Okay, hear me out.
I’m aware that Kampong Glam may be painfully boring for many who went out on the compulsory school trips there.
Sure, there may not be much to do in the day; we cluster in an unassuming perfume store to buy a small bottle for our parents, then devour oily pratas.
Fun times, but it may be a tad too tame.
Have you been there at night though?
Have you lived under the colourful lights and in the bustling bars along Arab Street? If you haven’t, then it is no wonder that you pass by the humble kampung without pausing in wistfulness.
Here are 8 facts about Kampong Glam, Singapore’s last surviving kampong.
1. Vibrant Bars and Cafes
Kampong Glam houses some of the most vibrant bars and cafes, and that is an indisputable fact. The best part? There’s one for every kind of vibe you’re feeling that day.
Even if you’re not a night owl, there is something in the day for those who wish to relive or peek into the former glory of the kampung — defined by the daily trinkets of the past.
Tucked away in one of the nondescript two-storey shophouses, it houses gems of childhood games, exhibits and displays.
Being the last kampung standing in our modernised city, it goes without saying that Kampong Glam is the safe-place for the treasures of the past.
2. It’s Actually Several Mini Kampongs
And did you know that Kampong Glam is more of an assembly of several mini kampongs, instead of a singular one?
Allocated to the Muslims, Kampong Glam then got divided into several mini kampongs for different ethnicities. These mini kampongs even had their own names — Kampong Bugis, Kampong Java, Kampong Malacca, Kampong…
3. A Trading Area
We all know that Clarke Quay used to be a trading area, located alongside the iconic Singapore River. But have you ever heard of Rochor River? Where even is it?
It may not seem like it, what with the decided lack of a river or even a lake, but Kampong Glam was also a trading area — it was located on Rocher River itself.
4. Not The Original Sultan Mosque
Sure, we all know of the majestic Sultan Mosque that is the sole reigning characteristic of Kampong Glam. We’ve been told that it has remained in its place for ages; but has it really?
The mosque that we see right now— the tourist destination for culture and aesthetic photos — is not the original, contrary to popular belief.
The original original mosque lived its glorious life till 1924, when it could no longer hold the growing community of Muslims and was revamped. The mosque that we see now has survived since 1928; its timeless look betrays its age by a far mile.
5. Kampong Glam GRC
Okay, I know that nobody really likes to talk about the government unless we really need to. But do we know our politics well enough to know what GRC Kampong Glam is under?
For those who do know that it is under Jalan Besar GRC, give yourselves a pat on the back. But I bet that few will actually know what the kampong was under originally. Dating back to 1959, the kampong had its own SMC, which then changed to GRC and back again.
Would there have been more seats to fight for if it had remained that way?
6. The Original Residents of Kampong Glam
Another nugget of history — Kampong Glam wasn’t formed on existing immigrants who decided to settle here. In fact, it was formed upon a treaty by Sir Stamford Raffles and the Sultan. Settlers were basically invited into Singapore to stay — imagine if Trump allowed that.
And if you ever thought that Singapore has its influences from only our four major races, think again. After all, some streets in Kampong Glam were named after Arabian cities by Arabian migrants. Singapore’s history is infinitely more colourful beyond the textbooks we know, and Kampong Glam is the living proof.
7. The Food
If we were to ever choose to spend a whole day at Kampong Glam instead of Orchard Road or Bugis, then we need food. Maybe not the classic pratas or briyanis or any of that Malay cuisine.
What Kampong Glam has to offer is far beyond what we stereotyped it to offer. In this kampong lives numerous exotic cuisines — think Egyptian, Iranian, Lebanese. We hardly think of Kampong Glam when food havens come to mind; but with its countless worlds of food to offer, it should be a strong candidate.
8. Indie & Vintage Stores
And who said Kampong Glam only sells luxurious carpets, cloths, or traditional costumes? Haji Lane has grown to become one of our most creative hubs, what with vintage and indie stores fighting to make their mark in the endless shophouses.
So if trendy is not your thing, then Haji Lane is the best place to go.
At Kampong Glam, we not only get to embrace our indigenous past but our eclectic present as well.
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