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Enclaves X xinty July 07, 2012 314
Joo Chiat lives! And how!
(Updated: April 02, 2013)
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Overall Experience 
A walk through the Joo Chiat area is a walk through an amazing part of Singapore. Some claim it is Singapore’s most interesting area. I agree. Forget Tiong Bahru, Emily Hill, Ann Siang Hill and so on. This place is alive and (mostly) fascinating.

Intensive, tasteful and culturally sensitive renovations have been and continue to be made to the plethora of old Singapore houses in the area. What is specially worth seeing? 

Start from Payar Lebar MRT Station and wander down to the Joo Chiat centre at Geylang Serai. It is a Malay area. Thankfully, the old Malay Village has been demolished and a new 'attraction' is planned. No worries: the living Joo Chiat is much more interesting to see and experience. The textile markets opposite the wet market: both are fascinating.

Then wander down Joo Chiat Road, exploring the various side lanes and streets where mosques and temples abound to say nothing of meticulously and sensitively renovated homes. This is what Singapore was!

What to find? The renovated shop houses especially in Tembeling Road, Joo Chiat Place and Koon Seng Road. Check out
Kuan Im Tng Temple (Tembeling Road near the corner of Jok Chiat Lane). Be invited into the old Majid Khalid in Joo Chiat Road. Go a little further to Ceylon Road and visit 
Si Senpaga Vinayager Temple which dates back to the 1810s.

Joo Chiat Road is a work in progress. It contains some superb old buildings, tastefully and carefully renovated to look spanking new.

This area epitomises Singapore's multi-culturalism. Malay, Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and expatriates wander everywhere, to say nothing of more recent immigrants from ROC, Indonesia and Myanmar etc of the kind who hang round the KTV bars on Joo Chiat Road. Forget them. Joo Chiat bustles with activity both day and night.

Joo Chiat provides my favourite picture of old Singapore. I know that there are many other well preserved areas, but none have the bustle and life of this place. This is a living museum, not a place to observe from afar with a doctorate in mind. Most of the buildings were built during the prewar era, comprising shop-houses and five-foot ways. Today, even the annoying clutter that spills on to the footpaths and blocks your strolling is fascinating: key cutters, young ladies, commercial kitchen wares and even cars. Little alleys dart off left and right, each worth a detour.

So enjoy it. And if you need a rest, there are some wonderful cafes and restaurants. There is even a backpackers place (The Betel Box) at 200 Joo Chiat Road which serves reasonable coffee and peranakan food, and also offers walking tours. 

For my money though, if you want something different, walk over to the Eurasian Center in Ceylon Road on the corner of Dunman Road. It boasts an excellent bar and restaurant offering fusion Portuguese/ Asian food. Arguably the best in Singapore. And on the fourth floor is an interesting (free) museum of the history of Eurasians in Singapore.

Then when you have finished that, wander back to Geylang Road and stop off at Haig Road Market. There, at the 69 Soy Stall, you can find the best soy bean curd on Singapore. I know! The original soy bean places that don't add coffee mate are still the best, but when it comes to a cool, refreshing dessert, this is the best in Singapore.

Joo Chiat? In a word, wonderful.
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