10 Things In The North’s Heartlands That’ll Make You Forget All About Our SG-JB VTL Woes For Now

Hidden heartland gems in the North

There’s a common misconception that there’s not much to do in the North besides crossing the Causeway. Well, we’re here to debunk that myth. 

With a keen eye, you’ll be able to find a myriad of hidden heartland gems in the North tucked away in unassuming HDB blocks. With vintage arcade machine workshops, regional minimarts, and a speciality ant store, these shops and their passionate owners could be the best thing you discover all month. 

1. The Trading Card Shop – Tabletop strategy games like Warhammer

Image credit: The Trading Card Shop

Remember the good old days where you and your buddies would excitedly meet at school to obsess over the latest Pokemon or Magic the Gathering trading card? A nostalgia-inducing place, The Trading Card Shop is a haven for the enthusiastic card or tabletop gamer. 

Besides the stacks of tabletop games and accessories to browse from, the shop is lined with long game tables where they host weekly game nights.

Image credit: The Trading Card Shop

While you’re there, give Warhammer a try – a tabletop wargame where you battle your opponent with miniature figures and strategy. 

Newcomers can also pick up the basics of the game by simply speaking to the friendly store owners. And if you’ve decided that this will be your latest hobby, you can even grab speciality paints from the store to customise the figures to your liking. 

Address: Jln Malu-malu, 59D, Singapore 769674
Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 9AM-11.30PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 9138 5578

The Trading Card Shop website

2. Joy of Handmade – Traditional decoupage & Japanese art classes

 Arts and crafts aren’t just reserved for schoolchildren, it’s a widely-accessible activity that’s relaxing and meditative. At Joy of Handmade, take part in a diversity of art workshops that are offered regularly each week – certificate included too!

Image credit: @joyofhandmade

For starters, there’s traditional decoupage, a 300-year-old papercraft where you glue and varnish paper cutouts onto any surface, such as trays, vases, or even tea sets. Alternatively, there’s a certified instructor to teach Pastel Nagomi Art, a therapeutic Japanese art form where you use your fingers to paint. 

Image credit: Joy of Handmade

There are also starter kits for you to bring home and continue your foray into the arts, with a Zentangle Starter Kit costing only $12.

Address: 149 Yishun Street 11, Singapore 760149
Opening Hours: By appointment only
Telephone: 9873 5432

Joy of Handmade website

3. TR Hobby – Anime collectibles like Kotobukiya & model kits

Image credit: TR Hobby

TR Hobby had humble beginnings, starting as a commission painting company that worked for collectors and tabletop gamers. Today, they’ve expanded to also retail one of the largest collections of figurines and collectables from renowned brands such as Kotobukiya, Nendoroid, and Madworks.

Their shop boasts constant discounts, with a Frame Arms Girl figurine starting from $29.90. Keeping to their roots, the store also stocks lacquer model paint, accessories, and tools for hobbyists to craft their own model too. Even if you’re not a collector, you’ll still be impressed by the level of detail that goes into each of these figurines, with each paint stroke carefully calculated and precision perfect.

Address: 527 Woodlands Drive 14, Singapore 730527
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 10AM-8PM (Closed on Sundays)
Telephone: 9004 4984

TR Hobby website

4. Moin Moin Gelato – Minimalist cafe open till midnight

Image credit: @moinmoingelato

After a long walk on a hot sunny day, we all need a place to chill. Tucked away in a quiet Yishun HDB, Moin Moin Gelato is a cute, minimalist ice cream shop that’ll satisfy your sweet tooth. You can opt for a classic scoop ($3.90) with flavours such as Yakult Vanilla or Salted Caramel, or experiment with a superior scoop ($4.70) boasting unique combinations like Osmanthus Lychee or Peanut Butter Banana.

Image credit: Moin Moin Gelato

Add a waffle for $5 to pair with your gelato, and you’ll have all the energy you need to continue your journey. But if it’s a late-night trek you’re embarking on, the cafe is open till 12AM on weekends to quell any late-night cravings.

Address: 930 Yishun Central 1, #01-125, Singapore 760930
Opening Hours: Tue – Thu 2PM-10PM | Fri 2PM-12AM | Sat – Sun 12PM-12AM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 9711 4446

Moin Moin Gelato website

5. RetroCade – Build your own arcade machine

Image credit:

Before the days of the iPad or Nintendo Switch, arcade machines were the go-to for gaming. If the iconic jingles of the classic Street Fighter, Pac-Man, or Space Invaders still make you giggle with joy; RetroCade offers workshops to build your own arcade machine from scratch.

Image credit: RetroCade

Led by talented and passionate instructors, you’ll be given everything from the machine frame to the internal Raspberry Pi to build your retro gaming station. Every step of assembly can be done with only a screwdriver needed, making the workshop accessible to all age groups. The fruit of your labour will be a fully-functional arcade machine with all its bells and whistles – light enough to even be carried around!

The workshop for a 1-player machine will cost you $500, or you can pay extra for a 2-player machine workshop at $900.

Address: Block 166 Woodlands Street 13, Singapore 730166
Opening Hours: By appointment only
Telephone: 8893 4492

RetroCade website

6. Vietnam Mini Mart – Imported Vietnamese fruits and snacks

Image credit: Vietnam Mini Mart

Even though there’s no VTL with Vietnam just yet, a trip to Vietnam Mini Mart will leave you with goodies and snacks reminiscent of holidays to the Southeast Asian country. The store sells authentic, imported fruits from all Vietnamese regions, such as plums from Sơn La and mangoes from Cửu Long delta. While the coffee-holics will instantly recognise the smell of Vietnamese coffee, famed for its strong and distinctive flavour.  

Iconic ingredients such as fish sauce, shrimp paste with Vietnamese labels and brands can also be seen stacked among the shelves. Here’s a tip: if you want to try your hand at homemade phở, the store also has everything you need from the noodles to the seasonings.

Address: 110 Yishun Ring Road, #01-387, Singapore 760110
Opening Hours: 6AM-10PM, Daily
Telephone: 9369 7332

Vietnam Mini Mart website

7. Friends Tasty Korea – Affordable Korean BBQ buffet

Image credit: Chen Mervyn

Nothing beats a hearty platter of sizzling, mouth-watering barbequed meat while catching up with friends and family. Right opposite Blk 710 Yishun Avenue 5, Friends Tasty Korea offers a free-flow Korean BBQ buffet that includes staples such as pork belly and beef bulgogi, as well as seafood options such as clams and tiger prawns. Remember to leave some space for the unlimited supply of ice cream too!

Image credit: @huanteckbeng

With the cheapest weekday lunch costing $15.90 while the most expensive dinner option being $19.90, the buffet won’t burn a hole in your wallet either. If you’re planning on visiting during peak hours, book a reservation beforehand as the place can get crowded with local residents flocking there.

Address: 431 Sembawang Road, Singapore 758396
Opening Hours: 11.30AM-3.30PM, 5-11PM, Daily
Telephone: 6635 3430

Friends Tasty Korea website

8. 51 Noodle House – Fusion bak chor mee

Image credit: @51noodlehouse

Located at the stylish Yishun Park Hawker Centre, 51 Noodle House is the result of two existing stalls coming together to create this fusion establishment. With a Japanese twist on the classic bak chor mee, their Signature Noodles ($5.50) features Chashu pork and a runny egg that you’d typically find in ramen dishes.

Image credit: @51noodlehouse

You have the choice between the OG noodles such as mee pok and mee kia, or you can opt for the unique Japanese udon instead. Of course, the more traditional among us can always order the timeless Minced Meat Noodles ($3.50) before venturing into fusion territory.

Address: 51 Yishun Ave 11, #01-27, Singapore 768867
Opening Hours: 7.30AM-9.30PM

51 Noodle House website

9. Jumping Singapore Yishun – Keep fit with trampolines

Image credit: Jumping Singapore

Incorporating a gym routine into our schedules can be a tiresome and frankly boring endeavour. But if you’re looking for something a little more exciting, something that’ll get you bouncing with joy, Jumping Singapore offers jumping fitness classes designed to keep your body in tip-top shape – right in a convenient heartland location to boot.

With dozens of trampolines, uplifting music, engaging instructors, and a crowd of fellow enthusiasts bouncing alongside you, the atmosphere alone is enough to get you pumped. There are trial packages ($48) that include four sessions for those who want to dip their feet, as well as the larger jump-8 ($160) or jump-16 ($288) package with eight and 16 sessions, respectively.

As a social enterprise, the organisation is dedicated to supporting shelters for homeless families and individuals in Singapore, so your money will be supporting a good cause as well.

Note: Jumping Singapore is closed till April.

Address: Block 102 Yishun Avenue 5, #03-131, Singapore 760102
Opening Hours: By schedule available on their website
Telephone: 9773 5538

Jumping Singapore website               

10. Drum Prodigy Singapore – Inclusive music academy for children and adults

Image credit: Drum Prodigy Singapore

It’s never too early nor too late to pick up an instrument. Drum Prodigy Singapore helps anyone achieve their rockstar dreams, with the BunnyBEATS programme designed for kids as young as 2.5 years old and Drum Kit lessons for children, teens, and adults. 

An inclusive music academy, they also offer programmes for persons with special needs such as ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Down Syndrome, guided by specially trained instructors. Even though the academy’s right underneath a HDB block, the soundproofed walls prevent any noise from travelling up.

Address: Block 620 Hougang Ave 8, #01-268, Singapore 530620
Opening Hours: Tue 2PM-8.30PM | Thu – Fri 10AM-8.30PM | Sat 9AM-6PM| Sun 9AM-4.30PM (Closed on Mondays & Wednesdays)
Telephone: 8661 5107

Drum Prodigy website

BONUS: Just Ants – Specialty ant and isopod store

Image credit: @justantsss

Ant-Man isn’t the only superhero who can control ants. The tiny creatures are more fascinating than any of us could imagine, and Just Ants gives you an insightful glimpse into their lives. As Singapore’s first physical ant shop, you’re immediately welcomed by the myriad of ant colonies on display housing over 30 species of ants.

Image credit: @justantsss

If you’re ready to start an ant colony yourself, the one-stop shop has everything you need from a basic Ant Starter Kit ($14.90) to ant farms and even ant hunting equipment to catch them in the wild. With friendly store owners ready to dish out ant knowledge, you’ll no doubt view ants in a different light next time you come across them.

Address: 928 Yishun Central 1, #01-143, Singapore 760928
Opening Hours: 12PM-8PM, Daily
Telephone: 9091 9599

Just Ants website

Exploring the North with Heartlands Festival

While outings to hotspots downtown are the norm, they can get rather repetitive after a while. Sometimes, we’re too fixated on travelling away from the heartlands and forget about the hidden gems that are right near where we live. 

Some of the great views you’ll be privy to in the North

With the inaugural Heartlands Festival happening from 28th November 2021 – 18th February 2022, it’s an opportune time to jio your mates and rediscover the best of our heartlands. The North has already shown us the diversity of stores to eat, shop, and play. You’ve got passionate store owners fulfilling their dream to open a vintage arcade workshop or speciality ant store, as well as motivated groups helping people from all walks of life keep fit or learn music.

Look out for their cute otter installation in the area 

The three months are full of non-stop, exciting activities that are designed to accompany your adventures. Start with heartland trails and visit each of the five pop-up installations to light up your Instagram feed. As you look for places to eat, keep note of your favourite hawker stalls and nominate them to be a part of a curated top 100 list. Or if you have the stomach to challenge Zermatt Neo in an eating challenge, join in Ultimate Food Challenge with a $800 NETS FlashPay card up for grabs.

Avid shoppers and coupon queens unite as there’ll also be a Shop Your Hearts Out competition, where shoppers compete to see whose spending comes closest to the allocated $80. Winner gets to keep their purchases and a $100 NETS FlashPay card – imagine being rewarded for shopping.

As a final cherry on top, for each $10 you spend at heartland shops or food stalls, you’ll get one chance to win in the Heartlands Festival Lucky Draw with grand prizes worth up to $3,388. Weekly winners are posted on their Instagram page @heyheartlands, so be sure to follow and keep up to date!

Find out more about Heartlands Festival here

This post was brought to you by Heartlands Festival. 

Billy Tran

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