Tiong Bahru, Singapore

We only shared five months together in Singapore after I arrived and before she left, but one thing we found we had in common was our love for exploration.  In my mailbox the week she left, I found an envelope containing two exploration suggestions based off of bucket list items that she never got around to.

I sent out an email to those that remained in the neighborhood and on the appointed day, our little group of adventurers (i.e. the SEWAGS) set out to venture into the Tiong Bahru neighborhood.

The HDB (Housing Development Board) flats and shop houses are noticeably Art Deco and we learned that the Singapore Improvement Trust (pre-HDB) built these very unique flats that are all “short stacks” so to speak amongst the normal high-rise government buildings. Their curved terraces and spiral staircases stand out and during our walk, we repeatedly said “ooooh look” or “That is beautiful” in response to the simplicity and beauty of these flats.

We started out by gathering at the Tiong Bahru Market, at the corner where Seng Poh Road meets the junction of Lim Liak Street and Eng Hoon Street. The Tiong Bahru Market was the first self-organized hawker center in Singapore and we learned that pre World War II, the wealthy men often housed their mistresses in this area, earning it the nickname of Mei Ren Wuo, or Den of Beauties.

Following an article published in Expat Living (how long ago, we don’t know!), we started our hunt for food by visiting Stall #02-05 Jian Bo Shui Kueh. We pointed at the picture-less menu, then shared our article printout, then all laughed as the ladies realized what we wanted to order, Chwee Kueh. Rice cakes were prompted out of their molds, and a delicious mixture of carrots, garlic and other deliciousness was slathered on top.  We asked for our chili sauce on the side, sat down with our baby chopsticks and dug in.

Delicious.

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Next up was the Tiong Bahru Pau stall, but since it was Monday, it was regrettably shut. We were hoping for the acclaimed steamed pork bun and prawn dumplings.

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We then made our way to The Original Tiong Bahru Golden Pig & Roasted (yes, that is the complete name … it just ends with “Roasted”) where we waited FAR too long for the Uncle to ask what we wanted to order.  He was too busy chatting with the guy next door. Anyway, we ordered Roast Duck, Roast Pork and BBQ Pork with rice. So so, but maybe the wait colored our opinion of the food a bit?

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After that, we set out in search of the touted pastry shop called  Glacier Pastry in the 55 Block of Tiong Bahru Road, but either our taste buds weren’t in the mood for something sweet or the layout of the store was off putting, so we set off in search of the Forty Hands Coffee Shop at 78 Yong Siak Street.

BUT … it was also shut on Mondays.  So we did the next best thing … we popped in to the store Books Actually which is mistook for a Singaporean chain store. It is SUCH a breath of fresh air.  I could have stayed all day!  Their shelves of vintage and collectables is divine, and the music catchy and the staff so very pleasant and helpful.  The decor? LOVE.

After that, we still had a taste for coffee, so we asked the lovely ladies at Books Actually for a suggestion.  Flock was the place to be, so off we set with our iPhones leading the way. What a sight we must have been.  I’m not sure what would be worse — a group of foreign women wandering the streets of Singapore with iPhones held out at a strange angle as if they were honing beacons, or maps completely unfolded like the obvious tourists to this country?

We enjoyed Flat Whites, Cappucinos and Iced Green/Ginger Tea while we shared more stories and got to know each other better.  When it was time to part ways, again the iPhones found their way out of the depths of our bags to point us to our cars and off we went, just in time to miss the incoming rain shower.

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