of exotic foods, bustling shopping malls and vibrant nightlife. However, the true Singapore spirit will always remain in the roots of the heartland neighborhoods where its rich culture comes alive.

1. Little India

Go to anywhere within Little India and you will immediately feel its rich Indian culture. Dubbed "the heart of Little India", the Tekka Centre is one of the many places you must visit. Although the exteriors of this place may seem unappealing, you will experience the Indian community at its rawest. Some of the products offered here are a riot of colors of Indian sarees, bangles, antiques, and even face jewelries. While you’re there, also be sure to visit the Tekka Wet Market in the first level. The poultry there is of the freshest and cheapest throughout Singapore as well, given that the butchers will de-skin or de-feather them right in front of your eyes.

Other places to visit are the surrounding temples, artsy stores and of course, the 24/7 mega mall, Mustafa Centre.

2. Telok Blangah

Translated to mean ‘cooking pot bay’ in Malay due to its cooking pot-esque perimeter of the neighborhood, Telok Blangah is situated at the south of Singapore. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle from the city, and to breathe the freshest air the country has to offer, Telok Blangah is the perfect location. One of the must-visit places would be Mount Faber, where it offers a panoramic view of the skyscrapers and other buildings in downtown and other nearby areas. And if you’d just like to have a quiet time alone with Mother Nature, head over to Labrador Park. The peacefulness of the park and mere sounds of water splashing against the rocks on the beach will certainly revitalize and nourish your soul. Also, expect to find many historical relics left behind by the British forces from World War II.

3. Geylang

Geylang is known for its authentic local food, fresh durians and the notorious (but legal) red light district. The streets, typically numbered from 1 to 42, are named lorong or lor, which is a direct translation in Malay.

Many of the food stalls are located at two-story shop houses, and are open from the afternoon till late at night. One of the more popular food stalls located here is Leong Kee at Geylang Lor 11, famous for its savory bak kut teh which is a Chinese pork soup. Another famous spot is People’s Prawn Noodles located at the next street street, Geylang Lor 12. Many locals flock there every day for its unique and genuine taste of prawn noodles.

4. Chinatown

A community enclave for the Chinese since the 19th century, Chinatown is one of the few places in Singapore that has retained a significant portion of its historical and cultural roots. Many of its quaint shophouses are still around and most of them have been upgraded.

Needless to say, the food in Chinatown is a must-try while you are over there, especially the famous Bakkwa, which is a Chinese salty-sweet barbecued pork jerky. Although it is normally eaten during the Chinese New Year, locals find the taste so hard to resist that it has become a popular gift year round.

5. Holland Village

Extremely popular with the expatriates, Holland Village (Holland V for short) offers a large selection of dining, shopping and bars. Many of Singapore’s most popular local food chains such as Crystal Jade, Thai Express and Frolick are all located here. And while there are many other fine restaurants and bars in the area, none can beat the popularity of Wala Wala. They are especially known for their tasty and crispy pizzas and 1-for-1 cheap cold beers during happy hour. The restaurant-bar is also famous for their amazing live band and live broadcast of football matches.

Note: This article is extracted from CNNGo Singapore.

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