Travel // Why you need to visit Tiong Bahru, Singapore {2018}

Back when we lived in England I fell in love with a little village called Shere in the deepest Surrey Hills. I would visit every few weeks for lunch or a walk around the woodlands with the kids and always a stop at the quintessentially English sweet shop.

When we landed in Singapore I was missing my place to go to get some perspective, to breathe and to chill out. Then a taxi driver recommended Tiong Bahru, he raved about the hawker centre and said, in his opinion, that it was the best on the island. I thought I’d go and check it out, I’ve loved it ever since.

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To me Tiong Bahru is different to the rest of Singapore, it’s low-rise for one, I feel like can breathe a bit easier there. It’s full of surprises but it’s not new, it’s just a bit more authentic. I try and persuade all our guests to come and visit Tiong Bahru. I’m always being asked what people should check out in this special neighbourhood… so here we go…

Take Yourself Around the Tiong Bahru Wall Mural Art Walk

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There is a talented local street artist from Singapore called YC, he’s done street art all over Asia but some of his favourite work of mine, is in Tiong Bahru. All the mural are painted so that you can ‘pretend’ to interact with them. I love that he has family who still live in this neighbourhood and they kept him company whilst he painted these murals.

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Bird Corner, Tiong Bahru

Now there are three murals to find; Bird Corner which paints the uncles of yester-year drinking kopi and listening to their birds. Each uncle would have his own hook with a name tag so that birds went home with the rightful owners. The men were fiercely competitive as to who’s bird sang the loudest and prettiest song.

Home, if you look closely at the newspaper you’ll see Singapore’s first PM Mr Lee Kuan Yew announcing the speak mandarin campaign and his friend Maggie Thatcher, the characters on the TV are famous comedians.

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Lastly is Pasar and the Fortune Teller which apparently started out as two murals which YC merged into one to save costs. Other things to look out for is that each mural has a poem and a cat. You can find out more about the paintings at YC’s Blog; Art and Travels of YC. But I’ve shared a map with the locations below… They’ve also added some murals from a different artist into the hawker centre.

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4 Stores to Browse in Tiong Bahru

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Woods in the Books Children’s Book Store is officially the cutest book store I’ve ever been in. It’s filled to the rafters with the inspiring, unique children’s books which you won’t find in your normal highstreet store. They have a great range of postcards in here  for only $2 each also.

Books Actually Book Store I only recently discovered this trendy bookstore stacked high with local Singapore artists and some really cool, interesting books. It’s a few doors down from Woods in the Books and Plain Vanilla Cafe.

Flower Stalls inside Tiong Bahru Market; there are a number of florists on the ground floor. If you come in the main entrance they’ll be straight ahead of you, I favour the lady who is the second on the right (Soon Heng Floral) and the guy who has the small stall third on the left, both in the middle alley way. The guy is brilliant at advise on how not to be a plant killer, has great air plants and Fridays is the best day to catch him as he stocks up that morning.

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Maissonne is a gorgeous homewares store in a typical Singapore shop house, the lady who owns this store has a brilliant eye and pulls in the best Australian brands. There are only a few good homewares stores in Singapore and this is one of my favourites.

5 Places you Need to Eat at in Tiong Bahru

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1. Merci Marcel Cafe if you can push past all the fashionistas taking pictures of their food, this is a lovely place for lunch. The service is friendly and relaxed, the quinoa salad and the mint watermelon juice are both wonderfully refreshing. Just make sure you turn up early or book ahead as it gets busy for lunch.

2. The Singapore Club one of my favourite places to eat curry in the world (I think their Tiong Bahru chef is the best). They makes a mean brinjal curry (aubergine) and their lunch time bento boxes are a steal. They happen to do a nice crisp glass of white too. {update The Singapore Club has now sadly moved from this location}

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3. Plain Vanilla is a gorgeous cafe at the top end of Tiong Bahru, they’re famous for their delicious cupcakes. Go here for a tasty salad too. My kids are quite partial to their dippy egg and soldiers too.

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4. Tiong Bahru Bakery was recommended to me by the lovely Nicole from The White Orchid. It’s Singapore’s most famous bakery, they now have many locations all over the island but the original one is still the best in my opinion. I love that they sell french Canelé, not quite as good as the ones in Saint Emillion but close.

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Tianns Gluten Free Cafe Bakery

5. Tianns is the mecca for all coeliacs in Singapore, at the time of writing its the only bakery here which is 100% gluten free. Unfortunately they don’t have a cafe status so it’s serve yourself at the counter and sit on a stool but it’s totally worth it. Their ice-cream and waffles are a hit with my kids.

3 Other Places to Check out in Tiong Bahru

The Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre is famous island wide for being one of the best. You can get a meal for $4 including a drink. Locals always recommend to go for the longest queue but you should find all stalls serve good food. Recipes are passed down through generations and refined and improved along the way.

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There is a small neighbourhood Chinese Temple on the corner by Maissone (see above under shopping). There are normally Uncles and Aunties sat outside with big smiles crafting something or having a good catch up.

This is possibly one of the only counties in the world where you should go and wander the Back Alleys. The Singapore architecture is amazing and this art deco neighbourhood will surprise you when viewed from it’s alleyways. There are hidden doorways to private clubs, doctors and homes scattered about.

 

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