Exploring Singapore: Haji Lane and Bugis Street


Bugis Street, conveniently located right opposite Bugis Junction, is a shopping haven for teens/young people looking for budget loot. After getting back from Korea, I believe I'm still suffering from a bout of (window-)shopping withdrawal symptoms. When Jana and I finally thought of a date to get-together before university officially starts, I thought, why not Bugis?
Stepping into Bugis Street is like walking into Singapore's own Migliore (in Dongdaemun, Seoul) or HongKong's Women Street. It's also like an upgraded version of our local Pasar Malam. For starters, it is air-conditioned, providing us with a welcome respite from the sweltering heat outdoors.
Females would be delighted at the variety of clothes on sale. Cropped tees, flowy sundresses, skater skirts... Everything is going at affordable prices of around $10 - $20. However, no trying is allowed, so unless you're really confident about being able to fit into the clothes, it won't be advisable to purchase too much at one go.

Of course, they have shops for guys too, and places selling random knick-knacks for unsuspecting tourists.

I was tempted on multiple occasions to buy those clothes but my parents forbade me from getting more clothes and accessories for my wardrobe is packed, LITERALLY.

What's a place in Singapore if it doesn't sell food? Bugis Street's first floor also contains a food street. While walking past, I saw waffles, duck's neck (a Chinese delicacy), sausages, and Prawn "pancakes".

Unknown to most, Bugis Street has an escalator that leads up to the second floor (and a third floor) where more shops are available.

Here's the wall of hearts on the second floor, which reminded me of the "Love Lock" bridge in Paris. Shops here open at around 11.30am - 12pm, so don't come too early (or you'll end up like us, wandering in aimless circles around Bugis waiting for the shops to open.)

Since Haji Lane is just a stone's throw away from Bugis, we decided to pop by there too.

Haji Lane is Singapore's hidden hipster street, filled with indie boutiques, Middle Eastern restaurants, and an eclectic mix of shops.

For once, we became pretend-tourists and went exploring (minus the locality map. Who needs it when we have Google maps?)

Sultan Mosque, with its massive golden dome, greeted us as we approached Haji Lane.

As we walked down the rows of pre-war shophouses, it was as if we had entered a Middle Eastern place. Thick carpets and rugs with exotic designs, Turkish restaurants serving dishes that we have never heard of... WOW.

I've heard that Haji Lane has quite a few spots with cool graffiti but we couldn't seem to be able to find them. The decorated walls above were the only remotely artistic-looking places that I spotted. Also, I was bummed that we couldn't find the dessert cafes. The weather made us lazy and reluctant to continue searching the area, so we decided to retreat into the air-conditioned comfort of Istana Kampong Glam's museum - The Malay Heritage Centre.

We needed to kill some time while waiting for more roadside kiosks (with the red tentages) selling Middle Eastern food at Sultan's Gate to open, so the museum should be able to keep us entertained for around an hour.

I remember in my secondary school days, our Social Studies project involved us going around Singapore to research on the various locations' history. My group was allocated Clarke Quay, so we didn't have to chance to explore Kampong Glam/Haji Lane. I suppose it isn't too late now to learn more about the history of Kampong Glam and Singapore's Malay heritage.

We are neither history buffs or museum fanatics but we don't mind engaging in intellectual activities after our 8-month rest. Our brains should warm up for university after such a long time of slacking!
Admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs, so after showing our pink ICs to the lady at the ticketing counter, each of us received a sticker and we're in!

Gallery 2 was showcasing their new exhibit - Laaobe: Baweanese Heritage & Culture in Singapore.
The description of the exhibit from the museum's official site:

Laaobe* highlights the Baweanese community in Singapore whose forefathers hailed from Pulau Bawean, off the northern coasts of Java and Madura. Here, they are more familiarly known as Orang Boyan (“Bawean people”, although boyan is a mispronounciation of Bawean). The exhibition presents the history and development of the local Baweanese community. A key highlight is the ponthuk - an early form of communal housing that functioned as the core social institution which has come to characterise Baweanese culture and values.

* “Laaobe” means ‘change’ in the Bawean language.

The common items featured in the ponthuk were on display.

A quick look-around later, we went to the main galleries. They focus on Singapore's history of how it evolved from a sleepy fishing village, and the culture, heritage and history of Malay Singaporeans.

The Sultan and Tumenggong's symbols of status.

The medals awarded to Yusof Bin Ishak, Singapore's first Yang di Pertuan Negara, Head of State. These show that he was of comparable status to the Tumenggong.

These artifacts serve to show that Singapore does indeed have a history before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles! Coins dating back to the 14th century were unearthed in Singapore (honestly to me, they look like misshapen clumps of clay) and this proved that Singapore was a trading hub even before the British made it an official one.

I absolutely loved the vintagey-vibes this antique typewriter exudes.

Jana and I then watched snippets of some old Malay movies, which was really rather entertaining. Their horror genre seemed more like comedy to us. haha.

This is where we concluded our museum trip!

Being a pretend-tourist is fun, I think I'll go on further exploration around Singapore soon! :)

Istana Kampong Glam
Malay Heritage Centre
Opening Hours: 
Tuesday - Sunday, 10am - 6pm (last admission at 5.30pm)
Closed on Mondays
Admission is free for Singapore citizens and PRs. 

For tourists, adults are charged at $4 per ticket, and seniors and students are charged at $2 per ticket.

(ID verification is required.)

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