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Vagabond Kids: Singapore with Kids: Kampong Glam-

Friday, April 16, 2010

Singapore with Kids: Kampong Glam-

We are really lucky to live in Singapore. Yes Singapore can be very regulated, very controlled, very well um, very ....
Singabore. But what we miss in terms of the rock and roll lifestyle has been replaced by all of the very awesome places and things that Singapore offers families.

Kampong Glam

First, Singapore is safe and clean. Second,it is a major world class city with all of the arts/entertainment and infrastructure that surrounds it. Third and the point of this post, is that it is a cultural milieu that allows us as a family to travel around parts of the world without even leaving this 255 square mile island (which by the way is only 26 miles wide thank you very much!) Many of our long time expat friends call Singapore Asia light or Asia 101. There is so much cultural opportunities for children to explore and experience all within a 20 minute car ride from our house.

Today, let me tell you all about one of my favorite parts of town- Kampong Glam

Haji Lane

Back in the "day" of Raffles and his successors, Singapore was divided into specific sections of different cultural groups. There was a Muslim part of town, which at the time was home to the Arab traders and Malay natives. This part of town, known now as Kampong Glam is a great little corner getaway in Singapore. During the day time, Arab street is filled with Persian Carpet (and lots of Indian carpets) shops, fabric and lace trims and a real working district. One street over is Singapore's narrowest lane, Haji Lane which today is home to an eclectic mix of retro shops, up and coming new fashion designers, in fact it was featured in Time Magazine's list of 10 things to do in Singapore.

The cultural landmark in Kampong Glam is the Sultan Mosque. It was built in 1928 (at least this one, earlier ones were replaced with this bigger better version. Families can tour the mosque during most days (Fridays are the day of prayer and tourists are not allowed in). Men must wear long pants or at least those below the knee. Women are also asked to wear long skirts or pants that cover the knee, but free robes are available to borrow if you forgot or can't be bothered to bring long pants.

Sultan Mosque

The mosque has English guides that explain the history of the mosque and just down the street in one of the neighboring shops is an Islamic bookstore carrying books written in English explaining the Islamic faith if you are interested in learning more about the worlds second largest religion.

As you continue to wander down the streets, there are perfume shops that can make any scent you like, using essential oils (this is due to the fact that strict adherents of the Islamic faith will not wear commercially made perfume as it contains alcohol). You can also find shops that sell custom made beaded slippers (Peranakan Style) a post in its own right for the future, and great little cafes where a simple meal of rice and mutton can be had for a few dollars. Many of the food stalls in this area are Muslim food so no beer or wine can be found... but at night...a funky scene pops up with Sheesha shops selling flavored tobacco smoked through a water pipe (Sheesha) with snacks and some sell beer. It is mostly a young persons crowd at night, but for adventure seeking families an evening stroll is a great cultural lesson about middle eastern style night life.

Kampong Glam also is home to the Malay Heritage Center, in the former Sultan of Singapore's final "palace" Istana Kampong Gelam and its grounds. There is really a whole post about the history of the Istana I think I will save that for next week! Let me say you could easily spend an hour or two with the family learning about one of the most fascinating Asian cultures.

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