It’s true that people “don’t miss (their) water till the well runs dry”. In the Singapore context, we don’t miss our malls until they en bloc — first Queensway Shopping Centre, and now, Golden Mile Complex.
Inspired to experience the vintage mall before it potentially-almost-maybe gets torn down, I made a trip down to Little Thailand to see for myself what I had been missing out on all these years.
GOLDEN MILE COMPLEX - THE 'LITTLE THAILAND' OF SINGAPORE
Google Golden Mile Complex and every source will tell you it’s the “Little Thailand” of Singapore. An “ethnic enclave” for the Thais, as Wikipedia puts it.
The complex has got everything a regular mall would have — from restaurants and watering holes to salons and a supermarket — except with a Thai spin.
There are tons of things to do here, the most popular of which must be to visit a Thai disco (otherwise affectionately known as “siam diu”). But since I never tio gongtao, I found myself spending most of my time at the Thai supermarket instead.
GOLDEN MILE COMPLEX - THAI SUPERMARKET
Although called “Thai Supermarket”, the store stocks Vietnamese products as well, and even has a small Vietnamese eatery at the entrance.
My verdict: It is a wonderland of all things cheap and quirky, and I love it. From cool to downright dodgy, here are 10 interesting things I found at the supermarket.
THE COOL - DIRT CHEAP SNACKS AND TOILETRIES
Generally, I liked most of the things I found and bought home two bags of goodies. I especially enjoyed the toiletries and snack sections…
1. Spa-esque face, body and foot scrubs and soaks
If you’re into Thai massages and spas, you can pick up similar products at this supermarket.
You can get face and body scrubs for as cheap as $4.90 a tub, and if you’re feeling extra fancy, go for the herbal foot soaks at $13.90.
2. Soap bars
Another super popular product is the Thai soap bars. You can find them at the minimarts downstairs at the first floor of Golden Mile Complex too, but from I’ve seen, they’re slightly cheaper at the supermarket.
Depending on the brand and flavour, it costs just $1.80 to $3.90 per bar. I read that the whitening soaps really do work, so I got a “rice milk collagen” one for fun.
3. Hair serums and masks
The supermarket had soaps and shampoos, but what impressed me the most was the selection of hair serums and masks. At most local drugstores, these are more expensive because they are, after all, an extra step in the shower. The L’Oreal one I usually get is $9.90, and it’s one of the cheaper ones.
The hair care products here are half the price. For $5.90, you can get a big tub of hair treatment creams and/or masks. I also saw an interesting butterfly pea hair serum at $7.90 for a pack of 2 bottles.
At this price, you can douse your hair in the stuff and not feel a damn pinch.
4. Herbal medicine and balms
Near the cashier counters you will find the herbal and medicinal products. It was genuinely quite impressive — most things were under $10, while the small jars and tubes were under $5.
I wanted to sweep the shelves, but the problem was that everything was labelled in Thai, so I was a little bummed. The only thing I got was this Soffell insect repellent ($4.90), which I had used before.
I like it because unlike most insect repellents, this one doesn’t smell like lemongrass and weird chemicals. Instead, it has a light, floral (and very unoffensive) scent.
5. Pretz, Lays and other snacks in Thai market flavours
Now, onto the foodstuff. Again, I didn’t quite understand a lot of labels, but still managed to pick out some cool items.
For instance, there were recognisable brands like Pretz ($1 to $1.20) and Lays ($1.90) that were available in Thai flavours like tom yum and etc. The prices are comparable to the local market ones ($1.80 at NTUC Fairprice), except these come in special flavours.
6. Thai candies and snacks
If you want more authentic Thai snacks, you can get those here too. I found quite a few brands of crispy fish snacks, which seem popular (mostly under $3 per pack). I also found a milk tablet candy ($1.90) that reminded me of white rabbit sweets.
If you want something fancy, they have these atas-looking coconut rolls ($8).
There were some strange Thai tidbits too (read: insects!), but we’ll cover that below.
7. Thai and Vietnamese instant noodles
The instant noodles here take “cheap” to a whole new level. Forget those Korean spicy noodles that cost $5 a pack. These Thai and Vietnamese instant noodles are 3 for $2.50!
They also have instant rice in soup, which is cool.
8. Fish sauce
The same way we love soy sauce, the Thais and Vietnamese love fish sauce. There is literally a whole aisle dedicated to this savoury condiment.
There were some as cheap as $1.90 for a small 300ml bottle, and premium ones that went up to $10.90 for 600ml.
I read online that the Thais usually come here to buy a special brand of fish sauce that isn’t available at NTUC Fairprice or Cold Storage, but couldn’t for the life of me find out which brand they’re talking about.
The selection was literally dizzying, and none of them looked familiar.
THE DODGY - CREEPY CRAWLY SNACKS AND LITERAL 'SNAKE OIL'
Now, onto the “that’s cool, but I don’t want it” section.
9. Deep-fried silkworm and crickets
I’ve seen people selling creepy crawlies on the streets on Bangkok, but I always thought it was just a novelty snack for tourists. I didn’t know they actually packaged them like chips for sale at supermarkets.
A small 15g pack of these deep-fried “treats” are $2.30.
10. Snake and crocodile balms
Never in my life have I ever seen actual, literal, snake oil. Call me ignorant, but heck, I didn’t even know people actually used to sell these as miracle medicine. I thought it was just a creative figure of speech.
Well, at Golden Mile Complex, you can buy snake and crocodile balms ($7.90) made of snake and crocodile oils respectively. These are labelled as massage balms instead of magical elixirs, and state relatively modest claims (just that it helps relieves muscle pains and troubled skin).
MORE THINGS TO DO AT GOLDEN MILE COMPLEX
Although I spent the bulk of my time Thai grocery shopping, there are other things to check out at Golden Mile Complex.
1. Eat Thai food
Diandin Leluk Thai restaurant:
The biggest one is called Diandin Leluk, but even they weren’t as expensive as I expected.
Most single-pax portions of the fried rice and noodles are $5 to $7, which is quite cheap. If you order dishes and rice, the prices are similar to your neighbourhood zi char — from $10 and $12 for a small sharing portion of vegetables and meat respectively.
New Udon and Y Cube mookata:
For mookata, the most popular one has got to be New Udon Mookata. It was significantly more crowded than the rest of the eateries; probably because it was cheap and tastes good. Depending on which platter you order, it should cost you about $20+ per pax.
If you prefer a buffet, there’s Y Cube Mookata upstairs. It’s $32 on weekdays and $34 on weekends, and includes drinks and ice-cream. I ate there for dinner, and was delighted when the waitress picked up my plate of crayfish and de-shelled them for me.
10/10 will revisit.
2. Check out the beauty stores
When you first enter Golden Mile Complex, you will see quite a few beauty stores. I realised that they’re from the same chain, called Face and Body.
I went in to have a look, and found that they sell the popular Thai bar soaps too, but slightly more expensive. For example, the Madame Heng brand ones were $3.50 at the supermarket, but $4 here.
They also carry a few popular international brands. I saw a row of Laneige products, and checked how they compare with local retail prices.
3. Check out the occult stores
Now, I know that Thai culture is famous for a few things, including the supernatural. Thai horror films are the absolute worst (or best, if you like wetting your pants).
So I wasn’t surprised when I found that the 3rd floor is home to some occult stores that sell Thai amulets. There are some 4 stores selling these things, all with joss sticks and mini altars at their entrances, lining the walkway.
Sorry to say, I was too chicken to actually go in and ask for prices, so I can’t help you there. But if you’re truly interested in finding out more, you can look the shops up online — most of them have websites, and take appointments.
4. Go to a Thai Disco
Last but not least, how can I write about Golden Mile Complex without featuring their iconic Thai discos? If you’re new to the culture, Thai discos work a little differently from local bars and clubs.
Instead of going to the dance floor to bust some moves, the siam diu experience is more like watching a performance. The girls will sing and dance on stage, and then line up for customers to “hang flowers” in appreciation.
These “flowers” (sashes, actually) cost from $50 to $10,000. So how much you spend is really up to you. The girls aren’t expected to sleep with the customers, but if you spend enough, they will visit your table to spend some time with you.
This article was first published in MoneySmart .