Updated 4/4/04: The old market is no more! All the stalls have moved to a temporary site about 500m away.
If you have enough time, keep a morning free to visit a local market to have a taste of the sights and smells there. You'll feel the pulse and energy of the people. Definitely not sanitised like going to an air-conditioned supermarket. You will have lots of photography opportunities.
The one that I recommend is the Tiong Bahru market, a 5 minute walk from the Tiong Bahru MRT station. It is one of the best markets in Singapore, and locals come from all corners of the island to shop here and have the best noodles for breakfast. Tiong Bahru is located close to the city centre.
What to do here:
The market is well-organised and is divided into several sections - meats, vegetables, chinese groceries, flowers, fruits, cooked food, even clothes. It is a colourful sight. The crowds are lively, and you'll hear a lot of haggling and friendly chatter between customers and sellers.
Have breakfast at these famous stalls:
- chwee kway (small steamed rice cakes with a garlic turnip topping)
- lor mee (yellow noodles in dark sauce with a touch of rice vinegar)
- steamed glutinous rice (sticky rice with groundnuts, dried shrimps and ***ake mushrooms)
- deep fried fish balls
- dark thick sweet Indonesian coffee
After breakfast, take a walk around the Tiong Bahru estate to see the Art Deco style lowrise flats which are about 60-70 years old (pre-WW2). This housing estate was famous in the past as the place to keep the mistresses of wealthy businessmen. Many of the flats are now occupied by fashionable young people looking for a bohemian lifestyle in a charming estate.
Close by, you will also find a famous spot where bird enthusiasts bring their prized birds (bulbuls, etc) for training, sparring and just for others to admire. Lots of independent tourists have made their way to this place to see this sight.
Definitely worth making a trip there.
Note: The morning market is open all days but is rather quiet on Mondays.