Tiong Bahru: Where Past and Present Cross Paths in Singapore
By Victoria Milner
Singapore hardly springs to mind as a cool and undiscovered destination for most people. In part, that is true. The high-rise metropolis is visible for miles, over 5 million people call this small island home and visiting behemoth shopping malls on the weekend is a national past time. Look beneath the shiny exterior though, and you will see how traditional culture lives along side a 21st century city.
The little enclave of Tiong Bahru lies only a few kilometres from the city centre but is considered to be a “˜heartland’ suburb, that is, one that epitomises a traditional way of living. It is here that you will find an eclectic side of Singapore. Where Singaporean “˜Aunties’ shop at the market for durian, “˜Uncles’ chow down on a bowl of Bak kut teh and their hipster twenty-something kids sip on a latte around the corner at 40 Hands. Tiong Bahru is predominately low-rise, an unusual feature in Singapore, and exudes a villagey atmosphere not unlike an Asian version of Notting Hill.
The famous market is the centrepiece of the action, with fruit and veg stalls, meat, fish and other grocery items available in abundance. The market itself incorporates a well regarded hawker centre that includes about 40 stalls offering traditional Chinese fare such as Hainanese Chicken Rice, Char Siew and Prawn Mee. Streetside dining is also an option with many traditional Chinese restaurants lining Seng Poh Road and Eng Hoon Street. A little further on is Yong Siak Street where you will find independent boutiques, bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants. And it would be remiss not to mention the famous Tiong Bahru Bakery, an authentic Parisienne boulangerie right in the middle of Singapore. The croissants here are as good as any you will try in Paris, and they make a very decent coffee too.
A visitor could happily spend half a day wandering here; eating and drinking their way around the small streets and lanes of Tiong Bahru and gaining just a little more insight into a thriving and vibrant city that has not forgotten its past.
An avid traveller, Victoria is passionate about finding the best food, wine and coffee wherever she goes, sharing her best discoveries. Victoria moved to Singapore in 2011 and recently founded Singapore Foodie, a website dedicated to finding the best places to eat in Singapore.
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