Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tiong Bahru Heritage Walking Tour

HDB Flats at Kim Pong Road
Tiong Bahru. Considered to be one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, it has also been garnering accolades from locals, foreigners and tourists for a combination of old, hip and trendy atmosphere. With its heritage buildings and the number of cafes popping out in every corner of this historic area, Tiong Bahru, has become a place for wining and dining if you want to get out of the over-crowding central business district. It’s particularly getting a lot of attention from the so-called “hippies” but it’s not just a place for them, literally anyone can visit this area and have a look on what is going on. First of all, if you are into old buildings and historic sites, then this area is definitely for you. Otherwise, it may be difficult for the “uncultured” to appreciate what is there to see. And if you are willing to shell out an amount that is triple of what you would usually pay in a regular hawker centre, then you should try the ranges of café that you will see here.

The National Heritage Board of Singapore released the TiongBahru Heritage Trail. There are 10 spots that you may choose to look at if you are really keen but if you just want to walk around the place and see what is going on, I made a map that will direct you on walking from the Tiong Bahru MRT Station all the way to Tiong Bahru Estate and its surrounding vicinity. 

In following the map below, you will be passing through the old HDB flats that are well-maintained and still being habited by the locals. This estate reflects on how well-developed that place was back then and reflected the beginning of great urban planning of Singapore during that time. You will also be seeing a lot of coffee shops, cafes and bookstores. There are not many places to shop in this area except for the Tiong Bahru Market which really caters to the needs of the residents in this area.

Our first stop is the HDB Blocks located at Kim Pong Road. These are one of those old HDB flats (4 Levels) and have this spiral staircase that accentuates the building’s design. They say this is art deco but I do not even understand how many art deco designs are out there, anyway nobody’s counting. 

HDB Flats at Kim Pong Road
HDB Flats at Kim Pong Road

Next stop is one of the most unique HDB block in Singapore. They call it the “horse-shoe block”. If you’re given a bird’s eye view of this place then you will really see the horse-shoe shape. You are free to enter the block and see it from the inside. The spiral staircase is very common in every house and the two entries to this block are really eye-catching.
Horse-Shoe Block entry from Moh Guan Terrace
Horse-Shoe Block entry from Chay Yan Street
Coming from Moh Guan Terrace towards Yong Siak Street which is just outside the horse shoe block, you will be seeing an array of cafes and bookstores.  You will be passing by Flock Café (See review here), PoTeaTo, Open Door Policy, Plain Vanilla and specialty bookstores like Books Actually and Woods in the Books (See review here). Among these cafes, I have tried Flock Café which is a highly recommended place that will suit your budget.

Yong Siak Street
As you continue walking towards Chay Yan Street and turning left to the other end of Moh Guan Terrace, you will see PS Café Petit, probably one of the fanciest place there. I personally won’t recommend eating there as it is just too pricey when you already have other better cafes there on a cheaper price.

PS Cafe Petit
Seng Poh Road
Tiong Bahru Market
Seng Poh Road 
Mail Boxes
Continue your way to Seng Poh Road, Eng Watt St and Seng Poh Lane. This area is surrounded with coffee shops, the Tiong Bahru Market and other old low-rise HDB flats. Continue walking until Eng Hoon St and take a break at Tiong Bahru Bakery. This artisanal bakery has been gaining a lot of customers for its ultimately delicious French croissants. (See review here)

Along Seng Poh Road
Eng Watt Street
Seng Poh Lane
Tiong Bahru Market
Along Eng Hoon Street

After a break, you may continue towards the end of Eng Hoon St and you will see the Monkey God Temple and Saint Matthew’s Church. Turn left and you will reach Tiong Bahru Road. Before ending your walking tour, stop by at Block 55 to see The French Book Shop. It’s a book store for books in French language and it also conducts art gallery displays every month. (See review here)

Along Tiong Bahru Road
End of Eng Hoon Street

The Monkey God Temple

The most common design of these HDB flats are the spiral staircases and low rise buildings which are no longer being constructed on the modern designs of HDB flats in Singapore. That is what makes this area different from other regular HDB flats.

J.Gerald C. Legaspi is the Filipino author of

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