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Ethnic Singapore

I hadn’t cared too much for Singapore’s Little India on my first visit, but I needed to get my hair hennaed and figured it deserved another chance. Waste of time – I didn’t find anywhere to get my hair done, and I still didn’t care too much for the area. True, this being Singapore, the streets were free of trash, but somehow they seemed dingier than those in the rest of the city, and lacking the color and excitement of a true Indian town – if Sri Lanka was India-lite, Singapore’s Little India was India-grey.

Little India

Who needs pavement when you could shop?

In contrast, across the river Chinatown blazed with red and gold, whole streets crammed with stalls and choked with shoppers. In 2002 I had enjoyed my stay at the Inn on Temple Street,  but some bad reviews on Tripadvisor convinced me not to go back, and given I could barely see Temple Street, never mind the Inn, for the press of people, I was glad to be staying in the relative calm of Bencoolen Street.

Aside from stellar browsing and people watching, thanks to the preparations for Chinese New Year, I enjoyed a couple of sights and a good lunch. The Chinatown Heritage Center offered informative displays on the life of the original Chinese migrants, followed by a floor of their cramped living quarters, each small room illustrating the life of a particular family.

One family's home

After nicely spicy shrimp with peanuts and excellent sprouts with garlic at a nearby Sichuan restaurant, I admired the impressive new Temple of the Tooth (yes, home to yet another Buddha tooth, a present from Sri Lanka) before a rain storm started. In between the heavy showers I managed to cross Fullerton Bridge and visit the cathedral, before retreating to my hotel. The rain was so relentless I even ate “in”. The Ibis was offering a special deal on 3, 4, or 5 dishes from its menu, and the four I chose were really not bad.

The Temple of the Tooth is very new

Remembering Japan Airlines’ inability to keep my luggage dry (no, I have neither forgotten nor forgiven) I packed everything in plastic ready for my flight to Bangkok. (And guess what? Cathay Pacific got my bag wet too!)

I had stopped off in Singapore only because I hadn’t been able to get a business class award seat on a direct flight to Bangkok, but I had enjoyed my quick visit more than I had expected, even though I didn’t make it back to the Raffles for their sybaritic afternoon tea. While I still think of Singapore as Disneyland Asia, you can’t fault the museums or the food.

Inside the Temple of the Tooth

New Year's merchandise

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