An Old Estate Full of Charm – Tiong Bahru
To many Singaporeans, Tiong Bahru may seem like a chic neighbourhood being increasingly popular among expats, awash with good food and queer little shops. But Tiong Bahru is more than the hipster cafes we know of. In fact, Tiong Bahru is one of the oldest neighbourhood in Singapore with a rich history and many interesting stories many are unaware of!
Hop on a quick trail with us and read on to learn more about Tiong Bahru! Impress your friends (especially those living in Tiong Bahru!) with your knowledge when you share about tidbits of fun facts they (and you too!) never knew about!
1. The Hollywood of Singapore
(left) Ye fong, (right) Wang Sa are household names in Singapore, bringing about much laughter among many Singaporeans while growing up!
Picture source: mothership.sg
Tiong Bahru was known as the Hollywood of Singapore with its many famous residents as well as its unique infrastructure. One of its many famous residents includes Wang Sa, part of the famous comedy duo named Wang Sa and Ye Fong, who lived on Eng Hoon Street. This duo, who are Singapore’s very own version of Hong Kong’s Old Master Q (老夫子), brought much laughter to many generations with their entertaining antics and are highly popular among many Singaporeans!
Picture source: mothership.sg
In addition, Tiong Bahru was once a popular choice where the rich set up their homes due to the high rental prices which the poor could not afford. The rent however, was affordable for the rich businessmen who rented apartments to house their mistresses and hence the name 二奶村 (which literally means “Mistress Village”) or 美人窝 (which literally means “Den of the Beauties”). The name came about also because of its close proximity to the cabarets of the Great World Amusement Park, a red light district with many pretty ladies.
2. Is that a ship or an airplane?! Or both?
Block 55 along Tiong Bahru Road is the oldest block of flats in the estate
Picture source: www.h88.com.sg
Built in the 1930s, Tiong Bahru remains one of the oldest housing estate here in Singapore. These iconic 2 to 5-storey flats in Tiong Bahru were constructed with the primary purpose of easing the overcrowding issue in Chinatown, by housing some of the residents from there.
(left) Block 81 along Tiong Poh Road was specially designed to look like an airship, whereas (right) the design of Block 82 resembles that of an ocean liner (just spot the ship’s decks and the nautical windows!).
Pictures source: www.h88.com.sg
According to the National Heritage Board, the designs of these flats were a late development of the Art Deco movement, inspired by travel and technology of the 1930s. These flats were also cleverly designed to cater to the tropical climate and some unique features of these flats include Five-foot Ways, rounded balconies, spiral staircases and underground storage and shelters. Other than being aesthetically pleasing and space-saving, spiral staircases were specially incorporated to provide an alternative access and also doubled up as a fire escape for residents. How smart!
These amazing infrastructure in Tiong Bahru are mainly the reason for many camera-welding masses in the neighbourhood!
Spiral staircases are a common sight in the Tiong Bahru estate.
Picture source: http://www.challenge.gov.sg/print/life-style/tiong-bahru-tales
3. A horseshoe in Tiong Bahru?
Picture source: www.tripzilla.com
Block 78 is an iconic building in Tiong Bahru, uniquely designed to look like a horse-shoe, and straddles Moh Guan Terrace and Guan Chuan Street. It was once the only five-storey flat in the entire Tiong Bahru estate, and also boasts a purpose-built air raid shelter, the first to be included as part of a public housing project in Singapore!
4. What a Food Paradise!
Picture source: www.sgfoodonfoot.com
You are greatly mistaken if you think that Tiong Bahru is only concentrated with hipster cafes serving eggs Benedict and waffle ice cream! In fact, Tiong Bahru is a food paradise to many locals and foreigners alike, housing many traditional and yummy hawker food! Besides, Tiong Bahru is probably the estate with possibly one of the highest concentration of old hawker stalls in Singapore, boasting many famous local delights that still remain popular among many despite the popular cafe grub. These include the famous Tiong Bahru Pau, Chwee kueh and many more!
Picture source: www.chowhound.com
Also, Hua Bee is one of the oldest coffeeshops in Tiong Bahru which started operations sometime in the 1940s. It is one of the few standing local coffeeshop in Singapore that still serves coffee with a slice of butter in it! How interesting! Fun fact: Hua Bee was the set of Eric Khoo’s Meepok Man movie in 1995!
5. Chirpy chirpy chirp chirp!
Picture source: www.tiongbahruestate.blogspot.com
Tiong Bahru is also famous for its bird-singing aviaries. Bird lovers will gather with their beloved songbirds every morning with fellow bird lovers appreciating, the melodious chirps of their birds (such as Robins, Prinias and Shrikes), while chatting about anything under the sun over a cup of coffee. Till now, some bird lovers can still be spotted bringing their birds and mingling with other bird lovers as well!
6. Heritage site
Picture source: musicityglobal.com
Founded in 1920, the Monkey God Temple in Tiong Bahru, better known as the Qi Tian Gong (齐天宫), is the first temple in Singapore specially dedicated to the worship of the Monkey God, more commonly known as Sun Wu Kong (孙悟空). At this temple, more than 10 statues of the Monkey God can be seen, with the oldest being almost a hundred years old!
http://www.challenge.gov.sg/print/life-style/tiong-bahru-tales (credits for featured photo as well)
Want to experience life in Singapore back in the 1930s?
In Village Singapura Team Building, you can try up to 6 different hands-on experience of Singapore’s traditions. One difference though. They are part of a story set in Old Singapore where you compete with other teams in team challenges. To know more, contact us now.
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