Retail Therapy: A Quirk’s Eye View of Haji Lane

Full disclosure: I do not like where I live, but my Amex sure does.

Perhaps that is the one thing I shouldn’t say as a citizen of the world, but it’s true nonetheless. Moving to Singapore from San Francisco was an incredibly difficult decision. I felt challenged, energized, and truly at home where I was, but decided to take a risk (for professional reasons) and try someplace new. Oops. I have tried to adapt to this place for six months now, but the fact remains: I am uninspired here. Still, in the interest of making lemonade out of lemons, I am actively making an effort to explore and scope out some good things that Singapore has to offer. To my pleasant distraction (and my wallet’s chagrin), I have found one such thing.



The national pastime in Singapore is shopping, no question. Normally, that would intrigue me, but on first glance, I was disappointed. My preference lies towards boutique stores – I  go for the handmade, one-of-a-kind items that have an element of whimsy to them. Most of what you will find here will be the high end designer shops (Hermes, Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc.) or typical western brands…both of which are more expensive than in the U.S. and no more interesting. If that fits your fancy, great! You can stop reading here and go to Orchard Road, Vivo City, or any of the other malls in Singapore. However, as someone who frequently resorted to retail therapy around the Mission and Hayes Valley boutiques in search of the perfect [insert item here…you name it, I bought it], I was saddened. Until I found Haji Lane.

a look down Haji Lane

a look down Haji Lane

This little alley near Arab Street is home to several colorful and quirky boutiques, where one can find everything from clothes to accessories to home decor. Venture a few more blocks down Arab Street and you’ll find handmade rugs, wicker items, silk shops, and more. By this city’s standards, it’s very reasonably priced; some of the Arab Street vendors are even open to haggling, which is rare here. The fact that I was able to finish nearly all of my Christmas shopping on one street was an added bonus! For anyone coming to Singapore, just know that you WILL shop (there’s not much else to do here), and this is where you are likely to have the best experience. In addition to wonderful shopping, there are some nice (and reasonably priced) restaurants in this part of town, as well as some hookah lounges (if you’re into that). Also, it’s a great place for people watching (I say, as a street photographer)! So…bring your wallet, your camera, and your appetite – yes, in that order – and ENJOY!

you may come out looking like this...

you may come out looking like this…


  1. Caroline says:

    The shops around Ann Siang Hill are also worth a visit, don’t you think? Will definitely check out Haji Lane next time I’m in Singapore!

  2. Cindy says:

    I’m sorry you don’t like where you live, but from those I know who live in Singapore, neither do they — so you’re definitely not alone. I’m not a big fan of Singapore (my family is in Jakarta, so I’ve visited several times) but if you find more spots like Haji Lane maybe I’ll start to think differently!

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