Monday, September 08, 2008

Early Raya Birds

This year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri shopping comes early for this family.

In most cases, I think the families of other Muslims too, since the festivities fall during the Primary and Secondary schools' final year examinations period.

Last Sunday was the last day of a 1-week school holiday for the 3rd term for secondary school students like Sonny.

With the exams just a month away, we had to make full use of last weekend to get all the Hari Raya or Aildilfitri shopping done to allow Sonny undisturbed concentration to revise in preparation for his exams.

Raya Shopping Culture...

One major drawback of shopping early during Ramadan month is the cost of items sold. With more days to make good profit, businesses will normally not budge from the initial set prices. Even though bargaining is still always an option, it most likely will prove futile for buyers looking for cheaper Raya stuff.

Yet, we are left with no choice this year. So, there will not be other visits other than last weekend's shopping spree.

Sonny's studies take precedence, and the fact that Aidilfitri is celebrated for a month long, apart from visiting our parents on the first day of Aidilfitri to pay respects and seek forgiveness, the rest of the celebrations will have to take a back seat until the exams are over.

Notably in recent years, new copycat bazaars have been sprouting-up in the neighbourhoods across the island. All is well, as the Raya shopping gets convenient and practically right at your doorstep, but nothing can beat being in the chaotic Mecca of all Ramadan Bazaars at Geylang Serai.

Shoppers from all corners of the island will make their pilgrimage to Geylang Serai at least once for their shopping needs. A second or the umpteenth visits would just be to experience the festive atmosphere there even before Aidilfitri arrives. This year, Aidilfitri will on 1st October 2008.

Weekends will have the most people scouring for good bargains, but when it comes down to one or two weekends before Aidilfitri, the place will be the most packed and chaotic. There will practically be less room to move about, so shopping is tough but worthwhile when the prices almost hit rock bottom.

Since many stall owners do not own a permanent shop to take back to or store their mechandise in, and many too are foreign stall owners who will be happy to ship back as little of the leftovers as possible, the prices will reach to unbelievable low in the wee hours on the last day.

That is when people wait-out like vultures to a dying prey as the prices die down to below costs in the last breath of the fasting month. This is especially true for perishables like Raya cakes and cookies.

Geylang Serai is very well known, and never disappointingly so, to be the ultimate one-stop Raya shopping for Singaporean Muslims here and a tourist cultural attraction as well.

Our Shopping Adventure

Armed with what little budget I have in my pocket, we braced ourselves as we shopped for our Raya shopping essentials - two sets each of traditional Baju Kurung for Wifey, Sonny and me.

The glamorous and usually a little more expensive one of the two sets will be worn on the first day of Raya to our parents homes.

The second set will be for visiting siblings and relatives.

On Saturday afternoon, we set off visiting our niece at KK Hospital. She has an infection of the womb unfortunately, but nothing serious as the doctor indicated. She is warded for observations and treated with antibiotics through a drip.

We sat and kept her company for over an hour since she had no visitors then. Her husband and parents were working, while the rest of my siblings intended to visit her the next day.

From Kampung Java, we hopped in a cab and left for Geylang Serai.

As expected, the place was already packed with shoppers. The eastern part of the roads leading to Geylang was already slowing down to a crawl as we heard over the radio on our way there.

Geylang Going International!

It is rather interesting to observe this year.

We saw a stall from South Africa selling knick-knacks made from camel bones and wooden carvings and paintings with African themes.

Wifey was also served by a South African lady selling traditional and modern Malay clothes. Speaking in English, her heavy African accent lead us to ask her origin. Our first encounter.

Wifey bought a dark brown Baju Kurung, complete with its matching necklace for S$130.00 after several hours of scouting the place.

So Sonny and I will be wearing a dark brown Baju Kurung ourselves this year. We found ours at S$50.00 each.

Mediterranean home deco stalls and Turkish Kebab stalls have already become a common sight here.

Going On Second!

"I'm tired!" Sonny lamented, slouching forward. It is the signal unfortunately for him, to start our search for the second set of clothes.

As always, ladies clothes have always been the complicated ones... with style and colour, and how well it fits the wearer, so we make it a point to get Wifey's clothes first. Once she is sold to that dress, Sonny and I will know what colour to wear and start finding our Baju Kurung.

Wifey found a second dress that she just fell in love with. Unfortunately, the colour was too unique and not common in men's clothes... conservatively speaking, since all Malay men's traditional Baju Kurung come in many vibrant colours.

Colours men do not casually wear unless they are on stage, but for special occasion as Aidilfitri, it somewhat becomes a must have and be seen in too... as cheerful a colour as the occasion itself.

The search to match colours became a tough one. After two hours of frantic run-around the maze of stalls. One seller suggested a good alternative which was readily accepted by us boys.

Sonny and I will be wearing greyish silver, while our Sampin, a knee-length sarong tied at the waist with colours that matched Wifey's dress. Phew!

We even got the clothes for S$45.00 each and $25.00 each for the Sampin. These are so much cheaper than last year's! In this case, early birds still get the worms after all.

We went back happy and contented, reaching home close to midnight.

An Encore... That Bling-Bling

Came Sunday morning, like a full dress rehearsal, Wifey tried on her newly bought dresses.

With matching headscarf and all, Wifey just could not complete the look she wanted after trying several matches of her sets of costume jewellery she painstakingly handmade herself. She looked stunning to me, but something still not felt right with the brooches!

So, with dragging feet, I accompanied Wifey back to the bazaar to hunt for brooches to complement her jewellery sets. Sonny got to stay home to revise his work. Lucky boy!

Fortunately, Sunday shopping was not a total loss either.

After returning from my parents' place to give them some monthly and Raya spending money, I met Wifey at Singapore Post Building where she already scouted several stalls for her brooches. She wanted me to see them too and give my opinion to be fully satisfied before buying.

We went to several stalls... bargained and lost out and onward to a few more but there was not a perfect match in design and price. The nice ones had its prices too steep, while the cheaper ones was just too "gaudy" as Wifey puts it.

An Indonesian stall... tucked in the middle of nowhere, finally answered our call. There, Wifey found two matching brooches for the price of one than at other stalls! Amen!

Wifey is now happy and satisfied. I am relieved.

That Of A Malay Home

I am also happy because I got to buy the Raya decorative lights to hang in our corridor garden right outside our front door. This will add to the festive mood. We will turn it on every night throughout Ramadan and Syawal months.

Not to worry about mounting electrical bills as these lights are now made with low-current consuming LEDs instead of the traditional energy-guzzling filament bulbs.

So during this period, it is easy to spot a Malay/Muslim home. Just look up to the block of flats... the blinking lights hung on window sills and front doors are definitely their homes.

A welcoming and cheery sight to any visitors and passers by during Hari Raya celebrations.


  1. An interesting and enlightening post. Now I'm off to Google some of the unfamiliar words you used. I'm getting a real education here!

  2. your photos are always beautiful!
    I hope your son does well on his tests - (I know what it's like to be nervous about a son's school work. :)

  3. i'm so coming there next year - just look at the purrrty lights and colors. I'm totally mesmerized


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