Text and Photos by Euden Valdez
IF you’re out to discover Singapore’s diverse cultures, there’s one neighborhood you should not miss.
This is Kampong Glam known for its “rich history, living traditions, excellent eateries, and trendy shops,” according to visitsingapore.com.
Located right at the mouth of Rochor River, Kampong Glam was originally a fishing kampung (or village) where the gelam tree (Paperbark tree), used for building ships and boats, grew—thus, the neighborhood’s name.
During the occupation of the British in the 18th century, key Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of modern Singapore, allocated the area to the Malays, the original settlers of the Singapore led by Sultan Hussain Mohammed Shah, along with other Muslim communities including the Arabs and Bugis. As such, a grand Sultan Mosque was built at the heart of the neighborhood.
Its dome gleaming in gold to this very day, the mosque serves both as a historic landmark and an icon of heritage. Surrounding it is a hodgepodge of Asian and Mediterranean cultures present in shops, restaurants, and the istana or sultan’s palace, which now houses the Malay Heritage Center.
So vibrant is Kampong Glam that even in a gloomy, rainy day, it splashes colors to the surrounding.
Located along Muscat Street, the Sultan Mosque is truly hard to miss.
Leading to it is a prominent alley of traditional Malay stores filled with scarves textiles, bags, aromatic oils, decors, souvenir and more, as well as restaurants serving Mediterranean cuisine from Turkish to Lebanese, among others.
Spotted was an Indian offering henna tattoo in front of her shop.
Another popular spot inside Kampong Glam is Haji Lane.
It is “a row of multi-label stores, quirky boutiques as well as hip bars and cafes.” Website visitsingapore.com picks “traditional wares such as Persian carpets, kebaya dresses and handmade perfumes from Arab Street and Bussorah Street” as must haves.
Also not to miss are contemporary clothing, accessories and other wearable from local designers.
Finally, feast your eyes on these murals on the walls of some bars and cafes, which are pretty inviting to chill for the night.
Your author-photographer at Haji Lane.