Mention Singapore to most people and they’ll mention shopping. It’s a well-known fact that Singapore is ‘the’ place to shop. Despite coming here for the past eight years or so, it wasn’t until we moved here that I really got what people were talking about.
Shopping Malls. Let me stop right there.
The word ‘mall’ – it just doesn’t fit in – or come out of – my mouth well at all. See, I can say ‘all’. But, put an M in front and I’m flummoxed.
At first, when referring to these large shopping places I would feel like a complete fake saying mall. Like I was play-acting one of those annoying teenage american shows my daughter is so fond of. I thought the rest of the family were sniggering at me for being so pretentious. But no, we’re all at it. It seems mall is the common word for those large shopping places. So I’m having to use the word a lot.
When I say mall my mouth stretches in a really strange way and my throat constricts around the vowel. My Son pointed out that it was just ball with an m in front. Nah, still can’t do it. Even now, I rush over the word or try to avoid it completely.
Anyho, I digress.
Shopping Malls. There are literally dozens of them, they’re everywhere. In fact, I bet there’s a hundred at least. Hold on a minute…
Ok, according to Wikipedia there are 95 shopping malls in Singapore!!
Bearing in mind the island is only 26miles east to west and 14 miles north to south (cheers Wiki). That’s a lot of malls in not a lot of area.
Just the other day I met a friend – yay! I have a friend – in Bishan. I’ve been to Bishan many times (see my review on Bishan Park) and never noticed a ruddy great big mall in the centre. To be honest, I’d never been to the centre but thought I had. What’s strange about these malls is they have EVERYTHING in them. Or at least a lot of different things.
- Dim sum? Check
- Clothes shops? Check
- Book shop or stationers? Check
- Salon? Check
- Supermarket? Check
- Food court? Check
- Homewares? Check
- Toyshop? Check
All the usual stores you’d expect to see in a bog standard shopping centre, sorry, I mean mall. But not always the ‘usual’ types of store.
So, the home store might have a coffee table, some candles and a bunch of religious books for example. Or, the clothes shop might have a selection of (awful 70’s) birthday cards next to rails of teeny tiny clothes (not aimed at us Europeans). Nonetheless, if you know where to go, you can pretty much find what you need – in the strangest places.
I’ve noticed that there’s often a ‘theme’ to each mall to. Or maybe more of a target audience. So far, I’ve been to the British mall (Tanglin) The French/Italian (Cluny), Korean (Novena), Chinese (Novena, the other part), Modern Singaporean (Star City), Traditional Singaporean (Bishan, Upper Thomson) Designer (ION), High Street (Vivo City), Sports (Velo City), Cheaper end (Lucky Plaza), Blow your mind cos it’s so big (Takeshimya and many, many others).
Handy to know before you visit them what to expect though right? I no longer walk in to Novena expecting to find the latest DVD release in english. See I’m almost a local nowadays.
By the way – this is just my view on what the malls are
aiming at, not the official line. Feel free to visit and make
your own mind up.
I know, it sounds like I spend my whole time shopping doesn’t it? I really don’t. But, as is I’ve said, it can take a whole day to do one thing here. That one thing is usually purchase an item you actually need. For example a gift. You know what you want, you’ve done your research, you head to the mall. Six hours later you emerge – admittedly with said gift, but also with a few extra bits you never knew you needed. In my case I’ve also lost something – the will to live.
I cannot bear it. One day I will offload the Organic Veg Box Day (OVBD*) story once and for all. But for now, let me just say some of these places are TOO DAMM BIG!
They are like mazes. You go up one floor take a left turn and there’s a whole other floor (usually referred to as 2b, 3b etc). You potter along that floor and that will lead to another offshoot. Before you know it you’re lost. Oh God, now I’m getting flash backs of OVBD. I won’t even try to explain the car parks. Just think helter skelter and you’ll get the picture.
Suffice to say these often innocuous looking malls open their mouths and gobble you up. If you’re lucky they’ll spit you out before it’s too late. A word of advice if you’re visiting – or are new to Singapore – don’t plan on doing anything else if you decide to ‘pop to the shops’ one day. It ain’t gonna happen. You’ll be there for the day. Even if you don’t want to be. Especially if you head to any of the malls on Orchard.
Orchard is to Singapore what Oxford Street/Regent Street and any other shopping streets all put together, are to London. It’s where all the tourists head. It sometimes feels like the whole of Singapore heads there too. If you’re crossing the road at Orchard and you see the green man flashing down below five seconds (all crossings here count you down, gives me the complete willys), run for your life. If you don’t, you’ll be waiting about half an hour before that little green man lets you and the other fifty thousand people cross again. Obviously I’m exaggerating, but you get my gist?
But, if you want to experience some of the shopping Singapore is famous for then Orchard is worth a visit. You could go and press your nose against the windows of Prada, Gucci et al (actually don’t do that, you’ll get told off), have a lovely afternoon cuppa in TWG and have your photo taken with the statues outside at ION, the kind of central point on Orchard – and the mall most people know of. There’s even an observation deck (called IONSky) on the 56th floor – which I have yet to visit – that is free to visit. Gives amazing 360 degree views of the city apparently. Then have a wander down, up or around the rest of Orchard. You’ll find something you like no doubt.
If you go at night there’s a different atmosphere. Lots of lights too. It can look quite pretty, in a harsh, flashy kind of way. And at the moment, one Saturday night a month it’s a no car zone – so worth going then maybe?
If you’ve got kids don’t worry, they’ve thought of that. Many malls have a splash centre, playground, play centres, ride on cars/animals to hire.
I hear there’s a river running through one at Marina Bay?
At the weekend many of the malls have some kind of event going on. Whether it’s a visit from the cast of the current top soap opera, or a challenge from a major airline to win flights. There’s also a kind of market stall area on the ground floor usually too. The last time I went to my local mall, the ‘market’ was selling bars of chocolate, knickers, duvet sets and hair bands!
It seems the locals love to spend their weekends wandering (s l o w l y) around the mall. Apparently there’s a term for it; ‘Malling’ – Ha! I won’t even attempt to say that – I believe it’s partly because it’s so bloody hot outside and the malls are well air-conditioned. Who knows?
There are loads more malls to visit I know. But, for now, I’ll stick to the ones I know I can go in to and more importantly get out of easily. But, please, let me know what your favourite is, who you think it’s aimed at and what’s the most unusual thing you’ve found there.
* It seems I have to use acronym much more since moving to Singapore. My apologies.