Five cultural places in Singapore you should experience

Lucky Plaza is known as a place where many Filipinos hang out
Lucky Plaza is known as a place where many Filipinos hang outPHOTO: JASON QUAH/SPH

LUCKY PLAZA

The scene: Located in Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza has become a place for Filipinos to hang out.

The mall has numerous minimarts selling everything from toiletries to snacks imported from the Philippines.

They cater to the Filipinos who throng the place on their days off, said Ms Joyce Chako, 48, who is a Filipina worker works at Glory Minimart. She said: “They buy stuff, remit money and meet friends.”

What stands out: It seems that whitening products are popular. Every minimart stocks such products in the form of lotions and soap bars.

Ms Roxanne Avendanio, 30, a corporate secretarial associate, goes to Lucky Plaza once a week to buy whitening soap from her home country. “Yes, we are obsessed with them,” she said.

“I also come here to get groceries, a haircut, or my nails done. It is easy to communicate the services I want as we all speak a common language.”

Yum: Try chicaron, a Filipino snack of fried pork skin which is very popular among the Filipinos. Corn chips is another popular snack. Both are available at minimarts in the building.

If you are feeling peckish, head to one of the restaurants selling Filipino cuisine. You can try bulalo, a type of beef stew, and ube halaya, a dessert made with yam.

PENINSULA PLAZA

The scene: Peninsula Plaza, near City Hall MRT station, is unofficially known as Little Myanmar.

Most, if not all, of the signboards of the stores in Peninsula Plaza are in the Myanmar language – also known as Burmese.

The items sold at a minimart there include Myanmar newspapers, magazines and snacks. Myanmar traditional and pop music CDs can also be bought at the marts there.

A spokesman for Yellow Goldenland minimart, who declined to give her name, said: “They (Myanmar people) also like to buy batik clothing, because it’s cooling.”

What stands out: As Buddhism is the main religion in Myanmar, some of the shops here play Buddhist sutras as background music. Some of the stores also have posters of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is the chairman of the National League for Democracy, a political party in Myanmar.

Yum: There are eateries and restaurants selling Myanmar cuisine on the basement level of the mall. Inle Myanmar, one of the restaurants, sells traditional dishes such as mohinga, a rice noodle dish in fish broth, and kyay oae, a type of noodle dish where either vermicelli or kway teow is served in chicken soup, with either chicken or pork.

“About 70 to 80 per cent of our customers are from Myanmar. For the kyay oae, five in 10 Myanmar people will order it,” said Mr Oscar Lau, 22, a waiter at the restaurant.

“We hold a wedding buffet function almost every weekend. Myanmar food can probably be found only around this area.”

GOLDEN MILE COMPLEX

The scene: Yes, it is a little dim and dingy, but Golden Mile Complex is a slice of home for the Thais.

One store offers Thai & Oil massages; another sells clothing imported from Thailand.

“If they come here, everything is available, it’s more convenient. If you go elsewhere, Thai stuff is hard to find. Here, you can remit money and eat; everything is here,” said Ms Samran, 37, who works at an appliance store in the complex.

Mr Koh Eng Seng, 52, the owner of a Thai minimart, said: “On weekends, it’s usually the blue-collar workers who come here. On weekdays, we see more housewives and the working white-collar class.”

What stands out: The Thai supermarket there stocks a huge variety of items imported from Thailand, such as durian candy, cup noodles, chips and chilli sauce. It is like a FairPrice supermarket, except that most of the items come from Thailand. Products from Vietnam are also available.

Yum: Sink your teeth into Thai snacks such as khanom buang – Thai crispy pancake usually filled with coconut cream and shredded coconut – sold at the complex.

If you are feeling adventurous, tuck into dishes such as Chiang Mai laksa or Northern Thai noodle with chicken curry soup.

TANJONG PAGAR

The scene: Do not be misled by the unassuming colonial exteriors of the shophouses along Tanjong Pagar Road.

A stretch of shops near Tanjong Pagar MRT station can be said to be Singapore’s Little Korea.

Mainly dominated by Korean restaurants, the stretch includes a Lotte Mart – a well-known South Korean supermarket chain – which would satisfy those hunting for Korean snacks and drinks.

Outside the store is a vending machine which sells only Korean drinks, such as milkis, a type of carbonated beverage.

What stands out:The jaw-dropping variety of dishes served by a group of at least 15 Korean restaurants is a huge draw.

Also, if you love K-pop, this is the place for you. The restaurants play Korean music in the background.

Yum:Besides the more commonly found Hotstone Bibimbap, Ginseng Chicken Soup or Korean barbecue, Korean fried chicken – sold at at least two eateries on this stretch – is a winner. Korean fried chicken tastes different from your regular fried chicken – it is more flavourful as it is covered in different sauces such as soya garlic sauce or spicy sauce.

LITTLE INDIA

The scene: Upon entering Little India, you will feel as if you have left Singapore.

The area bustles with all types of shops imaginable to cater to the Indian community – minimarts, travel agencies, pawn shops, photo studios, book shops and more. IN found a shop packed with bangles, which women buy to match their saris or simply as accessories.

Little India is a whirlwind of activity all the time. Tekka Centre, which is part wet market, part food centre, is one of the focal points of activity. A wide variety of groceries can be found here along with stalls selling Chinese, Malay and Indian food.

What stands out: Most of the items sold here are imported from India and are rarely found elsewhere in Singapore.

Indians usually make their way here to buy groceries and provisions, such as lentils which are used in Indian dishes.

“We sell seasonal vegetables from India, which can only be bought at Little India... such as Indian mangoes. We have more variety here than places like FairPrice,” said Madam Ramasamy Mullai, 43, who helps out at her husband’s minimart.

Yum: Drop by Tekka Centre or explore Little India if you are craving for Indian food.

They have choices for Indian Muslims as well as vegetarians.