Built in the 1930s, Tiong Bahru Estate is one of the oldest HDB estates in Singapore and today has recently undergone a hipster revolution with fancy pants cafes sprouting up.
Tiong Bahru Hot
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Old and New
Tiong Bahru is one of the older estates in Singapore and that's why a lot of shophouses are still present around the area. However of late, Tiong Bahru has seen plenty of developments coming its way and a lot of insertions of cafes. The Tiong Bahru plaza, although no ION nor 313, is still a great place to go because it has everything that you need. Granted, I would not shop there for clothes but at least there is an NTUC and Popular bookstore there, and even a Golden Village!
Beside Tiong Bahru plaza, there are some shophouses where Leung Sang is located. Personally, I like their pastries and pies there but due to price increases, I don't buy from them that often. It used to be priced at 90 cents but I think it is now $1.10 a piece. The much talked-about Tiong Bahru bakery is also obviously, at Tiong Bahru. Despite being quite inaccessible, the cafe cum bakery sees a lot of booming business and there are usually queues, especially on the weekends. I bought a loaf of bread from there before but sadly, didn't find it particularly appealing because the bread was a little too light and not filling enough for my preference.
Tiong Bahru is a great place and very well-placed especially since it is very near the Orchard area. Yet, it is not choked with the crowds and hence, flats there are also in high demand.
Not your average estate
My friends and I were being adventurous and walking around Singapore, and ended up spending a long time in Tiong Bahru, for we all liked the vibes that "Tiong" (as people affectionately put) offered.
Everything there seems different from other estates in Singapore. Old buildings co-exist with new sunny new HDB flats painted orange and yellow. Markets exist with cosy cafes and obscure bars. Quirky bookstores (even one with cats in them!), stores selling strange ornaments and cafes hidden in alleys make Tiong Bahru a popular place for youth nowadays.
I love how Tiong Bahru seems to have its own personality. There are random funny posters pasted on walls, there are alleys with white-washed buildings on both sides, those kinds with the spiral staircases on the outside. It's a great place to walk around, soak in the atmosphere and take photographs, of course.
Great cafes with a pleasant indie vibe
The best part about Tiong Bahru has got to be the numerous cafes that are stringed along Yong Siak Street. Tiong Bahru cafe has some of the best sandwiches I've tried. They have a wide selection of fillings available, but my favorite has to be the ham and cheese. It's a classic, and i expected it to taste like every other ham and cheese but it tasted significantly better. The cheese was melted into the bread and it was nice and gooey the way I like it to be. It quite honestly looked like it was pulled right off an advertisement board. The looks of it definitely did the taste justice.
The bookstore Books Actually is located just around the corner from Tiong Bahru cafe, and even if you're not much of a reader, the look of it itself would probably make you walk in and never want to leave. It's decorated like a book store from the 70's. With shelves that hit the ceiling and wooden flooring paired with nice bright yellow lights, it sets a homely atmosphere. The physical looks of it aside, the store carries a wide range of novels that can suck any avid reader into it for hours. I was in the book store for an entire hour before realising that I actually had a life outside the store, and eventually prying myself out of the store.
Take a hike on past's streets.....
I came across this stretch of Tiong Bahru on my numerous city walks, when I plug in my earphone, get a comfortable shoe on and try to get lost in the city streets. When I did venture into the estate, the first thing that I realized was that this is not my ordinary HDB blocks, this is not my ordinary shopping malls, this is not what I usually see during my city walks. The taste of sudden discovery of something sweet is exciting and captivating as I walked through spell bound that first day, and many days to come through the foot paths of Tiong Bahru.
What I love most about it is that the rustic streets, the balconies, the staircases all seem to calm you down. It brings my heart beat down from it's usual boom boom boom (mirroring the noise of the busy city) to a steady tick tock tick. I'll buy myself a glass of lemon juice and would enjoy the slow walk. I'll ponder about great mysteries of life, I'll feel contended, the houses and the streets seem to inspire such feelings.
If you happen to be a photo enthusiast, bring your camera along. I can assure you, you will find some great shots that is very different than what you usually get. This is a must see place for those who are craving for something slightly different, laid back and of course, awesome.
Old but Hip
There are so many parts to Tiong Bahru! I have been visiting this place for so many years. Though the HDBs are really old, there are actually many nice food stalls opposite the Indus Road area. Also, there is tiong bahru plaza, their neighbourhood shopping centre. (plus Great World City too for the more atas people.)
What fascinates me most about Tiong Bahru which I recently discovered, is Yong Siak Street which I think will become the next Haji Lane/ Hippy area. There's Books Actually, cafes etc. but do you know that walking down that road you can actually find other independent stores like 1st Storey? When I visited, it was their first month there and it felt just like Haji Lane, but at a more secluded spot.
Overall, a great place to visit, and PHOTOGRAPH!
up and rising "hipster hood"
I am proud to be a Tiong Bahur-ian. I have been staying here for more than 10 years and I wouldn't trade anything else for this area. The mall has been upgraded and now there is Baskin Robbins, MOF, Gongcha and a newly revamped food court. I couldn't have been happier!! It not only serves as a great need to the residents here but for people who are have the idea that neighborhood malls are boring, Tiong Bahru Plaza is not boring, even for someone who stays just opposite it and goes there almost 1-2x a week! You have to try the chicken rice and ban mian at the coffee shop at Block 18. Come out from the MRT, turn right, go up the escalator, look left and that is the coffee shop.
Take a 10 minute walk from the MRT and you will find yourself immersed in a surrounding filled with cafes, traditional coffee shops. Traditional or modern? You choose. For the traditional kakis, I would recommend the Hainanese Curry Rice beside Tiong Bahru Bakery. There is also a market if you need to indulge in hawker fare or buy some groceries. For the modern ones, there is a Petit P.S Cafe and The Orange Thimble (not bad truffle fries there). If you are not in the mood for food, there are several book stores littered around. There's one with two cats in it!!! Come and get charmed by Tiong Bahru, I am sure you will like it. TIP: Bring a umbrella in case it rains or the sun gets too hot while walking around the blocks.
A unique enclave of its own
It's interesting how I've always seemed to have a strange affinity with Tiong Bahru - from frequent visits to relatives staying in the area as a child, to having several community service projects there when I was in secondary school, and eventually even having a few tuition students living in the area, I always found myself journeying back to the area and rediscovering a different side of it each time.
If I had to name one thing about Tiong Bahru that's left the most lasting impression on me over the years, I would say it's the people. Despite the increasing modernity of the place, which has led to its gradual appeal amongst youngsters, the proportion of elderly living in the area still appears high, and it is not uncommon to see silver-haired uncles and aunties pushing carts of scraps or selling knick-knacks by the pavement. Yet, this trend seems to have brought about a culture of simplicity and resilience, which I experienced not just from my interactions with the senior generation but even the future generation of children and youth.
One of the most iconic places in Tiong Bahru would have to be the Tiong Bahru Market. Besides being known by residents for providing some of the freshest produces, it is widely known among Singaporeans for being home to some of the most popular hawker stalls, such as Jian Bo Tiong Bahru Chwee Kueh, a stall selling handmade fishball noodles (of which, most unfortunately, I've forgotten its name!) and the ever-famous Tiong Bahru Pau, just to name a few.
With many new concept cafes, restaurants and stores springing up in the Tiong Bahru area in recent years, it's little wonder that many have begun to dub the place the next most "happening" district in Singapore. Indeed, the changing face of Tiong Bahru appears to have much to offer. Nonetheless, I believe what would remain a most integral part of the Tiong Bahru estate for residents and frequent visitors like me is probably not so much the new going-ons, as it is the culture and intergenerational mix, that defines Tiong Bahru as a unique enclave of its own.
Take The Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail guided tour
Tiong Bahru is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore. The Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre is possibly an area where we can find a number of hawker stalls that have been in business for more than 30 years. It's my humble opinion that if these hawker stalls can withstand the test of time, they must each have something special to share.
Thanks to the efforts of the National Heritage Board, the Tiong Bahru Communtiy Centre Management Committee, and the Youth Exectuive Committe, there is a new way to experience the Tiong Bahru estate. It is to participate in the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail guided tour.
The Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail guided tour was launched on 14 Apr 2013. It brings participants to some of the following places to appreciate the history and the social memories of Tiong Bahru:
1) Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre
2) Bird Corner at Link Hotel, and the site of the former Hu Lu Temple
3) Graves of Tan Tock Seng, Chua Seah Neo (Mrs Tan Kim Ching), and Wuing Neo
4) The former sites of the Institute of Health and the Coroner's Court
5) Tiong Bahru Qi Tian Gong (The Tiong Bahru Monkey God Temple)
6) Appreciate the architecture of Tiong Bahru
7) Tiong Bahru Community Centre
8) Seng Poh Garden & Dancing Girl Sculpture
9) The Horse-shoe Block at Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace
There will be monthly Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail every first Saturday of the month starting May 2013, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The gathering point will be at the Tiong Bahru Community Centre. The tours will be conducted in English.
There will a nominal fee of $2 for this guided tour and the proceeds will go to the Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru Citizens' Consultative Committee Community Development and Welfare Fund (CCC-CDWF) to assist the needy residents.
For more information and to register for the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail guided tour, please visit http://bit.ly/10GCoii
NOTE: If you would like to take a self-guided tour on your own about the Tiong Bahru Estate, please download the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail brochure from this URL: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/NHBPortal/content/conn/ucmnhb/uuid/dDocName:NHBSVRAPP61620000032517
Suggestion: Please wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Bring along a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. An umbrella and insect repellant may come handy. The insect repellant will prove essential when visiting the graves of our pioneers.