Singapore’s Geylang Serai

Asia - Editor - 02 November 2007

Singapore’s Geylang Serai

The city of Singapore, the capital of the island Singapore, has over the years taken on the appearance of any ultra modern city and at first glance it may seem that there is nothing to set it apart as unique. However, those that take the time to explore this vast metropolis will find that Singapore is undeniably an Asian city, with its character molded by the colorful contrasts of the traditions of the Chinese, Indian and Malay peoples that call this city home.

The neighborhood of Geylang Sarai (often just referred to as Geylang) is the centre of Malay culture in Singapore and has been since the mid 19th century. Thousands of Malay families were displaced when the British authorities broke up their floating village situated at the mouth of the Singapore River and many moved to areas in Singapore, which by the 1930s became exclusively Malay and later evolved into Geylang Serai. In the 1920s, due to land disputes in Kampong Gelam, the Malay population from that area also moved to Geylang Sarai thereby enhancing its importance to the Malay people.

A “Malay Village” (Kampung Melayu) has been created in Geylang Sarai to enable visitors to step back in time and explore the traditional lifestyle of Malays during the 1950s and 1960s – a time period often referred to as “kampung days” (village days). At this unique museum visitors can gain insight into traditional Malay arts and crafts such as kite-making, batik painting and traditional kampung games such as top spinning. The museum also features an interesting collection of artifacts including musical instruments and weaving tools as well as a complete display of a traditional Malay wedding highlighting the beautifully hand-sewn garments, accessories and replication of a Bridal Chamber.

The neighborhood of Geylang Serai has an unmistakable Malay influence and is generally untouched by the frenzy of modernization going on in Singapore. With its rows of shop-houses that cater for the traditional Malay lifestyle and the ever-popular karaoke lounges, Geylang Serai gives visitors a fascinating glimpse into an aspect of Singapore that is not commonly explored and is not easily forgotten.

Clearly a visit to the bustling city of Singapore would not be complete without spending some time in the culturally rich Malay neighborhood of Gelang Serai.


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