I’m awful with maps. I can never figure out which way I’m meant to be facing, even with Google Maps and the little blue dot for guidance I’ll regularly end up walking the wrong way. Sometimes I don’t mind putting the map away and just wandering around though. So much can be missed just focussing on the destination, the whole journey is there too.
After finding many interesting places whilst lost I decided to make time to just wander about with a camera and see what’s around. Tiong Bahru is full of little alleyways that have shops, cafes and street art at each turn and it’s relatively small but has lots to experience.
A handful of street art around the area is by artist Yip Yew Chong who paints a snapshot into the past from memories of Singapore. Food being cooked in a push along cart whilst people sit at make shift dinning areas, Kueh Tutu steaming on the road side, birds hanging in cages above a coffee shop for all to hear their song whilst their owners enjoy a sweet cup of Kopi can be discovered on the narrow lanes that run their way through the area like veins.
There are plenty of places to eat in Tiong Bahru and the food centre above the market has many famous names. Walking around at lunch time is quite an experience for your senses! Before you reach the end of the escalator you’ll hear the chatter of diners; business men and women in smart attire, uncles and aunties taking a break from the market stalls below and long winding queues snaking their way around from the most popular stalls. As you walk about you’ll hear the food being prepared; metal scraping inside woks, chopping of meats and rustling of carrier bags for those looking to dabao (take away) their lunch.
Different smells will pull you towards each stall. Pressed on demand sugar cane or blended fruits are fresh and sweet at one stall whilst the stall next door has a smokey chilli smell. Each stall has individual recipes that have been passed down and perfected through the years. After making your choice and waiting in line you get to sit in the heat, or under a fan if you’re lucky and satisfy your hunger. Lots of local dishes offer a smokey flavour from the woks or a pack of chilli to sometimes make your eyes water and a seemingly simple plate of noodles that has a real depth of flavour with garlic, ginger and chilli and many other secret ingredients are all worth the wait. On recommendation from Instagram I waited half an hour for Loo’s Hainanese Curry Rice. It was worth the wait and you can see why here in my vlog.
I love to walk down the back alleys, for me this is where you get a glimpse of behind the scenes of daily life. The chefs in the kitchen washing out huge woks in the street and hanging them up to dry on the back doors, deliveries being made and conversations being had. There are several heritage spots along the way that can be followed using the heritage trail that’s dotted around. Tiong Bahru used to be farm land or cemetery ground but has been developed a lot over the years to what we see today. I love discovering a little history about places we visit, I feel you can know it a little better when you know where the place has come from and what it’s been through.
Under the food centre is a large wet market that sells all you need for the weekly food shop and beautiful flowers to decorate the table too. Fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables are displayed from opening time at 6am. You’ll hear meat cleavers cutting chickens, the hum of vans delivering produce and the squeaky wheels on the carts transporting the goods to the stalls to be unpacked and quickly bought by the early customers eager to get the best.
Tiong Bahru shows another side that has small cafes and restaurants with food from all over the world dotted in between shophouses and local coffeeshops. Tiong Bahru Bakery is a very well known spot if you’re after cakes, croissants and a latte. I’m not a coffee drinker so I don’t often visit cafe’s but I do love a cupcake and when I’m in the area I go to plain vanilla and treat myself to one of their carrot cupcakes. With walnuts and a delicious butter cream icing, it hits the spot.
Packed with history, culture, street art, a large wet market and a wide variety of delicious heritage food makes Tiong Bahru one of my favourite places to explore. Have a see for yourself in our vlog.