Why I’ll always visit the Geylang Serai bazaar, even though it has supposedly lost its ‘Ramadan vibes’
Change isn't always a bad thing.
If your Facebook timeline has not been filled with Geylang Serai Bazaar photos, well, here’s some news for you.
The Geylang Serai Bazaar is back from May 3 to June 5, 2019.
Despite the heat and crowds, many swarm to the bazaar for its wide array of food and shopping, or just to soak in the vibes.
There’s even fairy lights this year:
Lost its vibes?
In recent years, however, many have pointed out that it has become more hipster with the rise of interesting food laced with anything and everything unicorn, rainbow, and cheese.
Geylang Serai Bazaar Ramadhan theme:
2016: anything rainbow 🌈 (drink, cake, etc)
2017: anything unicorn 🦄
2018: I bet anything mermaid
— Stephanie Zen (@stephaniezen) June 1, 2017
Some would go far as to say that the Geylang Serai Bazaar has lost its “Ramadan vibes”:
Bazaar Geylang has change alot . You can change the generation but why change the tradition ? i dont feel the Ramadhan vibe now in Geylang . I mean im excited but alot of things has changes less kuih kuih stalls . Turn everywhere also some hipster shitzxc hais
— shaggy (@muhdnrsyfq) May 16, 2018
geylang bazaar is still expensive, still full of hipster food and still gonna cause some hyperventilation spells for me
— hudz (@nrulhda_) May 5, 2019
While I agree that the bazaar has indeed changed significantly over the years, I’d still go to the Geylang Serai bazaar at least once a year.
And that says a lot, considering I live in the west and I truly detest crowds.
Change is imminent
Changes have indeed happened for Geylang Serai Bazaar — and yes, we mean good changes.
Fun fact: The Geylang Serai Bazaar has been held since the 1970s.
And here’s what it looks like in the 90s:
Super nostalgic, right?
And here’s what it looks like now:
A few years ago, dining areas were introduced for visitors so they don’t have to scramble to find a place to break their fast, knowing that the eateries nearby will all be fully booked.
And as for the hipster food, the organising committee for the Geylang Serai Bazaar said there will be 60 per cent traditional food, including the likes of ayam percik (grilled chicken doused with sauce) and satar ikan, and 40 per cent hipster food.
The organising committee has also said that they have capped the rental fee to a maximum of S$14,000.
While it seems exorbitant, this is a significant change (ha. ha.) for vendors as it was reported that vendors had paid up to S$20,000 last year.
And hopefully, this would translate well for patrons too, because things were pretty pricey last year.
Support innovative local businesses
While I’m glad that the organisers have added the 60 per cent traditional, 40 per cent hipster measure, I’m also all for supporting innovative local businesses.
It’s refreshing to see things like praffles, which is essentially the love child of a prata and a waffle, or edible balloons in between the good old traditional food.
And as someone who strives her best to #SupportLocal, seeing young Singaporeans working hard for their passion in such conditions is admirable.
Hawking products in the unbearable Singapore heat for long hours? That is some #PassionMadePossible material right there.
Of course, I’d go all the way to the east to get some of that pancakes again, just as long as I don’t have to rob a bank to pay for the food.
The Geylang Serai experience
But my favourite part of going to the bazaar definitely is not the vast variety of sinfully good food.
Heck, if I went there every year just for the food, I might as well go to a random pasar malam in my neighbourhood.
The best part of the bazaar truly is the experience itself.
One wouldn’t be experiencing Geylang Serai without coursing through the crowded, humid, and noisy bazaar while making sure your friends or family don’t abandon you halfway.
There’s also the dreaded bump-ins with old friends because of course, the entire of Singapore is in Geylang (but hey, all part of the experience).
And of course, there’s the last-minute shopping on the eve of Hari Raya for a set of fancy table runners, bright cushion covers or what not because for some reason, we love to leave things to the very last minute.
Also, I come to realise that I don’t have any photos of me at the Geylang Serai bazaar until I was tasked to write this piece because I was too preoccupied laughing and spending my time with my family and friends.
Ramadan vibes not exactly gone
Admittedly, with every passing year, the Geylang Serai bazaar of yesteryears may seem better.
But that’s because nostalgia will always seem sweeter than the present.
That goreng pisang from a random booth from 10 years ago that my father paid for was the best goreng pisang I’ve ever had, but now it tastes like any other goreng pisang to me because I’ll have to exchange my hard-earned S$3 for it.
But walking among the crowd in Geylang Serai is still free and most importantly, time spent with the people I love (despite the constant sweat-mixing).
The Ramadan vibes never really depended on the food or the location. It depends on us.
Top image by Fasiha Nazren.