Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Geylang

Geylang at Night with Neon Lights

Geylang – the famous red-light district of Singapore. It offers so much more than hanky panky that it may even surprise you…. [photo: flickr/Insights Unspoken]

Nestled on Singapore’s east coast, Geylang is an unexpected breath of fresh air amidst Singapore’s urban sprawl.

Full of vitality, this atmospheric quarter has managed to maintain the city’s old world ambience. While the area is famous for its red light district and hopping nightlife, this cultural melting pot also abounds in unique attractions definitely worth emailing home about.

Here are just some of the reasons why you would be crazy not to visit this vibrant area of the city.

1. Affordable Accommodation

You don’t have to compromise on quality to pay less for a room in Singapore. The hotels in Geylang offer some of the most affordable tourist class lodging in the city.

The area abounds in clean, comfortable and safe economical choices, and most hotels are close to amenities such as 24 hour supermarkets and restaurants, as well as convenient transport options.

Also, the MRT train station is a short stroll away from most of Geylang’s hotels, which means that if you stay here most of Singapore’s attractions will be pretty much on your doorstep.

2. Foodie’s Paradise

Geylang Frogs Leg Porridge

Frogs Leg Porridge – the favorite congee dish for all Singaporeans.

Synonymous with great food, Geylang is just about the best place in Singapore if you are hungry, and especially if you are after Singaporean fare.

The countless alfresco coffee-shops and stalls, many of them operate round-the-clock, serve the very best of local dishes. Try the standard favorites such as Chilli Crab, Beef Kway Teow (rice noodles) or Soy Milk with Fried Fritters, or be more adventurous and sample some more unusual dishes such as Kway Chap (Pig’s Innards Soup) or Frog Leg Porridge.

Keep in mind that the odd-numbered lorongs (small alleys that run perpendicular to the Geylang Road) are usually full of restaurants, while the even-numbered ones are reserved for the red light district.

3. Shopping Galore

For those who enjoy filling their bags with goodies, without coming home with and empty wallet, Geylang might be something close to “paradise of shopping“.

The little stores that line the area’s streets stock anything and everything from foodstuff, mobile phones and cosmetics to toiletries, lingerie and sex paraphernalia. Be warned, however, the area is a place for adventurous shoppers who are not afraid to haggle to get the right price.

4. Nightlife

Geylang comes alive at night, and even though the area is a red light district, you don’t need to be that way inclined to enjoy a fun night out.

There is an abundance of nightclubs, bars and karaoke lounges so finding an establishment that fits your mood shouldn’t be a problem. Even better, most of the bars and clubs are within walking distance of each other, making for an easy night out.

For the curious, the even-numbered lorongs, marked with neon-lighted numbers on the front, are a part of the red light trade.

5. Geylang Serai Market

If you are tired of shopping at impersonal mega malls, the Geylang Serai Market might just be the ticket.

The two-story traditional-style complex houses an array of Malay, Middle Eastern and Indian products such as spices, textiles and scarves, as well as fresh produce and poultry.

Some more unusual items on sale here include snakes and turtle eggs. And if you are feeling a bit peckish, head to the food court on the second floor to enjoy some of the tastiest and most inexpensive Malay and Indian dishes in the area.

6. Best Place to Try “King of Fruit”

Durians Seller in Geylang

You should be able to smell this pungent fruit from far… The locals simply adore the Durian for its “stale socks” smell and sweet mushy meat. Wonder why? Just try it! [photo: flickr/Melvin Heng]

While the fruit might not be everybody’s cup of tea, Geyalang is famous for its abundance of Durian street stalls.

Revered in Asia as the “king of fruit”, durians are hard to miss—just follow your nose and look out for their distinct thorn-covered husks.

And whether you will love or hate the odiferous fruit, Geylang is a great place to try what so many locals are raving about. Select a stall, pick your fruit, grab a chair and enjoy the ride.

7. Temples, Mosques and Churches

Geylang is a multicultural haven, and it’s not unusual to see churches, mosques and temples on the same street.

Those in search of a tranquil retreat should head to the Foo Hai Ch’an Monastery. Founded in 1935, the monastery is a serene oasis, complete with bonsai trees, gongs and intricate Buddha statues. Just next door is the 19th century Hindu Sri Sivan Temple, which was moved to the area from Orchard Road in 1983.

8. A Taste of Culture – Ramadan

Geylang Ramadan Bazaar Food Store

Malay snacks stall in the Ramadan bazaar. [photo: flickr/chooyutshing]

Being home to a sizable Muslim Malay community, Geylang really comes into its own during the Islamic month of Ramadan when the crowds come out to break the fast and shop in the evenings.

Each year, a temporary market is set up for the month near the Paya Lebar MRT station. The colorful bazaar is the best place to people watch, as the locals stock up on decorations to celebrate Hari Raya Puasa, the end to the month of fasting, traditional Malay food, clothing and sweets to share with their loved ones.

9. Joo Chiat – The Perankan Enclave

Just around the corner from Geylang Road, Singapore’s Joo Chiat district is the heart of the city’s Peranakan community.

This charming area is peppered with colorful shophouses dating back to the 1920s and 30s, and picturesque buildings adorned with intricately sculpted facades. Take a walk down history lane, before you pop into a few of the local handicraft stores and sample Peranakan delicacies such as the famous Katong Laksa (spicy noodle soup).

10. Multiculturalism at its Best

Since the 1920s, Geylang has been the enclave of Singapore’s Muslim Malay community, the only ethnic minority that called the island home before the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, the Brit often referred to as “the father of Singapore.”

It didn’t take long for the city’s Chinese, Indian, Arab, Peranakan (descendants of 16th century Chinese immigrants) and Indonesian communities to join the eclectic mix, and create the lively ambience that makes Geylang so unique today.

If staying in Geylang excites you, then checkout these budget hotels in Geylang that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.