The Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar 2022 was underwhelming — here is why

by Christabel Tan

I may not be big on crowds, but I do have fond memories of visiting the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar with my friends. When the news of its return broke, I was definitely elated. Being able to experience the sights and sounds of the bazaar after a gruelling two years? Sounds like fun.

Officially known as the Geylang Serai Hari Raya Shopping Experience (GSHRSE), this year’s month-long bazaar takes place at Wisma Geylang Serai and will be held until 2 May 2022, just a day before Hari Raya Puasa.

Disclaimer: As all of you may know, we only share things that are Confirm Good, which is why we visited the bazaar expecting a great experience. However, I left feeling underwhelmed, which explains the decision to share my own realistic experience. If you do find yourself at the bazaar, please let us know how it goes. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Queueing to enter

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My colleague and I arrived at about 5.15pm and joined the queue. There was a general air of festivity (though it was definitely muted in comparison to pre-COVID days), as we waited in anticipation to enter the bazaar.

It was hot, it was humid, and the family behind me kept driving their elderly grandmother’s wheelchair into my ankles. I immediately regretted not bringing a portable fan along with me.

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After about 25 minutes of waiting, we finally made our way into Zone 2, housing both food and retail booths. Although the entire tentage was decked out in fairy lights and floral elements to reflect the “Fairy Tale Blossom Garden” theme, certain sparse areas stuck out like a sore thumb.

To be fair, the Hari Raya Light Up was absolutely stunning — this just paled in comparison.

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There were barely any people checking out the retail booths, but the crowds made their presence known once we approached the entrance to the “Food Paradise”. But of course. Singaporeans are always drawn to food, food, and more food.

Food options

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The longest line had formed at the large booth shared by Dendeng House and Ramly, with many eager to get their hands on a freshly prepared Ramly Burger (S$4.50). I seriously hope the queues die down, especially since you’ll soon be able to get your fix at upcoming pasar malams around Singapore.

You can also find bazaar staples like lekor, apam balik, and pisang goreng with cheese.

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There was also a snaking queue at the popular The Original Vadai, best known for their vadai in flavours like Prawn (S$1.20), Chilli (S$1), and even Cheese or Chocolate (S$4.50). People were also flocking to Ramadan Kebab for a taste of kebabs slathered in nacho cheese, like the good ol’ Cheesy Chicken Kebab (S$4).

Perhaps the stalls predicted to have higher foot traffic could’ve been spread out. It was a little overwhelming to see crowds clustered right at the entrance, only to walk further in and see an almost empty space.

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Seasoned Ramadan bazaar-goers would recognise the fun prata-waffle creations by Praffles by Fooditude and the Dutch poffertjes and pop sodas from Alley. T Bob’s Corner, a popular halal steakhouse in Bras Basah, has also been drawing the crowds with their steak, ribs, and Ayam Percik XL.

All three stalls, peddling what I would consider more “contemporary fare”, barely had any queues when we were there.

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Given that there were only two of us, we had to be selective with our food choices.

With memories of the iconic Spanish dish fresh in my mind, I had high hopes for the paella from newcomer Ole Ole!. The booth is flanked by a massive pan of pre-cooked paella adorned with vibrant seafood offerings — it certainly looked promising.

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The Barcelona Seafood Paella (S$18.90) didn’t do justice to the rave reviews I’ve seen online, mainly due to the mushy texture and way-too-subtle flavours. I wasn’t expecting the paella to taste exactly like the real deal from Spain, but still. For the price you’re paying, it was disappointing, to say the least.

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For dessert, we ordered a Yakult Cake (S$8.90), also from Ole Ole!, that was dense and crumbly, with a slight tang.

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Making their debut at the bazaar is Rancho Meats, an online retailer specialising in premium marinated meat. Although their offerings may not be the most IG-worthy, what caught our attention was the variety of serving methods. You can get marinated chicken or ribeye in a wrap, brioche bun, bowl, keto cup, fries, or even a bucket.

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We were recommended the Ribeye Fries (S$15), black pepper ribeye on crispy, piping hot fries. It was simple, straightforward, and oh so good. It’s essentially a no-frills version of steak frites from a booth that certainly deserves more recognition.

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We parked ourselves at a table with benches near Wisma Geylang Serai’s main atrium, where a small dining area had been set up and kept ourselves hydrated with a refreshing Coconut Juice (S$5) from Coconut Kelapa. Get there early if you want to secure one of the few tables available.

A larger dining area would come in handy, especially since food and drinks cannot be consumed inside the bazaar.

Retail & shopping

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It’s never too early to start prepping for the festivities. You can shop for tasty snacks, as well as Raya clothing and apparel from booths like Songkok Kamil and Rayaan Couture in Zone 2.

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Take a breather and indulge in some retail therapy at Zone 1, the main retail area that can get very quiet during off-peak hours. There are also photo-ops here, which look far less impressive in real life, but with the right angles and good editing, anything can look good on social media.

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Browse through the extensive variety of apparel for both kids and adults, decorative pieces, and sampul duit raya (green packets) from booths like Cantik Butterfly, D’ima Collezione, Truffles & Cookie, and more.

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Ramadan bazaars wouldn’t be complete without jewellery, wellness products, and even Henna Art (from S$10). As someone with only basic knowledge about the Islamic holy month and Hari Raya Puasa, there is a lot to learn, and speaking with the friendly stall owners can help with that.

To go or not to go?

Photo: Wisma Geylang Serai

I can’t say that I really enjoyed myself, in comparison to previous years, but one’s expectations must be managed, given the current COVID-19 situation.

Fortunately, Wisma Geylang Serai has stated that another 20 retail and 10 F&B stalls will be joining the current lineup from 14 April onwards, which should make for a more interesting (and varied) experience.

Perhaps I was there too early (I’m sure things get more happening at a later time), but be prepared to brave the crowds if you visit past 7pm. As long as you head down with the right set of expectations in mind, I think you’ll have a wonderful time.

Geylang Serai Hari Raya Shopping Experience 2022
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???? Wisma Geylang Serai, 1 Engku Aman Turn, Singapore 408528
???? 1pm–11pm (Daily)
????️ From now till 2 May 2022

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