Singapores's Tiong Bahru neighbourhood

Posted on May 6, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 2 comment(s)

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Tiong Bahru estate


Tiong Bahru is home to Singapore’s first housing estate, built in the 1930s west of Chinatown. Yet the term 'Tiong Bahru' means new cemetery because it was a swampy land used as a burial site since the late 19th century. Eventually the area was redeveloped and the first set of housing blocks were completed in 1936, with more were to follow after WWII.

The population of Tiong Bahru estate declined steadily for the past few decades as more people moved into newly built condominiums. Yet in recent years, young professionals and expats have moved back in while new independent cafes, restaurants and shops have sprung up, injecting a younger and livelier vibe to this old residential neighbourhood. In many ways, it feels similar to Hong Kong's Tai Hang neighbourhood, where young, old, locals and expats coexist side-by-side.

Since it is not close to the metro station, the area still has a rather sleepy feel to it esp. along Seng Poh Rd, where Tiong Bahru Market and hawker centre is located.


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Top right: Tiong Bahru Market and hawker centre; Others: Block 78 on Guan Chuan Street


Built in the shape of a horse shoe, Block 78 on Guan Chuan Street is not only the largest block in the estate, but it also contains a 1500 square feet air raid shelter built in 1939. And last year the National Heritage Board launched a Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail which includes visits to the air shelter. Unfortunately, I did not find out about this until later, but if you are interested in finding more about this trail and the history of this area, you can go to National Heritage Board for more details.


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On Yong Siak Street, there are several cool shops and cafes including (no.7) Stranglets, an independent design/ lifestyle shop that sells design objects, stationery, games, homeware, fashion accessories by local and international designers.


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 Books actually


Next to it is probably my favourite shop in Singapore (also loved by the locals): Books actually, an independent bookshop specialises in fiction and literature established in 2005. I love the fact that a lot of the books here are published locally and cannot be easily found elsewhere. At the back of the shop, there are two small rooms filled with wonderful vintage Bric-à-brac, a bit like an Aladdin's cave. But the star of the shop must be its book-loving cat, which sits happily on top of the books watching book-lovers walking in and out...


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Plain Vanilla cafe


A few doors down, Plain Vanilla (1D) is a relaxing and unpretentious cup cake cafe is a popular hang out. I am not a cup cake fan but I did enjoy their not-too-sweet dark chocolate cup cake.

The landscape of the area is changing rapidly because landlords are take advantage of the area's increasing popularity and rents have soared in the past 2 years. As always, whenever a neighbourhood is being gentrified, old local businesses will be replaced by new ones, and there will be dissatisfaction among the locals. There will be 2 sides of the story, and finding a balance is crucial in order to create a harmonious environment and community where the old and the new can co-exist happily.


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Top left: Woods in the books; 2nd row right: Flock cafe; Bottom left: durian stall; Bottom right: stall selling live seafood


This post was posted in Food & dining, Architecture, Shopping, Shopping guide, Travel, Singapore, Singapore design, Architectural conservation, Design, Modernist & Art Deco, books and was tagged with shopping, Shopping guide, art deco architecture, Singapore, Architectural conservation, bookshops, social housing

2 Responses to Singapores's Tiong Bahru neighbourhood

  • I am a resident of Tiong Bahru and I have been here for the past 60years. I live in Block 82 and most of the neighbours are already in Heaven or shifted elsewhere due to the wake-up steps *there are no lifts available) hence elderly people will have a problem walking up the flight of steps.

    The Tiong Bahru flat was passed on to me by my mother who lived up to a ripe old age if 92!.. all my 5 brother's have fond memories if Tiong Bahru (we all grew up here)..

    Lately there are lots of tourists walking around admiring the beautiful architecture.. to me.. Tiong Bahru is unique and holds lots of fond memories for those who grew up here... ????

    Posted on July 18, 2017 at 3:00 am

  • Peggy, thanks for sharing the information!

    Posted on July 19, 2017 at 11:10 pm