Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Arab Street

Little India, next to Arab Street, will one day be Big India

I don’t really know why people keep calling the Indian quarter little, because for me, it’s a lot bigger than a block of shops on one side, 2 food stools opposite to it and a nice Dosa of Cheese Nan.

The Singaporean one is no exception. One of the largest and most authentic quarters of the city state, Little India is a place of narrow streets with many shops selling Indians products, but also some nice houses decorated in Muslims style.

The Mosque at the end of the street does give a more dignifying outlook than most of the Little Indian I have been to. I know not so many though …

The area is full of web and digital agencies trying to be cool and fancy, rivalry with their web 2.0 versioning names (I never saw for example a MyWebCompanyIsCool.com -0.1). The low rent and old wooden houses might actually attract the latest web and fashion designers of the planet Singapore.

Food is also a specialty of the sub region. You can find everything you want in the side shops, from your hometown homemade Dosai (Pancakes), or Thali (Curry) wrap in a paper, to your sweet Barfi (Milk) in a plastic bag.

The beauty of the place is narrow streets and the feeling that everything is just one arm away from you. Shops are everywhere, people are exploring them and smells are helping to draw the map within each other. At the end of the journey, one must go to see the famous Mustafa Center. A giant mall selling everything and anything, where prices are not tag and if there are, they are just a starting point for a long and time consuming discussion.

On your way out, I highly recommend to stop the very famous Zam Zam restaurant (699 North Bridge Road), a Muslim Malay food place where the Chicken Murtabak is served to your tale at no more than S$5. Expect to be seated within other people. Everything in this place is close to a real Muslim Malay experience, especially the washroom.

Don’t miss the Blu Jaz Café on your way out of Little India. The 2 storey place is home for live Jazz and Blues on the main floor, while locals DJ fighting the set on the first floor.

Little India is big enough already and it can walk by itself. This is a good place to envision a home based for your strategic living experience in Singapore. Not the best place though but a solid area to investigate on several occasions.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Crossing an entire country for less than $2 is possible in Singapore!

Having a public transport from one side of the country to the other is the dream of any country of the planet. Only Singapore a city-state can actually do it.

There is currently only three lines to ventilate the 4.5 millions inhabitant of Singapore, but the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) is well define and pretty functional. The island is equipped with a North-South line, East-West Line and finally a North-East line. Three more lines are in construction, and will be rolling out in phase, with 2008 as a first step.

Downtown is usually air conditioned, and underground, as opposed at outside downtown where the MRT lines stand in middle of the highways and at 20-30 meters high, circulating between buildings.

The MRT tram itself is modern and very spacious, except during rush hour, where the civilized world has been checkout the station. People push you, squeeze the line, jump on you, actually run for a seat and complain when you are not moving fast enough.

The price is dynamic and depends on when you use the MRT, for how long and how tall you are. I explain myself. If you ride the MRT during pick hours, the ride price will be higher. If you ride the MRT over a long distance, the ride price will be higher. If you are lower than 0.9 meter and less than 10 years old, the ride is free. There is a red line in front of each booth to measure your height for a checking procedure.

The best way to deal with the ever changing ride price is to buy an EZ-Link pass. It’s an electronic wallet in which you put money in advance and used as you go. An entry booth validate and record when you check-in, and another one charge you on the spot when you check-out. If you forget to check in or out an alarm kicks in and the responsible of the station helps you to fix the issue.

Don’t ever thing you can bypass the charging process because you are constantly on camera and I am sure that the broadcasting is probably done real time live to the nearest hospital for the brain removal surgery on the third attempts to jump the fair.

It’s a very nice, efficient and simple yet random charm and character transportation system. In another words, MRT resembles its city. I would not imagine Singapore without it, just do not use it during rush hours.