SINGAPORE | Little India is a unique part of Singapore, and there are many things to be found in the district that you won’t find elsewhere in the country in such abundance. The City Lane was invited to visit Singapore by Far East Hospitality Group (“FEH”) and, after a relaxing start exploring Pulau Ubin and Changi Village (which you can read about here), we made our way into the heart of Sinagpore, to the Village Hotel Albert Court (“VHAC”).
Location is one of the most important things I look for when choosing a hotel and the Village Hotel Albert Court is very well located, being walking distance to Bugis Street, a winding maze of lanes selling a variety of food, trinkets and other goods and Little India. It’s also only a 15 minute walk away from Singapore’s newest “hipster” ‘hood of Jelan Besar.
VHAC has lot of character, which is immediate as soon as you enter the main courtyard and see the beautifully preserved Indian and Peranakan pre-war shop houses. It’s a nice oasis that makes one feel world’s away from the hustle and bustle outside of the hotel.
The rooms have been recently refurbished and continue the character of the rest of the building with colonial era flourishes. The beds are of a good size and, most importantly, the mattresses and pillows are comfortable. I had a few very big nights while staying at VHAC and am happy to report that a good night’s sleep that saw me waking afresh was not an issue! Also worth mentioning is that there are a lot of plugs and they’re actually placed in useful positions not just at the desk, but next to the bed. I had no problem charging my phone, iPad, laptop and camera simultaneously – no unplugging of lamps and clock radios required!
Facility wise there are 2 Jacuzzis and a gym, a diverse range of restaurants (including Shish Mahal, which focuses exclusively on North Indian and Nepalese cuisine) and a Club Lounge to chill out in, get some work done and enjoy a cocktail or two. There’s a buffet breakfast on offer or you can get breakfast delivered to your room. I really liked the Lobby Lounge, where I sampled a few drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic while waiting for everyone in my group to get ready before going out to explore the area on more than one occasion. Speaking of exploring, what is one to do when they step outside of the hotel?
Unlike the Chinatown (Chinese) or Kampong Glam (Muslims) districts of Singapore, which were established as ethnic enclaves by Sir Stamford Raffles, Little India is a part of Sinagpore that grew organically from the mid-1800s, as ethnic Tamils moved into the area. Today, the area is primarily commercial in nature rather than residential, but still retains its character as a primarily Indian district. The colourful pre-war shop houses are distinctive as are the wonderful aromas of exotic food being cooked in restaurants and hawkers stalls all over the area.
The Tekka Centre is a must visit for anyone wanting to try some amazing Indian food and see a slice of the real Little India. Tek Kia Kha means “foot of the small bamboos” is the local Hokkien dialect (this area used to be known for its bamboo industry) and Tekka is what the local Tamils call Little India.
The Tekka Centre contains a wide array of things to see and more than just the local Indian culture is represented here. It’s a hawker centre, a wet market, and a general clothing market. A wide range of services are offered here and it’s really provides a great insight into the real Singapore.
Pakistani and a wide array of authentic halal food can be easily found – the fact that Roti, Biriyani, Mee Hoon and Kway Teow Goreng can all be found at the one shop is just a small example of how the diverse mixture of cultures that make up Singapore get along.
One of the must try dishes in Sinagpore is fish head curry, and the Banana Leaf Apolo has been famous for it since 1974. If you’re really game, the eyeball is supposed to be the best part and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s true.
I didn’t visit during this trip as I simply ran out of time but one final Little India attraction that must be mentioned is the Mustafa Centre. Opened in 1971 as Mohamed Mustafa and Samsudin Co Pte Ltd, “Mustafa’s” originally sold ready-made clothing and soon after that electronics. It kept expanding year after year and today occupies a maze of interconnected neighbouring buildings selling almost anything that you can think of. It’s open 24 hours a day and is well worth a visit – you never know what you might find, I heard a rumour that you could even buy parallel imported cars for a while.
Earlier in this post I mentioned that location was one of the most important things to me when choosing where to stay on holiday and I think after reading all of this you can see why I said that VHAC was very well located. Such a great part of Singapore to explore!