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Singapore Shopping Districts, Bugis and Arab Street

Bugis and Arab Street

Bugis street, north of Bras Basah Road and Marina Centre (around MRT-Bugis), used to be Singapore's illicit playground between the 1950s and the 1980s and was internationally known for its colorful population of transvestites and transwomen.


The area's promiscuous lifestyle came to an end in the mid-1980s, when the street underwent major urban redevelopment and was turned into a retail complex of modern shopping malls, restaurants and nightspots, mixed with regulated back-alley roadside vendors.


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  • The beautiful Bugis Junction mall is the first shopping complex in Singapore that was actually built on old shopping streets, covered by a colossal glass canopy.  Colonial shophouses are lined along what used to be Singapore's 'sin street'  in a (not-so-successful) attempt to bring back some of the special atmosphere that this area enjoyed during its heydays... The mall is easily accessed through MRT-Bugis and, other than the usual shebang of international brand names and lifestyle shops, there is a youth themed area, a "cineplex" and a very good choice of restaurants, cafés and food-court-stalls..

  • A stone's throw away from Bugis Junction and just around the area where drunken sailors and all sorts of lowlifes used to market their smuggled goods, New Bugis Street (presently known as 'Bugis Street') is another attempt to bring back some of the ambience that characterized the original Bugis Street


    Hundreds of street stalls along the covered walkway sell almost everything... from trendy street wear and watches to knick-knacks, and from cheap cosmetics and fashion accessories to fruits and vegetables... You name it...It's a pretty good place to fetch bargains and enjoy some authentic snacks, and if you are after some reasonable quality stuff that is a step above the usual chintzy garbage (but you still want to pay a good price), Bugis Street and adjacent Bugis Village might be the right places for you to browse...These two places are also acting as a "night market" and although it is not the authentic night market you can see in cities across "third world Asia", it's still worth a visit.

A few minutes walk from MRT-Bugis (on Victoria Street - away from the city), Kampong Glam, more commonly known by the name of its main thoroughfare Arab Street, was where Singapore's Arab traders settled in the early days of the colony. But when real-estate prices started to go insane, sometime around the 1920s, most of the original inhabitants left the area, and nowadays the hub of Singapore's Muslim community has moved to Geylang Serai on the East Coast.


Arab Street and the small offshoots around it are packed with old-style shops where you can get a whole lot of exotic and oriental stuff: Great variety of textiles and fabrics at reasonable prices seems to be the area's main drawing point...  Then there are Basketry and other products of rattan, cane and straw, as well as carpets, spices, and a wide range of authentic ornaments and bric-a-brac...


Hajji Lane and Bali Lane, next to Arab Street, are dominated by a few cool and hip shops, selling all sorts of funky stuff like second hand records and designer clothes.


There are also some very nice and easygoing cafés around Arab Street, Bali Lane and Bussorah Street, which make them a good place to chill out...


You may also want to read about shopping in... 

Little India 

Marina and Raffles City