Thursday, November 27, 2014

Exploring Tiong Bahru, Singapore

So, I'm slowly adjusting to life here in Singapore.  Other than the incredible humidity at times (it's supposed to be the cooler part of the year as it's monsoon season, hence a lot of rain).  Life has been sweet, just lazing around and eating.... with some errand running in between and .. hmm... job searching.. honestly!

Anywaz, today, I had a wandered around in Tiong Bahru with S's cousin.  Everyone raves about Tiong Bahru, how it's the oldest and the hippest place to be.  Oldie is always a goldie, right?!

So, let's start first with the history of Tiong Bahru which I took from Wikipedia.   Built in the 30s, it's one of the oldest estates in Singapore. Tiong (in Hokkien means "cemetary" and Bahru in old Malay is "new").  Up till the 20s, there were cemeteries dotted around the area.  In 1925, it was declared unsanitary and designated to be improved.  Squatters and graves were moved out and the graves were then filled in and levelled out.

The construction of Tiong Bahru is a mixture of modern streamline and local Straits shop house architecture.  The flats have rounded balconies, flat rooftops, spiral staircases, light wells and house architecture.  Most notable here are the streets, which are named after Chinese pioneers from the 19th and early 20th centuries (e.g Lim Liak, Kim Pong, Guan Chuan, Chay Yan etc)

The flats here contrasted markedly with those of the much later post-war mass housing programs as a lot of effort were put into designing the estate with a series of flats that are visually pleasing to the eye.  The flats built in the 50s and 60s are starkly utilitarian in appearance and design; where flats are almost identical in their two-dimensional "matchbox" style.

Tiong Bahru Estate during the pre-World War II years were not affordable to many people.  It is a place for the upper class and a place where the rich and powerful kept their mistresses.  For this reason alone, the estate used to be known as Mei Ren ("Den of Beauties" in Mandarin)

After the World War II, it gradually lost its exalted status as an exclusive estate only for the upper class.  However, it still retained its close-knit Kampung ("small village" in Malay) spirit and today, it's a bustling and lively little town where everyone knows each other and look out for one another.   They seem to be very proud of their heritage as walking around, I noticed one shop had a sign up which says "100% Tiong Bahru".

In recent years, the population of Tiong Bahru estate has declined steadily. Following the economic boom of the 1970s and 1980s, the next generation of Singaporeans became more affluent and sophisticated. They hold allure to the sleek and modern designs of new towns and private condominiums and began moving out of Tiong Bahru en-masse. Consequently, Tiong Bahru estate for a while became an estate for the elderly, but lately younger Westerners and sophisticated Singaporeans have been rediscovering the charm of the area.

In 2003, after many years of discussion over its heritage status, Tiong Bahru Area of 36 units of shopflats/shophouses along Outram Road were one of the 20 blocks gazetted by the Urban Redevelopment Authority for Conservation, which means they could not be changed or destroyed. 

Click here to read more from wikipedia.

Yong Tau Fu - Beancurds stuffed with minced meat or fish paste in soup
Assam Laksa $4 - Looks like the real deal, but I was slightly disappointed as the soup was not fishy or sour enough to be a proper assam laksa.  Drowned it down with calamansi lime juice
 There were shops and cafes and bakeries dotted around.  Not cluttered together, but dotted all over as the whole place is a residential area.

Drips Bakery Cafe which is just across the road from our lunch 
Lemon Meringue Tart to share at $8.00! - the crust is really delicious and buttery, the lemon curd quite good, but not too tarty.. I love my tarts tarty though =((
You see a lot of men and women here in Singapore, old enough to be our grandparents still working at this age.  It's quite sad really =( 
Forty Hands - Little Cafe
Our 2nd Dessert for the day, Dark Chocolate Tart $7 - Beautiful buttery crust again (!!), with smooth and rich velvety chocolate in the middle.  The mousse at the top had a hint of alcohol in it with chocolate curls at the top
Strangelets (L) has cute handmade jewellery and bits and bobs from all around the world and BooksActually (R) is a bookstore
BookActually - Someone waiting patiently for her cab

Strangelets - Filled with beautiful crockeries, handmade jewellery, soaps, bags, etc etc (so cute!) from all over the world.  Definitely worth checking out!
Little cubes and stationary from Strangelets
You could rent a bicycle here..

Tiong Bahru Bakery
Lots of French pastries and bread rolls.. Yum yum!

Someone needed detoxing from all that sugar.. =x  hehe.. This is "Pick Me Up" juice which consist of beetroot with green apple and mint from Tiong Bahru Bakery

Bak Kut Teh Shop
Tiong Bahru Club - Old style club decor with delicious menu.  We'll definitely need to be back for lunch
Loving the rules!
Filled with Chinese and Nyonya cakes!  Seem pretty popular! 

Alice Wong Shoe Repair - Basically a hole in wall business..  The lady is so sweet, gave me a huge smile when I took the photo!
The spiral staircase 

Some of the residential apartments (with red coloured number stuck on the walls)
The blue number signs light up during the evening

Back alley
Back alley with modern high rise in the not too distant...
Back Alley
Doors and letter boxes! 
Stairs leading up to some of the apartments