Buddha To

Places to visit in Singapore to explore Singapore’s culture

Cover: Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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Singapore is a true melting pot of cultures. The integrated, diverse city of over 5 million people living harmoniously, while also treasuring their cultural heritages.  Dating back to the early 1800s, Singapore was a trading hub for India-bound ships. The ships from around the world brought many foreign influences, as did its nearby neighbor, Malaysia. Many people migrated to the island from British, Indian and Asian countries, resulting in a mix of languages, religions, cultures, and traditions.

View of Singapore from the Singapore River, Singapore
View of Singapore from the Singapore River, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Modern Singapore was founded by Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles in 1819 and remained a colony of Britain until 1942. Following many turbulent times between 1942 and 1965, Singapore gained independence from Malaysia and Singapore’s first and beloved prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, set plans in place to transition Singapore from a troubled “third world country to a first world country within a single generation.”

Lee’s social and economic policies based on meritocracy and respecting the differences of multiple races created the Singapore of today. While English is the common language of Singapore, bilingualism is mandated in schools, a critical step in preserving identities. Singapore’s public holidays include Christian, Muslim, and Indian holidays.

Kim Hull enjoying a walk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Kim Hull enjoying a walk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The incredibly clean and safe city-state and accommodations make Singapore an attractive place for visiting, especially for English-speaking tourists. However, in parallel to the modern offerings, multiple ethnic-based districts still exist, providing an opportunity to explore the ethnicities, food, traditions, and history that make up the Singaporean culture

Boardwalk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Boardwalk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


We’d like to thank the Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests and providing an expert guide to ensure we experienced all that Singapore has to offer.


Singapore’s Chinatown

Chinatown, Singapore
Streets of Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No trip to Singapore would be complete without a visit to Chinatown. The sights, smells and colors overflow from the shophouses that line the streets, spilling out into the vibrant neighborhood. With an abundance of restaurants, shops, temples, and attractions to explore, Chinatown is one of Singapore’s most popular areas.

Chinatown, Singapore
Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chinatown Heritage Center

Chinatown Heritage Center, Singapore
Chinatown Heritage Center tour, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A good place to begin your visit is at the Chinatown Heritage Center on Pagoda Street. Housed in three restored shophouses, the center provides a glimpse into the lives of the early residents of the area. The center has re-created a tailor shop and the tiny resident living quarters of both the owners and tenants. The guided tour provides the background to understanding how the dreams, hardships, sacrifices, and aspirations helped shape the culture of the area and its residents.

Chinatown Heritage Center, Singapore
Chinatown Heritage Center, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chinatown street markets

Shopping in Chinatown Singapore
Colorful Chinatown Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The street markets and shops of Chinatown offer a wide variety of shopping options. From silk robes and trinkets to custom-made suits, you’re sure to find affordable items from hundreds of markets and vendors. As with street markets around the world, remember that fakes and copies are prevalent, compare prices between vendors, check the product for flaws, and, if you decide to purchase, feel free to try to bargain.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum is housed in a beautiful four-story structure located in Singapore’s Chinatown.

Buddha with mustache, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Highly ornate, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Completed in 2007, the temple was built in Tang dynasty architectural style and is highly ornate and visually stunning. On the first floor, are the Hundred Dragons Hall and Universal Wisdom Hall.

Buddha with flower, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Buddha statue at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Singapore’s Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The temple houses the Buddha Tooth Relic made from 320kg of gold. The relic is located in the Sacred Light Hall on the fourth floor of the museum and can be seen from a viewing area. The temple is a place of worship and, as such, respectful attire is required inside the temple (no bare shoulders or legs). Shawls and covers for legs are provided at the door.

Prayers offered at Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum, Singapore
Worshipers at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sri Mariamman Temple

Entrance Tower of Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore
Entrance Tower of Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple, is located at South Bridge Road and Pagoda street in Chinatown.

Chinatown, Singapore
Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1827, the temple was built by immigrants from South India and was formerly known as Mariamman Kovil or Kling Street Temple. Now a national monument, a majority of the present temple is believed to have been built around 1862-1863. The temple is built in the South Indian Dravidian style and features a gopuram, with six tiers of Hindu deity sculptures and ornamental decorations, that marks the front entrance.

Chinatown, Singapore
Worship service at Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kampong Glam and Haji Lane

An eclectic district filled with food, history, and culture, Kampong Glam dates back to the early 1800s when it was a fishing village on the shores of the Rochor River. The name Kampong Glam stems from the Malay word “kampung” meaning village and a tree prevalent in the area, the gelam tree.

Today, the area is a bustling community with a strong Malay-Arab influence. In the shadows of the beautiful Sultan Mosque, the Muslim quarter is a trendy district filled with quirky shops, hip boutiques, restaurants and cafes, street markets and a rich historical past to explore.

Haji Lane

Singaporeevening, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media[/caption]
Haji Lane in the evening, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A narrow street in the heart of Kampong Glam, Haji Lane is the center of fashion and trend setting in Singapore.

A visit to Haji Lane is a perfect way to spend an afternoon shopping in the small boutiques which have a good selection from independent labels and sought-after local designers. Take a stroll to admire the brightly-colored street art and pop into some galleries to do a bit of browsing. Pick up some cookies or pastries. Or, simply grab a coffee or glass of wine and do some people watching and soak in the artsy vibe.

Malay Heritage Center

Once the Sultan’s palace, Istana Kampong Glam was built in 1843 by Sultan Ali, the son of Sultan Hussein Shah. As part of the development of the Malay Heritage Center, the Istana Kampong Glam was restored according to its original design in 2004. The Malay Heritage Centre, which now includes Istana Kampong Glam, officially opened in 2005. The center’s museum serves as a showcase of the Malay heritage and culture, providing insight and understanding of the community’s history.

Sultan Mosque

Sultan Mosque, Singapore
Masjid Sultan or Sultan Mosque, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An iconic landmark in the Kampong Glam district, Sultan Mosque, or Masjid Sultan, is the oldest mosque in Singapore. Dating back to 1824, the mosque was first built for Sultan Hussein Shah, the first sultan of Singapore. In 1932, the mosque was rebuilt with the huge gold domes and the large prayer hall. During the construction, glass bottles were contributed by poor Muslims and the bottle ends were used in the base under the domes so that all could contribute to the building of the new structure. The mosque was declared a national monument in 1975 and is visited by thousands of people from around the world each year.

Singapore’s Little India

Vibrant and colorful, a stroll through Singapore’s Little India is a feast for the senses. As merchants hawk their wares, shoppers buzz about bargaining over everything from flowers to jewelry to electronics. Scents of curry waft out to the street from the countless restaurants in the neighborhood. Fruits and vegetables of all colors and varieties are on every corner. Stunning garlands constructed of beautiful, fragrant flowers hang over head. A wonderful place to simply wander, Little India is chaotic, beautiful and fascinating all at once and shouldn’t be missed on a Singapore visit.

Deepavali festival

Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore
Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Festival of Lights, or Deepavali, is a Hindu festival occurring in the autumn to celebrate the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. An ancient festival and major event in the Hindu faith, participants illuminate their homes, temples, buildings, and communities for the vibrant celebration.

If in Singapore during Deepavali (dates are set by the lunar calendar, but are typically around October), celebrate with the Indian community. The streets of Little India are dazzling during the festival, with thousands of colorful lights decorating the community. Especially beautiful is Serangoon Road, with the arch welcoming all to the festival. Then head to the Deepavali Festival Village, where vendors sell flower garlands, traditional treats, and items to decorate homes for the celebration, craftspeople display their wares, and local artists offer to paint intricate henna body art.

Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore
Deepavali Festival of Lights, Serangoon Road, Little India, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Henna tattoos

Popular in the Indian culture, henna has been used for thousands of years to adorn women with body art for social events and holiday celebrations.

While visiting Singapore during Deepvali, I decided to get a henna tattoo on my left hand. After viewing the artist’s book of designs, some of which were extremely elaborate, I selected one and she began. The artist drew the design free hand and within 15 or 20 minutes I had my beautiful swirling tattoo. Upon leaving, the artist told me to make sure I didn’t smudge it and to let it dry for at least 30 minutes. She also said if I applied oil after it dried it would stay longer and make it darker, which I couldn’t imagine how that would happen since it was black already. Arriving back at the hotel, I used a hair dryer to make sure it was dry before going to bed.

Kim Hull Getting a Henna Tattoo in Little India, Singapore
Henna Tattoos in Little India, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

During the middle of the night, I woke up to a bunch of little bumps that felt like tiny pebbles in the bed. Turning on the light, I realized the black part comes off, leaving the reddish brown color behind wherever the black henna paste was applied. After cleaning the bed, I applied some lotion (I didn’t have oil). I was careful with it while showering for the next few days and the pattern lasted about 5 days before it began to disappear.

Kim Hull admiring her finished Henna Tattoo in Little India, Singapore
Henna tattoo in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Joo Chiat/Katong

Shoe display in a Peranakan Shop, Singapore
Peranakan slippers in Joo Chiat/Katong shops, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home of the Peranakans, the Katong/Joo Chiat area is a charming district only about 10 minutes from the city center with beautiful shophouses, amazing food and great shopping.

Who are the Peranakans? Peranakans are descendants of Chinese immigrants and local women. Peranakans are locally born, distinguishing the group from the China-born Singapore Chinese. Peranakan males are known as babas and females are called as nonyas. Well-known for their nonya food, referring to the women who prepare it, Peranakan cuisine is distinctly tasty, using unique spices and cooking techniques with Indonesian and Malay influences.

The perfect spot to explore the Peranakan culture is the Joo Chiat/Katong area, a vibrant district with authentic Peranakan restaurants and shopping. The Peranakan women are also well-known for their embroidery and beadwork, creating stunning clothing, shoes, and accessories that are works of art, which can be found in the colorful, well-kept shophouses in the Katong/Joo Chiat district.

The Intan

The Intan, Singapore
Exploring all things Peranakan at The Intan, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located in the heart of Joo Chiat, the Intan, is a must visit for learning about the history, traditions & lifestyle of the Peranakans.

Awarded 2016 Best Tour Experience by the Singapore Tourism Board, the Intan is an exploration of all things Peranakan. More than viewing the amazing collection of Peranakan furniture, apparel and artifacts in the owner, Alvin Yapp’s, beautiful shophouse, a tour of the Intan is an opportunity to gain an understanding of the Peranakan culture.

Tea and Dessert at The Intan, Singapore
Tea and Dessert at The Intan, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While visiting the Intan, we enjoyed the most amazing tea and a vast assortment of desserts as Mr. Yapp relayed the delightful story of his heritage with passion and dedication. The Intan offers both the tea experience and a dinner offering. Visits to the Intan are by appointment only and can be arranged on their website.

Kim and Greg Hull at The Intan, Singapore
Kim and Greg Hull at The Intan, Singapore
Photo: © Chasing Light Media

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Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Exploring Singapore's culture

Shopping in Singapore

Cover: Shoe display in a Peranakan Shop, Singapore
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


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Known around the world as a shopping paradise, Singapore has one of the broadest ranges of products of any city, with almost limitless retail options.

From street markets to avant-garde boutiques to luxury brands, it’s all in Singapore. There are places that dazzle, hipster spots, and emporiums that overflow with character and charm. Where to start?  We’ll start where most shopping expeditions begin in Singapore – on the legendary Orchard Road.

ION Orchard Mall, Singapore
Shopping in Singapore at ION Orchard Mall Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media


We’d like to thank the Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests and providing an expert guide to ensure we experienced all that Singapore has to offer.


Orchard Road

Brightly illuminated shopping mall hallway, Singapore
Shopping on Orchard Road in Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On ground that once was a plantation with nutmeg trees, pepper farms and fruit orchards, Orchard Road has grown to what is now considered one of, if not the best, shopping boulevards in all of Asia.

Kim Hull amused by the giant handbag at Hermès, Singapore
Kim Hull at Hermès, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2.2 kilometers of department stores, malls, and shops filled with merchandise catering to every budget and desire, Orchard Road is the retail hub of Singapore. The world’s finest designer boutiques sit alongside small, unique shops in this diverse shopping haven. Pace yourself and allow some time to explore the 20+ shopping malls and department stores that call Orchard Road home.

When you do need a break from all that retail bliss, indulge in some fabulous food. Be sure to check out the flying noodles at Hana and the swing over to Lady M for dessert. We fit both in, then indulged in a bit of relaxation with a fish spa pedicure.

Fish feeding at Kenko Fish Spa, Singapore
Fish spa pedicure at Kenko Fish Spa, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Popular in Asia and mostly banned in the U.S. for hygiene reasons, the Garra Rufa fish from Turkey eat the dead skin from your feet and legs. Something I’d always wanted to try, I found it a bit ticklish at first, but quite relaxing once you get used to it.

Kim Hull watching the fish at Kenko Fish Spa, Singapore
Kim Hull at Kenko Fish Spa, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

A spectacular shopping destination that over 270 premium retailers and restaurants call home, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands is a luxury shopping experience in the heart of Singapore’s business district. Retail brands range from Prada to Tom Ford and, if hunger pangs strike while gathering treasures, you can stop in at one of the 10 celebrity chef restaurants located in the facility.

Kim Hull enjoying a walk at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Kim Hull at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While visiting the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, be sure to check out  the beautiful lotus pond near the ArtScience Museum, take a ride on a sampan boat on the canal inside the shopping center, and stop by the Rain Oculous, the large whirlpool in the center of the mall where water falls two stories into the pool below.

Chinatown Street Markets

Shopping in Chinatown Singapore
Shopping in Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Roaming the tiny stalls and cramped shophouses of Chinatown is a fascinating cultural experience. From 3 for $10 souvenirs to cashmere Pashminas to custom-made suits, strolling and bargaining for goods in Chinatown is an experience not to be missed.

In addition to uncovering unique finds, be sure to drop by Tong Heng’s for egg tarts and other pastries, stop in at the Chinatown Heritage Center to learn about the district and its history and visit both the gorgeous Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and beautiful the Sri Mariamman Temple.

Chinatown, Singapore
Chinatown, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Haji Lane

Singapore
Haji Lane, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Hidden away in the Kapong Glam district is a trendy little street that attracts in-the-know shoppers from around the globe. Rumor has it that Gwen Stefani dropped by when she was in town. A hipsters paradise, Haji Lane is a little shopping and dining enclave filled with vintage shops, avant-garde boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries, and galleries. The street art is fabulous and the district’s artistic feel will leave you feeling creative and upbeat.

Kim Hull buying a bag of Al' Frank cookies, Singapore
Kim Hull buying a bag of Al’ Frank cookies, Singapore Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After finding that special something when visiting, be sure to wander over to check out the rest of Kapong Glam, including the Masjid Sultan and the Malay Heritage Centre.

Sultan Mosque, Singapore
Sultan Mosque, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

VivoCity

Singapore’s largest mall, VivoCity at HarborFront has it all. Its 1.5 million square feet includes retail stores, multiple food courts, spas, restaurants, a gym, Singapore’s largest cinema, a promenade, sky park, amphitheater, a wading pool, a massive toy store and a children’s play court. The Food Republic at VivoCity is exceptional, offering a vast array of options. On the third floor, visitors can catch the monorail, Sentosa Express, to the island of Sentosa.

VivoCity is also home to multiple art installations including a 6-meter tall spherical bouquet of flowers by Korean artist, Choi Jeong-Hwa, a bright red rocket by Marc Ruygrok of the Netherlands and two installations by Inges Idee of Germany, a giant snowflake and a towering snowman.

Singapore
Inges Idee art installation at VivoCity, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Little India

Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore
Deepavali Festival of Lights, Little India, Singapore
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Little India is open 24 hours a day for shopping, so it’s the perfect place to head for dinner followed by some after-dinner retail recreation. The stalls along Serangoon Road, Little India’s central street, are an incredible display of color, texture, and fragrances. Look for deals on jewelry, fruit, flower garlands, fabrics, brass items and decorative wares. As the night grows later, the shopping doesn’t stop – just head over Mustafa Centre, which is open 24 hours and offers everything from electronics to groceries to sari stores.

Changi Airport

Changi Airport, Singapore
Changi Airport, Singapore Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I love great airports. Maybe it’s because we spend so much time in them, but airports that have great amenities are so appreciated. Changi Airport is fabulous and a great place to do some last minute shopping on the way out of Singapore. Bally, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Hermès, Longchamp – they are all there, along with hundreds of other shops and restaurants. So, save a bit of your money, head to the airport early and enjoy.


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Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Singapore Tourism Board for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.