Open Sesame


In the 1840s, after the British dispersed the Malay floating village at the mouth of the Singapore River, the Malays began to settle in the Geylang Serai area. In the early 1920s, there was also an exodus of the Malays from the Kampong Glam area to the Geylang Serai, owing to keen competition for land in Kampong Glam. In the result, Geylang Serai has for years been known as the Malay enclave in Singapore.

To attract tourists to the area, an attraction called The Malay Village was developed to showcase the traditional Malay way of life, complete with a museum, shops, eating places and even a Malay wedding performance. The Village which opens from 10.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. daily has an admission fee of S$5. The Village comes across as artificial and even tacky, and it's not worth a visit, even if the admission fee were scrapped.

To experience Geylang Serai the authentic way, visit the Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre instead. This bustling market, located right next to the Malay Village, is one of the best markets to visit in Singapore.

To get to the market, take the MRT to Paya Lebar MRT Station then walk along Sims Avenue until you see Geylang Serai on your right. Walk till the end of Geylang Serai, where you'll see Block 3 Geylang Serai on your left. A nondescript, narrow passage at the front of that block of flats leads you into a market. You'll be surprised at where this narrow passage takes you. It's almost like saying "Open Sesame" and walking right into Ali Baba's treasure trove.

At the front of the market, there is a labyrinth of stalls selling textile, skull caps, Malay CDs, and other items used by a Malay household. Each stall space is small, so the stallholders cram as many things as they can into their stalls and even hang their goods from the low ceiling.

As you venture further down, you'll find the start of the wet market. Skirting the wet markets are stalls selling sun-dried foodstuffs, spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, deep-fried foods and local drinks. For S$1, you can get 3 goreng pisang (banana fritters) which are sweet and tasty. They make a good breakfast and you can wash all that down with a pink bandung drink (milk with rose syrup). Buy a packet of dried keropok (crackers made from fish or prawn meat) and deep fry them when you get home. They're better than potato chips and they make a lovely souvenir from South-East Asia.

Right at the end, you'll find the hawker food centre. This food centre must have the largest concentration of Muslim foodstalls in Singapore, and it is one of the best places to sample Malay cuisine.

At Stall No. 200 is the famous Hajjah Mona Nasi Padang stall. Nasi Padang is rice eaten with a choice of several spicy dishes. The stall opens at 8.00 a.m. and closes when the food is sold out. They are closed on Wednesdays. The dishes are all displayed and served on banana leaves. I hear the nasi rawan, beef rendang (spicy beef), ayam korma (chicken) and ikan telebok (fried fish) are all excellent. Give it a try!


After finding your way out of the market, cross Geylang Road and walk down Joo Chiat Road. Start on the left side of the road, as you will be walking up the right side on your way back to Payar Lebar MRT Station.

Joo Chiat Road is rather long, but you will need the exercise with all that munching.

Joo Chiat Road is lined by pre-war shophouses, some of which house vanishing trades and old furniture shops, whilst others house modern eateries, karaoke bars and nightclubs. The best time to visit is on a weekday when the shops are open.

At No. 95 Joo Chiat Road is Kwang Guan Huat, where popiah skins (springroll skins) are made in the traditional way by cooking the thin batter on a round, flat, heated pan. This is indeed a rare sight!


When you see Joo Chiat Place on your left, turn into it. On the left side of the road, you will come across an old barber shop which still cuts and shaves the traditional way. There aren't many of them left in Singapore. Right next door is an old Chinese herbal shop which sells cooling tea.

Cross to the opposite side of the road when you see Xin Hua Coffeeshop at No. 64 Joo Chiat Place. This is home of Fei Fei Wanton Noodle which is open from 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays, and from 8.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. on Sundays. The noodle is homemade and served in a traditional, small, porcelain bowl which you have to empty before you can bring it to the stallholder to ask for some soup. Whilst some regard this as one of the best wanton noodle stalls in Singapore, others think it is overrated. You may prefer to try the "bak chang" next door instead.

At No. 60 Joo Chiat Place is the well-known Kim Choo Kueh Chang, which sells "bak chang" (glutinous rice dumplings stuffed with meat or sweet fillings and wrapped in lotus leaf). The stall is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m., and on Sundays from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

Legend tells of how Qu Yuan, a poet and patriot in ancient China committed suicide by jumping into a river after he learnt that his homeland had come under the control of the Qin state as a result of an incompetent government. Villagers threw rice dumplings into the river to feed the fishes so they would not devour Qu Yuan's body. That was how the rice dumpling was born.


Walk to where Joo Chiat Place meets Joo Chiat Road and continue your stroll down Joo Chiat Road.

At No. 267 Joo Chiat Road is Nam San Fresh Mackerel Otah, an otah stall operated by Chinese Muslims who claim credit for "Singapore's No. 1 Banana Leaf Otah". Otah is a spicy fishcake usually wrapped in coconut leaves. The stall is open from 7.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.

Snack on a stick of otah, then it's time for something sweet. At No. 451, housed in a modern building called Breezeway at Katong, is Awfully Chocolate which sells positively the best banana chocolate fudge cake in Singapore. I'm salivating just thinking about it… Awfully Chocolate is open from 11.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.

For something more local, try the durian puffs at Puteri Mas at No. 475 Joo Chiat Road. They are open on Mondays from noon to 5.00 p.m., on Tuesdays to Fridays from 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Joo Chiat Road will eventually spill into East Coast Road. At the corner of Joo Chiat Road and East Coast Road is a coffeeshop called Hock Ann Eating House. The tau kwa pau (fried beancurd stuffed with minced meat, egg, fried yam, cucumber and coriander). The same stall sells duck, so the tau kwa paus are served cold with a special, duck sauce and a small bowl of chilli sauce. It's S$2 per plate and this is one of Hai's favourite snacks!


After tucking in a plate of tau kwa paus, turn right and walk down East Coast Road.

Not far down at No. 75 East Coast Road is the bakery nicknamed "The Red House" because of its fire-engine red façade. Its real name is Katong Bakery & Confectionary Co and this place is special for its unique, genuine, retro experience.

Time seems to have stopped in the 60s in this quaint, little bakery. The bakery still serves the same cakes and pastries which it did back in the 1960s. The same rickety fans, the tiled floors with floral motifs, marble-top round tables with wooden chairs furniture and 60s décor are still in use.

Step inside for a look. The bakery is open from 11.30 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. daily.

A few doors down at Nos. 51 and 49 East Coast Road are 2 coffeeshops both serving "Katong Laksa" and both open from 8.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. Judging by the number of patrons, it appears the one at No. 49 is slightly more popular. The 2 coffeeshops are separated by a street called Ceylon Road. Laksa is a noodle dish served in a thick bowl of spicy, coconut-based gravy, topped with fresh cockles and fishcakes. If your stomach only has space for either this or the tau kwa pau, I'd say go for this as it is more satisfying.

If it's time for a toilet break or some air-conditioned comfort, head for Parkway Parade. This large shopping mall is across East Coast Road, down Brooke Road, then across Marine Parade Road.

When you're ready to resume your eating binge, find your way to the hawker centre at Block 84 Marine Parade Central. Stall No. 174 is Apollo Char Kway Teow, home of one of the best char kway teow in Singapore. Char kway teow is Chinese flat rice noodles fried with egg and dark soy sauce, and topped with cockles. The char kway teow at this stall is distinctive for its wet-style with loads of garlic. Yummy!!!


Return to the mouth of Ceylon Road and walk down it. A short distance into Ceylon Road, you'll find a Hindu Temple called Sri Senpaga Vinavagar Temple on your left. The temple is undergoing restoration works at the moment, but it's still interesting to see how the restorations are done.


Turn right at Fowlie Road and follow the road until you reach Joo Chiat Road once more. Turn left onto Joo Chiat Road. You'll now be walking in the direction of Geylang Serai.

At No. 360 Joo Chiat Road is a coffeeshop called Joo Heng. This coffeeshop is open from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m., then from 5.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. daily, and it is popular for its Chinese stir-fry. Try the prawn paste deep fried chicken (pronounced "har cheong gai" in Cantonese).

For a more unusual culinary experience, walk further down to Lau Hock Guan Kee Bak Kut Teh at No. 328 Joo Chiat Road #01-02. The name may say "Bak Kut Teh" (pork rib soup), but this place is actually famous for their assam-style fish head curry. The fish is fresh and the tangy curry is thick. This place is open from 7.30 a.m. to 1.00 a.m., but closed on Thursdays.


At the mouth of Joo Chiat Road, turn left and walk until you get to the S11 Food Court at No. 12 Geylang Road.

The most famous stall here would be the putu piring stall at one corner of the foodcourt. Putu piring is a small, white, Malay cake made of flour and stuffed with gula melaka (brown sugar). It is eaten with grated coconut. For S$1, you get 3 cottony cakes, which make an excellent light snack. The stall opens from 2.30 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.


There are a couple of shops just a few steps down Geylang Road from the foodcourt. The shops sell knick knacks at low prices.

If you continue walking straight down Geylang Road from there, you'll arrive at City Plaza. This must be Little Indonesia for the thousands of Indonesians who work in Singapore.

To get to Paya Lebar MRT Station, cross Geylang Road, walk down Tanjong Katong Road, then cross Sims Avenue. You will recognize your starting point of the tour easily.


During the weekends, Singapore's largest weekend flea market, Stadium Cove, is just 2 MRT stops away. Alight at Kallang MRT Station.

A free shuttle service also operates from Raffles Hotel, between 3.30 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. on Saturdays, and between 8.30 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. on Sundays. The nearest MRT Station to Raffles Hotel is City Hall MRT Station.

Stadium Cove is a flea market with a carnival atmosphere. It is located along the Kallang River with buskers galore. It is a happy hunting ground for unique buys.

The Stadium Cove operates on Saturdays from 4.00 p.m. to midnight and on Sundays from 11.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m.

~ Happy Walking & Bingeing! ~

Textile at Geylang Serai Market


Decorative Pieces

Sun-Dried Goods


Goreng Pisang

Crowded on Sundays


Dry Foodstuffs



Famous Nasi Padang

Medical Hall at Joo Chiat Road


Popiah Skin Maker

Traditional Barber


Cooling Tea

Queue at Fei Fei Wanton Noodle


Bak Chang

Original Durian Puff


Tau Kwa Pau

The Red House


Really Old Owner (background)

Wave of Nostalgia


Katong Laksa

Hindu Temple along CeylonRoad


Famous Fish Head Curry

S11 Foodcourt at Geylang Serai


Friendly Putu Piring Man

Putu Piring


Shops along Geylang Road

More Shops


Stadium Cove

Stalls under the Gazebos


Clowning About

Dog Portraits



Street Artists


Clowns SMS too

Turkish Ice-Cream


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