20 May 2012


Fresh flowers, piles of vegetables not in plastic packages and the freshest seafood in town, all for negotiable rates, I have somewhere to take you. Today I had a nearly perfect Saturday.

After lying in bed with my husband until I was ready to face the day, I arose, immediately got dressed in some black leggings and a couple layered tank tops, tossed my unwashed hair into a ponytail and slapped some powder on my face. Then, I headed into the kitchen and sliced myself a chunk of banana bread. So good.

After I brushed my teeth (FYI, Arm & Hammer toothpaste does not pair well with banana bread), I organized my grocery bags, took what I needed from my purse and put on my wellies.

With my tote bag over my shoulder and my Oakleys protecting my eyes, I headed out under the blue, sunny sky that is almost always over Singapore and I made my way to my neighborhood Starbucks.

Though the outdoor tables and chairs were filled, to my surprise, there was no line awaiting me inside. I ordered a frappucino and, winner, my refillable gift card plan scored me a free drink, which I happily accepted.

Drink in hand, I walked a few blocks to a bus stop and waited for my ride to Little India where I finally found that place about which people are always talking. I finally found the largest market in Singapore, where all of the videos and photos were taken.

Travel shows always show the hot spots but they don’t always say where the hot spots are located. Though Tekka Market has been featured on many shows, I, until today, had yet to discover the largest wet market on the island.

This is Little India

I have only been to a wet market once before – the one with the pork bills. Though it was somewhat close to my house, there were only 10 to 12 stalls and not a lot of selection. My nutritionist friend, Shalyn, recently recommended Tekka Market due to its size and operating hours, which are a bit later than most Singaporean wet markets.

To be honest, I was expecting a warehouse-type structure with lots of vendors in low stands like the vendors I typically see lining the streets.

Just a couple street vendors outside the shops

When I walked into the open-air market, I immediately found myself in a maze of tiny buildings, lined up in blocks with aisles only slightly larger than those in the grocery store. Flower and vegetable stall workers, however, did their part to crowd the aisles with fresh goods.

My first look at Tekka Market

These blue crabs ended up in a pot for dinner :)

Wet markets got their name from the wet floors, which are often grimy as well. Seafood is displayed on ice beds, flowers are sprayed with water to stay fresh and many stalls are hosed down throughout the day in order to keep them clean – all of which adds to the floor’s appearance. 

Luckily, I came prepared.

I had some Skullcandy headphones in my ears, listening to my favorite New Jersey radio station via Internet radio, and began taking photos from the moment I arrived. I seemed to be a big hit as many of the locals noticed my pale skin, lightish hair, my camera and, of course, my stylish boots.

“Whe you from?” is hands down the most popular question I receive and today was no different than any other day. For a half a second, I debated whether it would be easier to say, “U.S.” or “East Coast,” meaning “down the road.” I did what I usually do and, smiling, replied with a combination of the two: “U.S. but I live on the East Coast here.”

One woman who I believed to be of Indian descent talked with me for several minutes, inquiring about America and the similarities and differences between our two countries. I explained that they are quite similar and that I did not have a feeling of severe change. When she asked how long I would be here, I stated that my husband and I plan to apply for permanent residency but that job placement is now always a relocation possibility.

She was surprised that I had not yet been to Tekka and shared my sadness for the lack of wet markets in my neighborhood. I promised her that I would not forget her or her vegetable stall, which was such a bargain. I bought two giant carrots, a few handfuls of large beans and two lemons and it only cost me $3.

I was teased a bit for taking pictures. Most of the stall owners joked around with me about not getting them in any of my shots. They also had great joy in commenting on my boots. The locals loved that I came prepared and excitedly commented on the style. At one point, while I was waiting on my crabs, a group of seven locals, stall workers and passers by, talked with me for a few minutes on my boot style and where I got them.

I heard one person make a comment about Mustafa’s, the largest multi-purpose store I have ever seen in my life that also happens to be in Little India, I said, laughing, “No, I tried Mustafa’s. They didn’t have my size!”

This is a true story. All of the Indian construction workers wear yellow rain boots and I assumed I could get some similar boots at Mustafa’s so I went looking. I found them but they were nowhere near my size. I had to order them from the States and have them shipped. Thank you, Ralph Lauren.

I met some fantastic people, found some great stalls and even received recommendations from stall owners who knew what I would like. Just like at Sam’s Club, I even got to sample some of the merchandise. Stall owners know one is more likely to buy if one first enjoys the product. Too bad it didn’t work on me today.

I found some great produce: carrots, salad greens, beans, broccoli, lemons, tomatoes (for under $2 a kg), spring onions, apples, oranges and grapes. I also bought some jumbo prawns with extra-long whiskers and a couple of blue crabs that Paul and I ate for dinner. I paid $40 for everything and, though I haven’t yet decided if that is a good deal or slightly pricey, I do know that I plan to revisit Tekka Market time and time again.

The line of vehicles waiting to make the cross-traffic turn into Tekka Centre

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