Sunday, December 20, 2009

Little India on a Sunday evening

Attracting a huge number of male migrant workers from South Asia, Little India on a Sunday evening exudes kind of a festive atmosphere. My journey through the area starts at C.M.K. 2001 Restaurant, opposite to the Mustafa Centre (more on this Singaporean institution later). Teh Halia (milk tea with ginger) revives me.

Walking down one block on Kapor Road to the south, I spot a mobile phone shop run by Chinese Singaporeans. As I need to buy a prepaid SIM card, I just pop in to get one by presenting my passport and paying 15 Singaporean dollars with 3 dollar worth extra talking time allowance. Since there is a promotional campaign held at this store, a further 6 dollar worth credit is added. Calling rates are very cheap (8 cents per minute for a call, 5 cents per text). I'm amazed how visitor-friendly Singaporean mobile phones are.

Further down on Kabor Road, I notice a very narrow alleyway on my left. Just out of curiosity, I venture into this alleyway only to find that this is a (literally) red-light district. South Asian guys flock the entrance of a red-lighted hair-salon-looking place in which a few women are sitting on chairs. There are also several groups of South Asian guys who appear to play gambling.

At the end of the alley, turn right and then turn right again to walk into Rowell Road. The right side of this road is dotted with brothels. South Asian men are gazing through the bar fence into scanty-clad women.

Back on Kabor Road, I walk further down to the south. The road has a huge number of South Asian men (not a single woman in sight), some chatting to each other, some just standing alone. New high-rise residential buildings on the left have grocery shops and electronic product shops on the ground floor. On a parking lot pop up some stalls and booths for viewing cricket on TV.

At the end of Kabor Road, I turn right. Two-story shop houses in this part of Little India look cute in yellow.

I go across Serangoon Road, Little India's main street, to Kerbau Road. After one block, the road is pedestrianized and absolutely packed with South Asian men (not a single woman in sight). I notice many men hold a cup of yellow hot liquid here. Corn potage soup? I manage to find out a shop selling this yellow stuff. There is a long queue in front. I ask one guy drinking it. He tells me it's masala tea and I have to pay in advance and then join the queue to get a cup of mine. I follow what he told me and enjoy the spicy taste of malasa tea along with many South Asian guys.

By the time I go back to Mustafa Centre where I meet my friends, it gets dark, but the crowd does not seem to go away anytime soon. I briefly get into Mustafa Centre. It sells everything from foods and clothes to bags, drugs, jewel, gold bars, and even India visas for 24 hours every day. On the last day of my stay in Singapore, I come here again to buy a cabin-sized suitcase for only 19 Singaporean dollars because my lost luggage never comes back to me before leaving Singapore,

After a quick supper, my friends take me back to the red light Rowell Road for a bohemian bar (Food#03 at 109 Rowell Road). They serve me with a glass of masala tequila. I learn that this bar used to be a brothel. But the house owner one day gets arty, and converts the brothel next door into an art gallery and this one into a bar. South Asian men flock the entrance of the art gallery, just like they do in front of a brothel, being perplexed with what the hell the place is all about.

On the way back to the hotel, I walk down Serangoon Road with an endless series of colorfully painted old shop houses illuminated.

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