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Best local neighborhoods in Singapore
For a real sense of Singapore life you need to get under the skin of its most authentic areas
Singapore may be known for its wide variety of exotic, delicious street food, bustling shopping malls and vibrant nightlife. However, the true Singapore spirit remains rooted in the heartland neighborhoods where its rich culture comes alive.
Go to anywhere within Little India and you will immediately feel its rich Indian culture. Dubbed "the heart of Little India," the Tekka Centre (665 Buffalo Road) is one of the many places well worth a visit. Although the exteriors of this place may seem unappealing, this is the where Singapore’s Indian community come to eat, shop and play.
Some of the products offered here are a riot of colors; Indian sarees, bangles, antiques, and even face jewelries. Make sure to visit the Tekka Wet Market located on the first level. The vegetables and poultry there is the freshest and cheapest throughout Singapore as well -- butchers will de-skin or de-feather the birds right in front of your eyes.
- More on CNNGo: A walking guide to Singapore's Little India
Along Serangoon Road is Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (141 Serangoon Road), Little India's busiest and oldest temple. Dating back to 1881, it is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali and built in a South Indian Tamil style. On Sunday, the temple is at its busiest with migrant workers who gather there on their off-day.
Not to be missed is Mustafa Centre (145 Syed Alwi Road) where you’ll find just about anything up for sale 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The closest Singapore has to a grand bazaar, there’s never a quiet moment here. Expect to spend at least an hour inside exploring the numerous shopping aisles.
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.
The area remains relatively untouched with no shopping malls or skyscrapers in sight, rather the streets are lined with charming shophouses, some of them home to Singapore’s oldest clan associations, while some others have been taken over as sex shops and massage parlors.
Despite its seedy veneer, Geylang remains bustling at all hours thanks to the many food stalls located at two-story shop houses.
Open from the afternoon till late at night, one of the more popular food stalls located here is Leong Kee (Geylang Lor 11), famous for its savory bak kut teh (pork rib soup), another popular spot is People’s Prawn Noodles (Geylang Lor 12), but perhaps the most famous is Sin Huat Seafood Restaurant (659 Geylang Road, +tel 65 67449755). The Sri Lankan crab bee hoon –- prepared one claypot at a time -- has become a must-visit for many big name chefs, and Anthony Bourdain claims to visit the eatery whenever he’s in Singapore.
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 (Mount Faber Park), where it offers a panoramic view of the skyscrapers and other buildings in downtown and other nearby areas.
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The hill-top The Jewel Box (109 Mount Faber Road, tel +65 62708855) is also where you can catch a cable car to Sentosa Island, and if you fancy, have a meal while you’re sky high.
If you’d just like to have a quiet time alone with Mother Nature, head over to Labrador Park (along Labrador Villa Road). 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.
The park is also part of The Ridges, which comprises nine kilometers of green, open spaces spanning the hills of Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park. Home to the Henderson Waves, the wave-like structure stands 36 meters above Henderson Road and connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park.
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.
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. Make tracks to Kim Hock Guan Chuan Kee (150 South Bridge Road, #01-02 Fook Hai Building) to sample Singapore’s first and oldest bak kwa store.
- More on CNNGo: Chinatown's old shops: Singapore businesses that endure
The newish Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum (288 South Bridge Road, +65 62200220) is one of the area’s curious attractions. It houses what Buddhist leaders regard as the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic in a stupa composed of 320 kilogram of gold donated by devotees. The chamber can only be entered twice a year, on the first day of he Lunar New Year and Vesak Day, other times devotees can observe the tooth relic from the outside or through brochures.
For an unusual photograph of Chinatown, head up to La Terraza Rooftop Bar (12 Ang Siang Hill, tel +65 6221 1694) for a cold beer and the new world-meets-old world view of the surrounding skyscrapers juxtaposed against the bustling Chinatown action happening on the street level.
Away from the busier parts of Singapore is the laidback Holland Village (Holland V for short) suburb. The area – popular with Singapore’s expatriate community -- offers a large selection of dining, shopping bars, and foot reflexology options.
Many of Singapore’s most popular local food chains such as Crystal Jade (2 Lorong Mambong, tel +65 64690300), Thai Express (16 Lorong Mambong, tel +65 64666766) and Frolick (241 Holland Avenue, #01-02, tel +65 64621188) are all located here.
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And while there are many other fine restaurants and bars in the area, none can beat the popularity of bar-cum-live music venue Wala Wala (31 Lorong Mambong, tel +65 64624288). Known for their tasty and crispy pizzas and one-for-one cold beers during happy hour. The restaurant-bar is also famous for their live music sets and live broadcast of football matches.