Nobody knows exactly when the indie crowd took roots in the Malay heritage area known as Kampong Glam. Perhaps the Aladdin-like prayer mats, camel-skin products and shisha pipes added to its allure, drawing the bohemians looking for a great place to chill.
Regardless of when and how it happened, the many rows of shops selling fabrics, carpets and jewellery are here to stay. There are three main roads in Kampong Glam, each possessing its own distinctive characteristics.
Running from North Bridge Road to Beach Road, Arab Street is is probably the best place in Singapore to find anything related to Malay and Arab culture, from headscarves to accessories, books on Islam and ethnic Malay costumes such as the baju kurung (or ba-jee for short).
At the junction with Baghdad Street, there are two popular shisha joints called Sufi and Nasrin. On the floor above Sufi is the photography and film-making centre, Objectif. Somewhat out of place among the Arab-inspired shops in the area, Objectif regularly holds exhibitions, photography lessons and sells lomography cameras for those interested in working with 35mm camera film.
The straight and narrow Haji Lane boasts a variety of boutique shops and, surprisingly for clean and green Singapore, a splash of colourful graffiti.
This is where you'd come to find something out of the mainstream, from cult fashion to vintage clothing and other unique knick-knacks. The small, independent retailers come and go fairly frequently, in tandem with changing trends and fashions, but shops like K.I.N., Dulcetfig and The Blogshop have stood the test of time and are a favourite among the youth.
Most of the stuff here are tailored towards women, but there are shops like Shop and Pluck, a lifestyle boutique that offers quirky home furnishing. And if furniture isn't quite what you're looking for, you can still help yourself to ice cream in Pluck's parlour.
This is the main tourist draw in Kampong Glam. Running from Beach Road to Baghdad Street, Bussorah Street is a short alley lined with two-storey shophouses. Shop for curios like vintage clocks and toys, or simply wander around to get a taste of days gone by.
Trippies, formerly known as Grandfather's Collections, is adjacent to Sultan Mosque and offers two floors of collectibles, a cafe and a small museum. There's also the Children Little Museum, which houses a wide collection of handmade toys and traditional games played by children in Singapore from the '60s and '70s.
There are also a few boutique spas in the area, such as the wine-themed Spa Sauvignon and the Balinese-style Wayan Retreat.
Jamal Kazura Aromatics is also worth visiting. A family trade that has been in business for more than 80 years, this intimate fragrance boutique offers a wide range of attars (Arabic perfumes), Egyptian perfume vials, massage oils, scented body soap and shower creams from the Middle East, India and Europe. For $30 to $80, you can customise your own scent with help and advice from the shop staff.