Our taxi driver dropped us off in Little India, to our Air BnB Homestay called ‘Ali’s Nest’. It was considerably cheaper than anything else that Singapore had to offer and so we weren’t expecting much. Beggars can't be choosers, after all.
Ali welcomed us with a big, warm smile and a firm handshake. His 98 year old mother lived there too- and he was her carer. Ali prided himself in it being a simple place- help yourself! Make it your home! Thank you Ali. It was swelteringly hot and had about 20 rooms somehow rammed into the building and always smelt of curry. If Ali had’t been so lovely, we would probably have minded the vat of congealed fat that steadily grew in size over our 6 night stay there.
The walk to breakfast was the best part of staying in Little India. At the end of our street, we darted across the road to get into the shade, where shops had hung tarps and blankets to shade the pathway. Each shop had a stall that was packed full of their wares that stood between the building and the road, making the path into a sort of maze through all their colourful wares. It was no walk, but more like a festival of the senses, the insense and the bhangra blasted out, the Indian rude boys hanging out, laughing and pointing at two little white boys Bollywood dancing their way down the road.
The restaurant that we loved and visited every day was called Suraya. Full of locals who were eyeing us with curiosity at first- but they became allies when they saw how excited the children were to get a whole Masala Dosa for breakfast! We couldn’t help but whoop and scream, which must have been hilarious to all the locals, just having their usual equivalent of toast and eggs for breakfast.
The restaurant was on the corner of Serangoon Road and opposite a Hindu Temple that we also had to visit every day. After our fill of Idli and Dosas which tasted as good as any I ate in India- we would eat with our hands and lick our fingers clean (when in Rome!) and head over the road to witness the colours, sights and sounds of Hindu Devotion.
The Temple was intense. People singing, chanting, getting blessed by the monks, buying milk, yogurt and coconuts to offer the Gods. In the hushed darkness there were candles twinkling away and the heady incense which made you swoon and transport you to another world. The boys threw themselves into the experience and were transfixed by the outrageously colourful Hindu place of worship. We did a comparison of this to a church- what are the differences, what are the similarities. It was endless. We managed to get in the way a lot, as we were unfamiliar with the correct way to move around the temple.. but I think we got there in the end. It was a good trade off anyway- getting trodden on to see it all.
3 members of Team Wheeler had colds during our time at Singapore- so we were happy enough just to wander around and not do too much.
Whilst waiting to go on the Walkway, we met a family from Bristol, travelling with their 2 boys! It was almost too perfect. Sadly they were leaving the next day, but we hung out with them and we went to Haw Par Villa the next day.
Haw Par Villa was built by the man who invented Tiger Balm and given as a gift to the people of Singapore. It was a crazy festival of surreal figures and featured the 10 Courts of Hell to serve as a warning to those who did not listen to their older sibings/ gossip/ not eat their greens.
The attraction used to be a major player in Singapore but has been forgotten in recent times with the development of Sentosa Island. Full of 'Universal Studios' and heaps of modern theme parks, it overshadowed Haw Par Villa, but I think it is charming in its own right, also everything on Sentosa Island costs a fortune and this place was FREE. You can tell we're on a budget, right?
The upper exhibits were quite cheerful and funny- depicting fables and legends, but the 10 Court of Hell were a bit more sinister....
I wasn't sure how the boys would react to the exhibits, but they seemed to understand it was to be taken lightly. The place was quite run down which made it seem less real- also we spent a lot of time laughing to make it less sinister.
Where we stayed:
Ali’s nest, Roberts Lane, Little India. 40 per night
What we did:
Gardens By The Bay, 16GBP per adult, 8.50GBP per child for the conservatories.
4.50GBP per adult for the skywalk with a free lightshow at 7.45pm and 8.45pm
Haw Par Villa- free and CRAZY NUTS.
Cinema- it was hot, it was a Birthday and Moana was brilliant! 6.70GBP each.
Little India was a constant source of entertainment, but was especially lively on a Sunday. Immigrant Indian workers have the day off- and as they are separated from their families, they all hang out here together. The place is ALIVE and has a festival atmosphere.
The food here is good and cheap too.
How we got around:
Walked when we could but other than that, we caught the Tube. The ‘MRT’ was supposed to be brilliant, instead we found it annoying. You cannot get a child ticket unless you catch a train to a particular station and produce the child’s passport. We ended up paying full price, which made it expensive. Not much assistance from the staff and we weren’t able to ride with our bags to the airport as big luggage is not allowed.
Singapore was a cacophony of cultures, food and sights! We loved it.