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I had chosen Little India to stay in for a few reasons. The first, as I had again demonstrated to myself in every Malaysian town had been in, was that I loved Indian food. Another, Jeff, my best friend back in the United States was a chef with a particular curiosity for spicy foods. I had been looking for ghost chilis (renowned as the spiciest pepper in the world) to send to him since Kuala Lumpur. And the third, it’s loaded with backpacker-style accommodation.
One thing I was surprised about was the amount of nightlife through this small stretch of Little India. The entire neighborhood is littered with hostels, so there is a good amount of multi-cultural backpacker traffic coming through, a refreshing change from the almost exclusively-western backpackers in most places.
The entire area is also peppered with an assortment of, from my own lack of a better term, I dubbed ‘Bollywood’ bars. Venturing out of the backpacker pubs’ street-side beerpong games, I made my way into a few of these bars.
They all had at least 3 things in common.
1) The music was the center of all activity. Some it was live and others had recoded western and Indian music pumping through the sound systems. However, it was certainly the centerpiece of everyone’s mood there.
2) The décor. While they were all dark, as is the tradition with most bars, this was supplemented with bright colours and upholstery, patterns that I would probably never again see, and exceptionally vibrant lighting. Even a lot of decorations that didn’t make sense, like one Indian bar with many busts and statues of American Indians.
3) The people seemed very welcoming . . .
Being that I was the only westerner in any of these bars, I was always greeted warmly and had a conversation struck up with me. The singer of one of the live acts came over and began chatting me up as she ordered herself a Tiger beer. Unable to convince her that I wasn’t British, we talked quite a bit about her band and their history in the city. She began to ask me about venues in Malaysian cities I had just come from. I had to tell her, unfortunately, that Singapore’s Little India seemed to be unique in its nightlife aspect.
Another bar was one large rectangular room taken up largely by a wooden stage and backed by a series of mirrors. Here, dancing was all the mood and I was amazed at the intricacies of dances by people who I assumed were only customers.
While sitting there, trying to figure out, or at least follow, the dances being done, a middle aged man sat down next to me. He offered to by me a Tiger and we ended up taking for a while. Soon, though, between his questions of whether or not I was married and I was travelling alone, the feeling shifted more toward me being the object of his flirting.
An out from the conversation came when I was quite literally pulled onto the stage dance floor at the start of a new, upbeat song. I spent the next few minutes dancing with one of the girls. The dance was short-lived, though, as I began to notice some looks from others in the bar that weren’t looking so amused.