Geylang Serai Two Festivals in One Place!

3

Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-religion country. The fun of it is that we get to experience, share and taste the festivals of our friends and neighbors of different ethnicity or religions. I took one such walk down Geylang Serai at the start of the Ramadan Festival and came away with an urban adventure!

Historically, Geylang Serai is the site of one of the oldest Malay settlements in Singapore dating back to 1840’s or so. It was thought that the word “Geylang” was a derivative of the word ‘kilang” which meant press or mill – a indication of the major coconut mills in the area then, producing oil from the copra palm. “Serai”, is the Malay word for the fragrant lemongrass, which once was cultivated in the area.

As farm villages, known as “kampongs”, gave way to urbanization, Geylang Serai continued to be at the heart of Malay culture.

Thus, Ramadan, which is celebrated by the Malays and Muslims in Singapore, takes special pride of place during this time of the year at Geyang Serai. A canopy of colored lights sparkles in the dark. Streets are covered over with makeshift tentage, and row upon row of vendors begin to hawk wares that are a must for the festival.

For the house proud, there’s carpets, curtains, furniture and décor items to adorn your home with. Brightly colored traditional dress vies for the attention of the “makcik” (madam) shopper. What’s interesting is also that the bazaars have taken on a very global feel. There are Turkish vendors with their carpets (and doner kebabs!) and I believed I passed by a calligraphy stand where the vendor spoke Mandarin and Arabic and looked like he could be a Muslim from China.

Then there’s the food. There are stalls stacked with dates, a must-have food item for the festival, and rows upon rows of cookies, which will be served to your guests after the month of fasting is over. At separate intervals, the bazaar features cooked food stalls selling portable snack that’s easy for you to hold, eat and wander through the bazaar at the same time. These cooked food stalls are also important during the fasting period of Ramadan, as many people would grab a snack at the break of fast on their way home from work…before hitting the real meal at home!

I was totally thrilled when I saw that many of these stalls sold a deep fried fish cake called “keropok” which I used to eat when I was a kid. Unlike the crunchy chip type keropok that is easy to find in convenience stores, these ones are crisp yet chewy in the centre. Another popular item, judging by the line that was forming around the stall, was the Ramlee Burger. Since my partner in crime wanted one, I had to stand in line for about 30mins…what better thing to do than to shoot away with my LC-A+ to witness the birth of the Ramlee Burger?

Wandering around the never-ending stalls of food and clothing and knick-knacks…I suddenly heard a live band playing and decided to investigate. There was a mega stage with strobe lights and all – right in the middle of an open –air car park. That’s when I realized that the band was singing in Mandarin!

And that’s when I also realized that it was also the time of the year, where the Chinese community observe the month of the Hungry Ghost – where offerings of joss sticks, gold paper…. and entertainment were made to appease wandering spirits. So what I had stumbled upon was a “getai” (literally meaning song stage) which by the looks of the ruptured audience was pretty much entertaining the living as well as the dead!

That’s when it struck me that this was one of those urban adventures that one just stumbles on in Singapore. Where else, could I find two festivals, observed by two different religions and ethnicities being celebrated about a block apart?

written by hotmailwanderluste on 2009-09-19 in #world #locations #geylang-serai #urban-adventures #lc-a-race #festivals #lc-a #ramadan #hungry-ghosts #singapore #eyes-of-asia

3 Comments

  1. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    wow! very well documented - good job, hotmailwanderluste! . . . and very nice gallery!

  2. stouf
    stouf ·

    Yes ! Great text and shots !

  3. quaisoir
    quaisoir ·

    oh yeah geylang baby!!great article!

More Interesting Articles

  • Explore: Singapore

    written by chooolss on 2014-08-08 in #world #locations
    Explore: Singapore

    East and west, old and new coexist harmoniously in the highly-urbanized Southeast Asian city-state, Singapore. Singapore is home to various nationalities not only from around Asia but even from other far-flung countries all over the globe - a true cultural melting pot, with four different major languages and five official religions.

    4
  • Petzval LomoAmigo: Singapore's Stephen Chin

    written by edwinchau on 2014-12-22 in #people #lomoamigos
    Petzval LomoAmigo: Singapore's Stephen Chin

    Stephen Chin’s expertise covers architectural, commercial, food, wedding and portrait photography. The duly licensed photographer from Singapore has been shooting for a decade yet continuously strives to up the ante through the continuous discovery and mastery of new techniques. He took a step back and experimented with the new Petzval lens recently, and came up with such striking results.

  • 4 Years in Paradise: Living and Learning in French Polynesia

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2015-02-04 in #world #locations
    4 Years in Paradise: Living and Learning in French Polynesia

    People seek extraordinary experiences while traveling, but not everyone gets to have an adventure of a lifetime. When lomographer Stephane Heinz (popularly known as vicuna in the Lomography community) saw the opportunity, he took the chance to travel and live miles away from his hometown in France. He and his wife, Kathi, came back home with a luggage full of valuable experiences and life lessons. Vicuna tells us about his four-year adventure in French Polynesia in this travel special.

    24
  • Shop News

    Uncrate Long Lost Lomography Treasures - 30% Off in our Discount Section

    Uncrate Long Lost Lomography Treasures - 30% Off in our Discount Section

    Fly over to our 30% Discount Section to discover previously unavailable Editions & Clones! Be quick and make one yours before they are all gone again!

  • Transient Living: The Craft and the Craftsmen of Denver, Colorado

    written by maliha on 2014-12-10 in #world #locations
    Transient Living: The Craft and the Craftsmen of Denver, Colorado

    The people of a city, to me, speak volumes about its culture and sense of community. And that is why I sought out the people who make Denver that much more interesting after the initial period of settling down. My search lead to a few establishments that have contributed to making Denver what it is today. In the second story on Transient Living, I present to you two of such establishments: The Craftsman & Apprentice, and A Small Print Shop.

    2
  • Photographer Letícia Godoy captures raw emotion with the new Petzval Lens

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2014-04-01 in #people #lifestyle
    Photographer Letícia Godoy captures raw emotion  with the new Petzval Lens

    As one of our backers on Kickstarter, Brazilian photographer Letícia Godoy is one of the lucky first owners of the Lomography x Zenit Petzval Lens. She has been able to use the lens under different conditions, and has been gracious enough to share more of her shots with the Magazine.

  • Skate Photographer Joe Brook Shoots with the Petzval Lens

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-02-06 in #people #lomoamigos
    Skate Photographer Joe Brook Shoots with the Petzval Lens

    Joe Brook is one of the most popular photographers in the West Coast skate scene, shooting for magazines like Trasher, Juxtapoz, Rolling Stone, and different outlets such as PDN and Kodak. Having previous experience with an old Petzval lens mounted on a 4x5 camera, it was but natural for him to try the new one. Brook talks about finding himself, his work, and shooting with the Lomograhy Petzval Lens in this exclusive interview.

    2
  • Shop News

    LCA-120 Film Bundle

    LCA-120 Film Bundle

    Shoot more with LC-A 120 without breaking your budget! The Phoblographer Editor’s Choice Award Winner now comes with a 120 format film at 15% off!

  • Campfire's Koh Degawa shoots with the Petzval Lens

    written by choko3 on 2014-07-02 in #lifestyle
    Campfire's Koh Degawa shoots with the Petzval Lens

    Lomography Japan has been working with CAMPFIRE, one of the country's largest crowdfunding services. In the past year, we have launched three successful projects such as the campaigns for the Lomography Smartphone Scanner, Petzval Lens and the Lomo’Instant, and Campfire has been helping us reach out to our supporters in Japan. Koh, Campfire's Senior Project Manager, has been involved in all three. Also a lomographer,she is no stranger to our products and has even shot with the new Petzval Lens.

  • Explore: Cusco, Peru

    written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-05-06 in #world #locations
    Explore: Cusco, Peru

    As camera-toting, wanderlust-driven adventurers, we are always seeking for the most intriguing places to visit and immortalize in our travel snaps. One such spot, without a doubt, is the historic city of Cusco in Peru. If you haven't been to this fascinating historic town, we're sure you'd be making plans for a visit after browsing through the photos taken by our fellow lomographers!

    5
  • Total Eclipse of the Sun Competition Winners!

    written by bgaluppo on 2015-03-31 in #gear #news #competitions
    Total Eclipse of the Sun Competition Winners!

    In celebration of the mindblowing solar eclipse we had the other day, we ran a competition and asked you to tag your analogue photos centered around our great big yellow friend! Check out the winners now!

    1
  • Shop News

    Special Apertures for Petzval

    Special Apertures for Petzval

    Want to be more creative and level up your bokeh shots? A wide selection of special apertures for Petzval are here to blend with your artistic side and give your Petzval images some analog twists!

  • Photo of the Day by alexlin

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-03-31 in #world #news
    Photo of the Day by alexlin

    Spot the cat curled up tightly into a cute ball of fur.

    1
  • James Wright's So It Goes x Sri Lanka Photo Diary (Part I)

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-31 in #world #locations
    James Wright's So It Goes x Sri Lanka Photo Diary (Part I)

    In December last year James Wright, editor and creative director of So It Goes Magazine, went on a two-week trip to Sri Lanka, "a place so long on our bucket list, but up until then, as yet unvisited," he writes on the first of his three-part photo diary. Herein is the first of his series that chronicles his adventures, highlighted by a selection of breathtaking images of the Sri Lankan countryside and the locals, among many other images, captured with his trusty photographic companions: the Leica MP, Lomo LC-A+, and an assortment of films including the LomoChrome Purple.

    1
  • Россия в картинках (Russia in Pictures): Siberian Delight

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-03-31 in #world #locations
    Россия в картинках (Russia in Pictures): Siberian Delight

    In his latest travel series, Herr Willie shares a selection of fine photographs from his Russian adventures and tells the stories behind them.