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Tiong Bahru: An Old Uptown, A New Hipster District in Singapore

No matter how many times you have been in Singapore, there is still a lot more to explore. This time with Grand Copthrone Waterfront Hotel, I went on a half-day “Live Like A Local” excursion, designed for international tourists and local staycationers, happening every Saturday. There I found a magnetic neighbourhood, which is not frequently heard among international tourists – Tiong Bahru.

Located a few minutes away from the hotel, cosy Tiong Bahru is a magnificent heritage of Singapore, which has flourished with artsy coolness while keeping its admirable traditional appeal. From authentically local dishes, to Peranakan cuisine and chic cafés, a day strolling around colourful lowrise houses of Tiong Bahru is joyously slow-paced. Make sure that your stomach is ready to roll!

 


LOCAL DISHES AT THE MARKET

At Tiong Bahru Market, there is no fancy food, but only what the locals actually have on a daily basis. Besides, those are the heritage foods at feasible prices. Must-tries are coffee with raw egg that makes the coffee surprisingly creamier; Jian Bo Shui Kueh with a long queuing line, guaranteeing the yumminess of chewy dough with special pickled topping; local dish Lor Mee; and Fried Kway Teow.

 

 


QI TIAN GONG TEMPLE

Located just around the corner, this temple has been established since 1920, before being rebuilt in the present-time location. It is known as the temple of well-respected monkey god “Sun Wu Kong” who is invincible, brave, intelligent, agile, and helps the poor and needy. Most people, especially businessmen, come to pray for booming business and gaining wealth.

 


PERANAKAN CULTURE

Singapore has long had a close relationship with Peranakan culture that is inherited from Straits-born ancestors. The term “Peranakan” derives from the unique culture emerging from marriages between foreign traders and local women, mostly Chinese and Malaysian. Even though Tiong Bahru is not the main district of such culture, you can also try their unique combination at Galicier Pastry, especially Kueh Dah Dah (pandan pancakes with coconut fillings) and Putu Ayu (sponge cake topped with coconut and palm sugar), as well as one-off Peranakan cuisine at House of Peranakan Petit.

 


PAINTINGS ON THE WALLS

Along the narrow streets, you can find some elaborate murals by local artist Yip Yiew Chong, illustrating the easeful lives back then. Apart from perking up the whole district, the beauty of them is how they can trigger the memories of good old days to the locals, and narrate the bygone stories to the visitors. Try to spend time speculating their details, and you will understand more about life in Singapore.

 


EXPLORE THE CAFÉS

A chic scene wouldn’t be complete without a bit of café hopping, and the neighbourhood is undoubtedly ideal for doing so. From shiny tarts at Drips, creative cakes at Cream & Custard, famous Tiong Bahru Bakery, to everything French in bohemian chic atmosphere at Merci Marcel – too many places are worth visiting around here!

Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel arranges the complimentary “Live Like A Local” programme every Saturday, as well as monthly in-house hotel activities in accordance with festivals celebrated in Singapore. For more information, check out www.grandcopthorne.com.sg or email enquiry.gcw@millenniumhotels.com

Text and Photos by Pakvipa Rimdusit