Geylang Serai may not be the most exciting of places during most parts of the year, but when Ramadan (17 June to 18 July 2015) creeps around the corner, street lights and bazaar stalls transform this area into a month long food paradise. The feasting only begins after sunset so take some time to explore the neighbourhood while you’re there!
1. Became a willing heart
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and improvement so what better way to do that than to start off your day at Willing Hearts, a soup kitchen which whips up thousands of meals everyday for the less fortunate. Volunteers are always welcomed and even if you can’t tell a pot from a saucepan, you will be kept busy with the food packing and delivery. Find out more about what you can do here. Preparations for meals start from 6am to 4pm and walk-ins are welcomed. Bigger groups of volunteers can sign up here.
11 Jalan Ubi Blk 6, #01-51, Singapore 409074
Tel: 6476 1098
Opening hours: 6am to 4pm | Daily
2. Entered a time capsule of shopping malls
After all that hard work, reward yourself with some retail therapy!
The newest kid on the block may be ONE KM but it’s unlikely you’ll find any shop that’s not already in every other faceless heartland malls. For a different shopping experience, pop by Joo Chiat Complex, City Plaza or Tanjong Katong Complex. These retro malls from the 1980s have a stubborn way of hanging on to their rustic charms and stepping into each of them is bound to bring you back decades.
Both Joo Chiat Complex and Tanjong Katong Complex specialise in Malay textiles, carpets, crafts, jewellery and a wide range of traditional clothing such as kebayas and baju kurung. I find the experience akin to a museum visit and though it’s unlikely you’ll end up buying anything, you might just chance upon cool bargain and understated delicacies. Definitely a place to check out if you’re looking for traditional costumes or unique decorations for your home!
Painted in citrus looking rainbows, City Plaza is a building that’s hard to miss. Even if you don’t recall the building, chances are you’ll know it as one of the popular gathering spot for domestic helpers on weekends. But do you know it’s also Singapore’s largest fashion wholesale centre? My only visit to the place was more than 10 years ago, and not unlike a trip to Taipei’s Wufenpu, shopping involves delicate navigating among piles of plastic bags filled with clothes stacked atop one another and praying you don’t start a clothing avalanche.
I’m not sure how much of that has remained till today but it will be fun to check the place out again!
The citrus looking rainbows on City Plaza has been painted over and now the building is a sickly pastel pink. Someone get those guys a paint consultant!
Anyway, I wandered into City Plaza looking for a caffeine fix. The place certainly has not moved on from the 1980s. Didn’t manage to find any coffee but I did catch a marvellous scent of fried food and followed it to a cramped fast food joint tucked in one corner on the second storey – Arnold’s Fried Chicken. Wait, what? (Call me a Neanderthal but when I think of fried chicken and fast food, my mind goes straight to KFC and Popeyes.)
Apparently, Arnold’s is Singapore’s very own fast food brand and has been around for 30 years! I’ve yet to try the food but the reviews here and here seem promising! There’s something nostalgic about the place that brings back my childhood memories of eating KFC (at a time when they still served the soft buns… where are the soft buns…). The prices are slightly higher than your other typical fast food but I’m hopeful the quality would make up for that. There’s only 3 branches so far so catch it before any large scale franchising ruin the food (yes, I’m talking about you,Popeyes)!
Joo Chiat Complex
1 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore 420001
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm | Daily
11 Tanjong Katong Road, Singapore 437157
810 Geylang Road, Singapore 409286
Arnold’s Fried Chicken (#02-99)
Tanjong Katong Complex
845 Geylang Road, Singapore 400845
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm | Daily
3. Battled the Cat Mountain King and an Old Granny
Durian prices are down! There’s just something about durian stalls that makes me feel as though I am setting myself up for a scam. But when the durian craving strikes, who are you to fight it?
Trekked down Sims Avenue in search of the King of Fruits (tip: bring an umbrella! Or just take a train to Aljunied Station). Heard about a stall at Lorong 17 Geylang Road but found one at Lorong 21 Geylang Road and was too lazy to continue further. Seating is available and there was a healthy crowd so we took our chances! Durians of all price ranges were available, from the $2 each and 3 for $10 to the “branded” $18/kg Mao Shan Wang and the latest $24/kg Old Granny.
We bought a Mao Shan Wang durian for $24 which was deliciously meaty with just the right juiciness without being too watery. And there was fleshy goodness to be found in every sections of the durian (don’t you just hate it when you open a section to find nothing). Craving satisfied!
4. Lounged in a Google-inspired library
Infused with painful memories of mugging and exams, a library might not seem like the most appealing of places to visit. Perhaps it is a sign of aging, but these days, I kind of enjoy the serenity and the comfy seats, all without throwing money at overpriced coffee. I can almost see my future now – the weird newspaper-reading, table-hogging hobo hunching over in the corner.
The newest and funkiest library in town, the LLiBrary at Lifelong Learning Institute, is the first of its kind which caters specifically to the professional development of working adults. Though the materials and resources might be limited to career development and skills upgrading, the 830 square metres of indoor and outdoor Google-inspired spaces seems like a rather conducive place to get some reading done.
There’s also a Lifelong Learning Exploration Centre where you can take profiling tests and games among other services. And every other person I know seems to have some form of a career crisis, so one more reason to give this place a visit!
Lifelong Learning Institute
11 Eunos Road 8, #03 – 02 (via Lobby B), Singapore 408601
Tel: 6883 5885
LLiBrary opening hours: 10am to 10pm | Mon to Sat
Lifelong Learning Exploration Centre opening hours: 10am to 4pm | Mon to Fri | Closed on weekends and public holidays
5. Sweat it out at a supersized pasar malam
The usual pasar malams you see consisting of stalls lining up narrows walkways is nothing compared to the hundreds of stalls making up this supersized bazaar sprawling along Sims Avenue and Geylang Road.
For a bazaar of this size, I was a little disappointed last year with the lack of variety between the stalls. You can’t go for more than 10 stalls without seeing yet another stall selling Ramly Burgers or Roti Johns. On the plus side, tough competition do let the best stalls come up on top! (Just follow the longest queues. Singaporeans are never wrong with this kind of thing. True story.)
And if you have patience and endurance to plough along the entire bazaar despite the humidity and throngs of people, you just might be rewarded with something different! I once found a stall selling hotdogs topped with a deliciously tongue scorching meat sauce. I still have no idea what it’s called (and no idea what meat was in the sauce) but most of the stall owners will be eager to help you with your order, especially if you’re looking lost and confused. We even managed to get discounted otahs when the stalls are wrapping up the night. It’s kind of like buying food in a foreign country – point, smile and hope for the best!
Unless you’re preparing for Hari Raya Puasa, you can probably skip the other stalls selling clothing, carpets and home decorations. For plant lovers though, there was a great selection of plants during last year’s bazaar, so do keep a look out!
Along Sims Avenue and Geylang Road next to Paya Lebar MRT
Date timer: ~full day
Drop a comment if you know of other awesome Ramadan bazaars to check out!
* Image credit: Google images