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East vs West - Cover

My Boss Made Me Go All The Way To Jurong As A Proud Eastie To Settle If West Side Really Can Be Best Side

Exploring the West as a hardcore Eastie

As someone who has been an East-sider since day one, I proudly wear the badge of #eastsidebestside. Before the East Coast Plan even came into the picture, the East, in my opinion, was already the ultimate hype zone in Singapore, brimming with iconic places Easties used to lepak at.

When my boss dropped the bomb and told me to go all the way to the West just to see if it could even hold a candle to the East, my first reaction was sian. I even jokingly asked if I needed to bring my passport along. But then I figured, okay lah, let’s see what the Westies have got. Btw, my “rapid” train ride from Tampines MRT to Jurong took a whole 64 minutes … Thanks, boss.

Attractions – Tourist haunts vs hidden local gems

First and foremost, let’s talk about what makes an area truly noteworthy: it needs to boast enough landmarks that can attract tourists and make it onto their must-visit list, just like Sentosa or Orchard Road. And it’s not just tourists who benefit from these attractions; they even provide locals with weekend activities to look forward to.

East vs West - Jewel Changi

In the East, we’ve set the benchmark from the moment tourists step foot into the country with our beloved Changi Airport. In fact, we have probably already spoilt the market with Jewel Changi – home to the magnificent Rain Vortex, AKA the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. 

We also have Changi Jurassic Mile, where you can encounter some dinos without having to head over to The Lost World at Universal Studios Singapore. Not to mention, the IG-famous colourful shophouses in Joo Chiat and Katong as well as Pulau Ubin in the far east for a quick escape from the city buzz.

I’ve always been sure that the East would take the lead with its impressive array of attractions, and when it came to Jurong, I mean … so ulu, have tourist attractions, meh? 

Needless to say, my Westie teammates were quick to prove me wrong. For one,
Snow City is a worthy contender with its sub-zero temperatures to combat the scorching heat. Then there’s Science Centre which has had a pleasant glow-up with an escape room and KidsSTOP learning zone since I last visited during my primary school days. 

East vs West - Haw Par Villa Hell Museum
Hell’s Museum at Haw Par Villa.

There’s plenty more things to do in Jurong and in the West such as roaming around Haw Par Villa and learning more about our history at the Singapore Discovery Centre. One could easily spend a few weekends covering the activities in the West.

Also, if you don’t already know, the new Science Centre opening in 2027 will be nestled within Jurong Lake Gardens. Maybe I’ll make another 64-minute trip down when that happens. 

Activities – Adventurous staples vs underrated haunts

As a thrill seeker, nothing gets my heart racing quite like an adrenaline rush. Having these exhilarating activities within easy reach is an absolute plus. And being in the East has spoiled me for choice when it comes to both land and water adventures.

East vs West - Wild Wild Wet Forest Adventure
Wild Wild Wet & Forest Adventure.

I’ve plunged into the water rides at Wild Wild Wet and embarked on a treetop escapade at Forest Adventure. There’s still so much more to explore on my list – PAssion WaVe @ East Coast and the available water sports like sailing, stand-up paddling, and windsurfing, Xtreme Skatepark, Aqua Adventure, and the list goes on.

Then I did some research about adventurous activities in the West. I felt my Eastie pride melting away.

East vs West - Jurong East Swimming Complex PAssion Wave
Jurong East Swimming Complex (left) and PAssion WaVe @ Jurong Lake Gardens (right).

What surprised me was the fact that Jurong East Swimming Complex has 3 slides and a lazy river. It’s reminiscent of the extreme slides of Wild Wild Wet, except that it only costs $2.50 instead of $26 to enter.

Then, I realised that there’s also a PAssion WaVe @ Jurong Lake Gardens – and its water activities like kayaking, pedal boating, and dragon boating are carried out on a calm lake with serene surroundings of greenery.

East vs West - SkatePark
Image credit: NParks

And yep, SkatePark @ Lakeside Garden can rival that of East Coast Park’s, too. I found out that it boasts the title of being the largest outdoor skatepark with 5 skate pods, a parkour zone, and a 3m-tall bouldering wall. It must be a pretty popular hangout spot for enthusiasts of these respective sports.

Fine, Westies, you can have this one.

Shopping malls – Mall cluster vs an even bigger mall cluster

As a true blue Tampines resident, I’ve never held back when it came to bragging about the amenities in my neighbourhood. We have 3 malls – the OG Tampines Mall, Century Square, and Tampines 1 – that are within a stone’s throw away from each other. Within these malls, there is a departmental store, cinema, and even famous blog shops.

East vs West - Westgate

The moment I stepped out of Jurong East MRT, though, I did not expect to see the interconnected malls that towered before me. It was like a labyrinth of shopping delights, and it took me a while to realise that there were actually 3 malls – Westgate, Jem and IMM – nestled in close proximity. Is this the Tampines of the West?

Lost in my own little world of exploration, I stumbled upon an unexpected surprise – an IKEA store in Jem. We do have an IKEA in Tampines, but I always thought the furniture chain had a penchant for hidden locations far from MRT access. The one in Jurong is just a 2-minute walk away from the train station.

East vs West - IMM

IMM is the go-to outlet mall in Singapore. Sure, we have Changi City Point in the East, but TBH, the sheer number of stores at IMM surpasses its counterpart. 

When it comes down to it, I’d say that you can essentially experience a satisfying shopping experience when you visit both Tampines and Jurong. However, credit must be given to Jurong for taking the lead with a larger outlet mall and an IKEA store in Jem that’s easily accessible from the MRT station. Westies, you’ve won me over, here.

Chalets – OG school-day stays vs “newer” ones

The heartlands of Singapore have always been known for their everyday conveniences. But it’s an added bonus when they also offer amenities that bring people together for a fun day out. Enter: Chalets in Singapore.

East vs West - HomeTeamNS East Villa
HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir East Villa is the newest edition in the East.

The East has long been hailed for its chalets. Since the 1970s, there were already chalets in East Coast Park. Adding to the list is D’Resort @ Downtown East which recently got a revamp. Plus, we could even take advantage of the exclusive deals available to our friends serving the nation at NSRCC and Civil Service Club Changi.

East vs West - West ChaletImage adapted from: HomeTeamNS, The Chevrons

The West may not have had a long-standing tradition of conveniently located chalets, but they’ve certainly caught up with the times. They now have HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok West Villa and The Chevrons that’s located near malls for those last-minute supplies and essentials. 

We’d have to declare the East winners when it comes to chalets but the West is stepping up its chalet game, and I guess Westies can finally enjoy the same amenities without having to travel too far.

Nature spots – Coastal parks vs Heartland gardens

Singapore, known as a City in Nature, truly lives up to its essence by providing ample green spaces close to homes for nature enthusiasts to indulge in.

East vs West - Pasir Ris Bird Watching Tower

Those in the East are blessed with a number of beaches in East Coast, Changi, and Pasir Ris that overlook the South China Sea.

It’s also no secret that the East is home to plenty of wildlife, especially at Pasir Ris Park. If you head over to the Bird Watching Tower on a weekend, you’ll see plenty of birdwatchers snapping away en route. In fact, some residents even get surprise visits by owls chilling by their windows.

Just remember not to feed the wildlife and keep a distance to ensure the safety of both yourself and the animals.

East vs West - Changi Point Coastal Walk

Besides the more obvious East Coast Park, we have Changi Point Coastal Walk for those who would like to find solace in nature. Not to mention, there are a tonne of photo-worthy spots at Changi Bay Point including a whimsical leaning tree and a captivating pavilion where early birds can witness the sunrise.

East vs West - Changi Bay Point
Changi Bay Point also has some aesthetic benches and a lalang field.

Over in the West, they’ve got Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, West Coast Park, and Jurong Lake Gardens just to name a few.

Here’s where I was about to put my foot in my mouth. After exploring Jurong Lake Gardens, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed. Here’s another nugget of information: it has been given the title of a National Garden – there are only 3 in Singapore.

East vs West - The Grassland Lone Tree
The Grasslands and the ‘Lone Tree’ which is made from recycled iron bars.

Tbh, before stepping foot here, I thought – garden lor, a lot of trees and grass only mah. But, the garden wasn’t just a gigantic space filled with plants.

First off, it’s very well-maintained and rather gorgeous with so many photogenic spots. I lost count towards the end, but let me walk you through some of the highlights.

I came across The Grasslands which has a bird-watching dome, offering the opportunity to spot grassland birds in their natural habitat. In addition, Jurong Lake Gardens Rasau Walk offers a scenic pathway where I was told that I might catch a glimpse of some Kingfishers and playful otters if I was lucky. So it’s not just plants, but also animals that visitors may find in the garden.

East vs West - Deck Chairs
There are also deck chairs for those who want to relax and unwind amidst the beauty of nature.

While I was reminded of the ocean views we have at East Coast Park, I also observed how the scenery of the lake consisted of HDBs in the background instead of the line of ships we usually see at ECP – same same but different.

East vs West - Coastal Playgrove
The 4-storey slide found at Coastal Play
Grove in East Coast Park.

Parents who decide to bring their munchkins for a fun day out also have plenty of choices in the West. 

While East Coast Park has Coastal PlayGrove with a 4-storey play tower, Jurong Lake Gardens has Clusia Cove, where kids can enjoy water and sand play at their tidal pools and sand pits. There is also the Forest Ramble, touted as the largest Nature playgarden for children in the heartlands with numerous slides and swings. 

East vs West - Forest Ramble
The Forest Ramble boasts a collection of 13 play zones. There’s also a wheelchair-friendly merry-go-round, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the same amount of fun. 

Fur parents have a fair share of fun at these parks as well. Both parks have a dog run for dogs to stretch their legs and socialise with other furry friends, as well as to have a paw-some time with their human companions.

East vs West - Dog Runs
Dog runs at Parkland Green & Jurong Lake Gardens.
Image adapted from: @aussiemixchon & @latte.thepomsky via Instagram

East vs West - Jurong Lake Gardens
Taking public transport to reach the park is a green step towards enjoying nature’s wonders.

In terms of accessibility, Jurong Lake Gardens takes the lead with its convenient proximity to Lakeside MRT, making it easily accessible for those relying on public transport. I mean, the garden is literally at the doorstep of the MRT station.

Finding out more about Jurong Lake Gardens’ sustainable efforts

East vs West - Jurong Lake Gardens Sign

Considering how Singapore is constantly trying to beautify its green spaces, I honestly thought Jurong Lake Gardens was just another nice garden lor

Well, it was not just another garden. In fact, Jurong Lake Gardens actually integrated sustainable elements in their design, in a bid to do their part for the environment – consider me super impressed.

They’ve incorporated both smart and nature-based solutions to keep the gardens running. I mean, besides being chio photo spots, were you aware that some parts of the gardens such as The Canyon and The Log Trail are made of recycled materials?

East vs West - Log Trail The Canyon
The Log Trail & The Canyon are 2 pretty spots to take nature-themed pics.

The Log Trail is crafted from recycled tree logs and The Canyon is made up of rocks salvaged during the construction process of the Lakeside Garden.

East vs West - Jurong Lake Gardens Park
Image credit: NParks

As you wander along the garden’s walking paths, you may not notice that some parts are made with a different kind of concrete. In fact, these CarbonCure concrete footpaths are secretly reducing carbon emissions by upcycling the gas. Learning this made me feel like the air I was breathing here was fresher – props to them for such an innovative sustainability solution!

East vs West - Clusia Cove

In addition, I was surprised to learn that the water used in the play area at Clusia Cove is supplied by a water recycling system. It undergoes thorough purification naturally by plants before undergoing UV treatment and finally being pumped into the water playground. 

East vs West - Butterfly Maze Slide
Image credit: 고윈ᄐugly via Google Maps

You’ll often find children wandering around the Butterfly Maze as they explore the space while gaining insights about the fluttering creatures.

FYI, the flooring at this slide found on the site is made of recycled shoe rubber granules and natural cork to ensure a soft landing for children – sustainable and offering a peace of mind for parents.

East vs West - Neram Streams
The Neram Streams is a series of naturalised streams that channel stormwater runoff from the surrounding estates into Jurong Lake.

Did you know that nature-based solutions were largely incorporated to construct Jurong Lake Gardens? For instance, a concrete canal was converted into a series of naturalised streams.

By incorporating these sustainable design elements into public spaces and attractions, the project serves as an example of how Singapore integrates such practices into our everyday environments, inspiring people to also adopt similar practices into their lives. 

East vs West - SustainableFest SG 2023
One of the activities during SustainableFest SG 2023 was a Biodiversity Guided Walk.

In addition to the sustainable designs, Jurong Lake Gardens hosts a variety of events throughout the year, providing opportunities for you to immerse yourself in nature and learn more about how to play your part in the community. 

For example, at the recent SustainableFest SG 2023 held in June, visitors got a chance to not only support local farmers at the green marketplace but also participate in informative talks, engaging workshops, and even enjoy a movie screening centred around sustainable living.

If you’d like to be more hands-on, participate in the OneMillionTrees movement where you’ll get the chance to plant a tree and watch it grow over the years. 

The real best side: East or West

When I first agreed to go on this expedition, I was pretty sure the East was going to win hands down. However, as I delved into the myriad offerings of the West, my perspective underwent a delightful transformation. Okay lah, I must admit, it far exceeded my expectations. 

I mean, Jurong Lake Gardens alone was already an impressive destination, considering how much effort has been put into creating a beautiful and sustainable outdoor space for current and future communities to enjoy.

While my heart will forever belong to the East, I can’t deny that the West has suddenly become way more attractive. In fact, if someone jios me to hang out in the West in the future, I might actually consider it – even though it means setting my alarm an hour earlier for the commute. And the next time a Westie argues #westsidebestside, I won’t get as defensive anymore.

Find out more about Jurong Lake Gardens

This post was brought to you by the National Parks Board.
Photography by Pichan Cruz and Emilyn Cheng.