Retail – by Karen

2 Dec

There is a new mall opening soon at the bottom of our street. I thought it would make a good blog post if Richard and I broke into it and posted pictures of our rampage on the Internet. Then I remembered that I am a responsible parent, living in Singapore.

It has been argued that Singapore is in fact one giant shopping mall, which should make my post on this topic the most expert. Unfortunately, however, I’ve been living in Asia for over six years now, so I almost cannot perceive malls, let alone have insights about them.

In developed Asian nations, malls are part of the fabric of life in a way you couldn’t really appreciate without living here. Fine dining restaurants are in malls. Children play in malls. You take your constitutional in a mall.

Singaporeans (and expats alike) love the opening of a new mall. “What do you want to do this weekend?” we ask one another. “Are there any new malls opening?”

Much as I love the tiny strips of boutiques in Haji Lane, Ann Siang Hill, or (these days) Tiong Bahru,  it must be admitted that these are not an authentic representation of the common Singaporean retail experience. And when you factor in humidity, children and Korean sizing, they don’t make up a large proportion of my scanty retail experience.

There is one retail hub, however, that checks all the boxes – it is “authentic”, it is ghetto, it is air-conditioned, it is magnificent: it is The Mustafa Centre. I really should have written this post about the  Mustafa Centre, complete with photos, but I don’t feel equal to the task. I am convinced that you can buy any retail item at Mustafa centre, from a salwar kameez to a chocolate merlion. You may suffer from claustrophobia, agoraphobia (literally, fear of the market), liveseafoodnexttomuttonentrailsphobia, or simply get lost. But you will find some representative of your desired retail category, and much more besides.

Since I have no photos of my own, I will share with you some of the baffling choices tourists and locals make when attempting to capture the ineffable.

Yes, they have jam. That was the best you could do?

I mean, what about the Bollywood snacks?

"Hey guys! Here's a photo of me in front of the meat counter."

"So many hot sauces! This is truly an Asian adventure. Glad I wore my bandana today."

"See, I don't just take a photo of myself infront of the Ganeshes. I get my girlfriend to hold up this little mirror, with my reflection! In front of the Ganeshes!!"

This blogger has captioned this one herself: "Btw, Mustafa is a crazy place man.. Freaking scary.. Cuz they have everything there.. E.g: If u wanna look for handbags, Mustafa have at least 20 to 30 brands there..Which means u can get everyhing there.." - Credit goes to blogger "when one meet another" -

They also sell very good dates.


4 Responses to “Retail – by Karen”

  1. Tabitha December 6, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    In the version of this post which was emailed to me, the picture of the date was enormous. Like, three metres in width. I was disappointed to see the web version was not the same.

    Our merlion from the Mustafa Centre is one of the only things that Nathan and I can specifically identify when we try to remember the contents of all our boxes waiting for us in Australia. We love that guy.

    • Karen December 6, 2011 at 9:26 am #

      I promise to use absurdly large fruit in a future post.

  2. Sarah December 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    David and I have twice now gone on date nights to Mustafa Centre. Good dates.

    • Karen December 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm #


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