Beyond the Kallang River, marking the eastern edge of downtown, Malay culture has held sway in and around the adjoining suburbs of Geylang and Katong since the mid-nineteenth century, when Malays and Indonesians arrived to work first in the local copra (dried coconut kernel) processing factory and later on its serai (lemon grass) farms. Parts of Geylang retain quite a strong Malay feel today, and although Singaporeans now regard the district as rather seedy, at its best its shophouses exude something of the street life of the Chinatown of old. As for Katong, the wealthy, including many of Peranakan descent, built their villas here in prewar times, when it was a still beachfront district. Thankfully, the area’s Peranakan heritage lives on to some degree in what is now a middle-class neighbourhood, and provides the main lure for visitors.
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