Kampong Glam / Geylang

To take a look at the unique and vibrant Malay heritage, we decided to do things a little differently since Hari Raya was around the corner. We will be covering both Kampong Glam and Geylang - where the Hari Raya Bazaar will be held.

At first glance, Kampong Glam consists of streets surrounded by the architecture of Singapore’s traditional shophouses with a lot of different shops spread across them. They range from shops selling Persian rugs to even shops selling textiles!

Since it was 2 days before Hari Raya, there was a Ramadan Bazaar outside the traditional Masjid Sultan Mosque (as photographed in the first photo above). There was a visible crowd around the street bazaar as everyone tried buy food back to break fast.

The atmosphere was a little bit intriguing because the common tourist hotspot has now gotten a mix of locals. The tourists were loving the vibrance of the atmosphere along with the shouting of “Le-long, Le-long” (a local moniker for ‘sale, sale!’).

After that, we took a quick stop opposite the “Kampong Glam Café” to patronize a humble Teh Tahrik (a local moniker for ‘pulled tea’) stall that has no sign and no name. Dubbed the ‘best Teh Tarik in Singapore’ by various online sites, the stall uses traditional tea socks and fragrant tea leaves - a rare sight in any part of Singapore due to sanitary reasons.

The color of the tea from the ‘pulling’ got us all excited to try out the Teh Tarik of the nameless stall, to see if it truly lives up to his name (pun intended). The fragrance of the tea leaves feels as if it’s soaked inside the tea, and the milk was just right to provide a well-balanced sweetness. It was truly satisfying.

After that, we made a trip down to Geylang to have a look at the atmosphere of the Hari Raya bazaar - a cornerstone of the Malay tradition to celebrate during big events to ‘brighten’ up the atmosphere.

While I know that Geylang no longer contains anything that can represent the Malay heritage at any measure, it is worth noting that historically, there was a Malay village right here in Geylang and a heritage museum which was eventually hacked down.

This annual bazaar has always been full of color and spirit. With it’s usual purpose of our culture to host this huge bazaar during Ramadan to make the spirit more cheery, it is certainly accomplished by the smiles and color that we see around in the ethnic costumes.

It’s a common query to wonder why the main bazaar is held in Geylang and not the official Malay Heritage of Kampong Glam. The answer’s because the latter is simply too narrow to host the main bazaar, so they decided to put it at Geylang since it did also theoretically use to be an old Malay Village.

A lot of the crowd here came in families, which isn’t surprising because it’s part of the Malay culture to be very family-oriented - that is also represented by us wearing the same color ethnic costumes during Hari Raya.

I got quite tired of answering all the questions the rest of the team kept asking, so I decided that they should ask a really nice family we met on our way back about the culture surrounding bazaar.

When asked again for the difference between Kampong Glam and Geylang, we were told that Kampong Glam was a place that used to primarily be for the Sultan, whereas Geylang used to be more like a Malay Village where housing was for the common folk.

In comparison to the bazaars of the parents’ days, it was also mentioned that while it still gave off the same vibe, the ones from the past used to be a lot smaller and dirtier and the larger scale ones of today always makes it really interesting to visit.

It was interesting what we found at Kampong Glam, which frankly isn’t the place I visit very often although it’s considered to be the ethnic neighborhood of my race. But in many ways Geylang, despite not being the official heritage for Malays, is able to showcase many of the traditions we uphold.

— Zerin