Peninsula Plaza (Singapore's Little Myanmar)

(Copyrighted Content by Aung Myo Myint – Not for Re-use)
Anyone who has been to Singapore knows that the island is a shopper-galore. There is one mall in particular that is unique in its own way – Peninsula Plaza. Parked on the corner of Coleman St and North Bridge Rd, is a somewhat weathered building that, even to Singaporeans, seems like a foreign fortress. For many decades now, Peninsula Plaza has become Singapore’s own Little Myanmar.
Local Burmese Community
Like many of its neighbouring countries, Singapore is home to many cultures and communities, including one of the larger Burmese communities (over 100,000 people) who are rarely privileged to reside outside of Myanmar. Thanks to the friendly relationship between the Myanmar and Singapore governments, many Burmese are able to easily travel to, work and study in Singapore.
Peninsula Plaza hasn’t always been Singapore’s Little Myanmar. In fact, it wasn’t until the last decade or so that it became a magnet for all things Burmese. You’ll find the mall is busiest on Sundays, with the local Burmese community flocking the centre, turning it into their home away from home.
The Building
Peninsula Plaza was built in the 80s but was at first a mall dedicated to electronic goods. Sadly, it was reputed to be a convenient place for crime, with theft, robberies, and piracy then thriving within the centre. The plaza was even held siege by a gunman once that had the building sealed for a couple of hours as police secured the mall.
It wasn’t until the mid 90s that Little Myanmar arrived. It was then when crime within the building dropped and Myanmar traders began setting up shop to provide for the growing Burmese community.
The Treasures of Little Myanmar
The shopping mall is lined with shops and stalls selling all things Myanmar. You’ll find a mix of money changers, travel agencies, souvenir shops, apparel, convenience stores, food stalls and even a Burmese-language library within Peninsula Plaza. What further makes it unique is the smell of Burmese food in the air of the mall. Being inside the centre makes it clear that the Burmese community of Singapore has made this shopping mall their own little precinct.
From the plaza’s basement up, beautiful scriptures of the Burmese language make up shop signs and posters. The friendly and polite shop staff also mainly converse in the language. In fact, not many speak English, though they do try their best to translate.
Although the money changers here deal with dozens of currencies, you won’t find be able to buy and sell the Myanmar Kyat, which is non-exchangeable outside of Myanmar. But the Burmese community have found a solution by working with money-transfer networks better known as the hondi.
The travel agencies in Peninsula Plaza are also able to arrange for quick visas for travelling to Myanmar. They have the advantage of being well-versed in filling forms and communicating with useful contacts in the motherland herself.
Those who long for Burmese cooking won’t find any other place in Singapore for the best array of quick and convenient Burmese meals here either. In Little Myanmar, you’ll get to enjoy the sweet Burmese tea, Myanmar lager, semolina cake and betel nuts. The grocery stores carry many of the staple foods in Burmese homes such as laphet and mohinga as well as various Myanmar-imported vegetables and fish that are more familiar to the Burmese palate.
It is during the Burmese festivals, you will find Peninsula Plaza swamped with their traditional sarongs (the longyis), the iconic saffron robes for monks, and new outfits imported from Myanmar.
Tucked away in a small office space in a fourth floor corner of the Plaza, is an educational centre, where classes are offered almost free of charge.  Over 40 classes are run here including Chinese, English, accounting, engineering, IT, and all other lessons useful to Burmese immigrants to give them a better start in Singapore.
Other Places of Interest
Peninsula Plaza isn’t the only cultural domain you’ll find in Singapore. There is also the Golden Mile Complex that specialises in Thai merchandise, and Lucky Plaza which caters for the Indonesian and Filipino communities.


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