While many might not have the faintest clue of where Bras Basah Complex is, the worn, unassuming mall was actually a dear friend dating back to my University days. Back then, I, as many other Uni students did, frequented Popular, the printing shops, and bookstores, because it had just about everything a student needed.
But that’s not why we’re gathered here today, no.
Aside from the renowned Artfriend store—which is probably the reason why most flock to Bras Basah Complex in the first place—there’s more to the humble mall than art supplies. A framed portrait of Mao Zi Dong? A S$5 Gundam figurine? Perhaps a nostalgic DVD-RW for old time’s sake? These are just some of the discoveries you might unearth during an afternoon at the complex. Join me, and the 10 hidden gems that I found whilst prancing around the mall just last week.
Hobby Point stands out from the get-go with its towering Gashapon machines peppering its storefront.
Have a go at putting your luck to the test or wander inside and let the memories of your childhood flood back to you with the all-too-familiar characters from our early years such as Gundam and Winnie the Pooh.
You’d be surprised to find that many of the toys and figures which we once owned are still equally affordable today, with some starting as low as S$2.
Hobby Point | #03-38
This one’s for the die-hard superhero fan or lover of all things fantasy. The stunning Spiderman, Supergirl and Yoda artworks hanging by the windows definitely grabbed my attention from the onset, and left me in awe. Snag some rare and unique art collectibles that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere, and adorn your abode with a touch of magic.
You’ll find miniature Gashapon and streetfighter machines, comic books, figurines, and other collectibles sure to satisfy even the geekiest of fanatics.
Ink Ink | #04-49
Bras Basah Complex might be teeming with art galleries and collections, but Nanyang stood out to me as simple yet quaint. It had a mix of scrolls, paintings, and tiny ornaments that really left me curious and questioning.
Fancy a Mao Zi Dong statement piece, anyone?
Nanyang Gallery | #02-73
If you stroll into any electronics shop these days, chances are that the shelves once selling DVD-RWs and other such technology have long been cleaned and cleared out.
Here, you can find old school gadgets, games, and shows that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere. Or, if you like, simply bask in the nostalgia of the DVD era—pre-Netflix, pre-Apple TV+, and pre-YouTube.
Compugram & Trading | #02-29
Albeit unorthodox, Thai amulets and talismans have always been a source of fascination for an occult fan like me. Though I’m far too afraid to dabble in the supernatural realm, it’s still interesting to observe the Thai culture through the lens of their spirituality.
Inside, you’ll find statues, amulets, and other holy symbols each warding off a different evil. Whether you subscribe to such beliefs, it never hurts to arm yourself with a talisman or two, especially looking at our current state of affairs. Here’s looking at you COVID-19, recession, job losses, and retrenchment exercises.
Tay Kim Lai Thai Amulets Centre | #03-21
Helming different dance styles such as Latin Dance, Show Dance, and Social Dance, the dance academy has been lauded as an excellent environment to step up your dance game, regardless of your proficiency level. They hold classes for both adults and children alike, and even offer Wedding Dance Packages if you’re looking for that added oomph to your special day.
They have since handed the ropes to their successors, Justino and Ching, who will be running the rebranded J & C Dance Academy at an equally high standard, as promised.
Shawn & Gladys Dance Academy | #04-03
Amongst crystals and essential oils, gemology is another area of wellness that has heightened in popularity as of late. Whether you gem-nuinely believe in its healing properties, you can’t deny that gemstones are gorgeous to look at, and that they make great accessories or embellishment.
Come and marvel at the colourful beauties in all their wonder and bag some of the prettiest ones for yourself.
Gems Shine | #01-67
If you just so happened to need an art piece framed and mounted, you’ve come to the right place. Vintage frame makers will be sure to select and pair a complementary frame or border for your work to give it an overall elevated boost.
Did someone say IKEA frames? Pfft! We don’t know her. Why settle for pre-made when here, you can custom fit that beautiful wedding shot from Maldives into a vessel worthy of its memory?
Vintage Frame Makers | #02-75
You didn’t think I’d pass up mentioning the good ol’ Swee Lee Music store, did you? Sure, it needs no introduction, but I couldn’t disrespect the OG of music repertoire in Singapore by omitting it from this list.
Lauded as Asia’s largest music store—and rightfully so—Swee Lee’s got your every music need covered, carrying brands from Fender and Gibson to Marshall and Epiphone. It is here, where music enthusiasts from far and wide, and all over the island flock to get their hands on the most pristine of instruments, and where rookies come to spectate.
You won’t miss Swee Lee’s name quite literally doused in bright lights, and the ever-charming wood-centric store teeming with character.
Swee Lee Music | #03-27/29
If self-enlightenment and improvement are on your “to achieve” list, you’d be relieved to know that it starts with self-awareness. Come attain the highest rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with the aid of books, CDs, and, well, more books.
Largely based on the ideologies and beliefs of Buddhism, Awareness Place makes a great haven for the one hoping to reflect on life and up their introspection game—all while promoting mindfulness and respectful values. Be surrounded by a calming ambience while practising the Eightfold Path Factors of concentration and resolve, amongst others.
Awareness Place | #01-63
So you see, Bras Basah Complex is more than just boring book stores touting reprinted ‘O’ Level ten year series’ or backdated issues of National Geographic magazines that nobody was going to touch anyway. The beauty of old malls such as this lies in the serendipity of never knowing what you might stumble upon, yet allowing yourself to be fascinated with your quaint finds anyway.
The next time you’re tempted to dismiss the ol’ Bras Basah Complex as a spot only for boomers, give it a chance and you might just find yourself, like me, enthralled by its rustic charm.
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