Brightly coloured Peranakan houses in Little India district of Singapore

Little India

East of Chinatown and north of Kampong Glam, Little India has the same old-fashioned, village-like feel as those districts — but with a distinctly Indian flavor.

When Stamford Raffles rocked up in 1819, Singapore was a jungle-clad island with a port town of about 150 Malay and Chinese inhabitants. By 1871, it had a population of nearly 100,000, and a big chunk of these new Singaporeans were Indians. Little India is where they put down roots, and their descendants still live, shop and work here today.

Come in the morning and you’ll find the streets are filled with the smell of camphor as the shopkeepers say their daily prayers. Come at night, and you’ll find the locals doing some midnight bargain-hunting at the cult megastore, the Mustafa Center. Little India is always on the go.

Head to Jothi stores, which started out selling betel leaves and cigarets, and now stocks everything from Indian cosmetics and oil lamps to festoons of flower garlands. Swing by the Indian heritage center to see the 5,000 carved figures of the Chettinad Doorway. Marvel at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple’s five-tiered gopuram swarming with Hindu deities and get a glimpse of the rainbow-colored House of Tan Teng Niah.

Then, buckle up for the main event: the food. Fish head curry is a local favorite, but if you don’t feel like having a staring contest with your dinner there are banana leaf curries, biryanis, tandoori chicken, veggie dosas and sambar stew. Little India is your oyster.