Adventures at home: Rediscover Balestier, Lifestyle news
Balestier is at the forefront when it comes to bah kut teh, chicken rice and furniture stores. But since 1835, the area was a sugar cane estate owned by Joseph Balestier, the first US consul in Singapore. (Now we want sugar cane juice …)
When he left the country in 1848, Balestier (the region that bears his name) gradually gave way to colonial houses, shops and temples. Today, modern skyscrapers stand alongside these vestiges of the past.
Guided by the National Heritage Board’s Balestier Heritage Trail, we visit the main landmarks here and learn about the rich history and stories behind this neighborhood.
Lunch at the Balestier market
The Balestier Market is the only rural market building still in existence on our Little Red Dot. Built in 1922 as a wet market, locals affectionately call this place Or Kio Pa Sat (Hokkien for “black bridge market”, as there was a black wooden bridge here). Another name for this place was Tee Pa Sat (Hokkien for “iron market”) – in the past there was a metal fence that surrounded this market.
Today, the Balestier market is home to very good makans. Here’s what should be on your checklist: Long House Soon Kee Boneless Lor Duck rice, Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodle, Boon Pisang Goreng (banana fritters), Miao Sin Popiah, and West Asian fusion Albert Western Food.
Chinese History Catch Up at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial
It was the Southeast Asian HQ of the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance aka Tong Meng Hui, which overthrew the Chinese imperial government in 1911. History buffs can spend hours here in the galleries telling the story history leading up to the 1911 revolution from the point of view of Chinese communities in our region. This building was classified as a national monument in 1994.
The hall continues to organize new activities to attract the youngest. Last month, they worked with artist Ngaew Ngaew to create lantern figures for a Mid-Autumn Festival exhibit on their lawn. Omg so cute sia.
Stop for a snack at Loong Fatt Tau Sar Piah an 8-minute walk from Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial
The third generation owners of this establishment, which opened in 1948, have kept the traditional family recipe – combining the Western way of baking with the traditional methods of cooking tau sar piah. The result is a crispy exterior that leaves room for a delicious dough inside, which can be salty or sweet – the choice is yours.
Learn about film photography at the Whampoa Color Center a 5-minute walk from Whampoa Makan Place
Film shooting has made a comeback lately, and if you’re interested in analog movement, you’ll need a place to develop your photos. Meet at the Whampoa Color Center, one of the last remaining film processing workshops in the country. Lots of great reviews for the warm hospitality and prompt service from the owners uncle and aunt.
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Lunch at the Whampoa Makan Place stand
Everyone knows there is a lot of great food at Whampoa Market Place, but few can tell you that it was a municipal wet market.
The Rayman Market (nothing to do with the Rayman video game), was opened in 1952 to serve the old Rayman subdivision here. It was replaced by the Whampoa Market and Food Center in 1973, which was modernized and received its current name in 2006.
Whampoa Makan Place has several Michelin Bib Gourmand recipients: Balestier Road Hoover Rojak, Liang Zhao Ji duck rice and Beach Road Fish Head Bee Hoon.
Dabao bread from Sing Hon Loong bakery 2 minutes walk from Whampoa Makan square
These guys have been making bread the same traditional way for over 50 years. Choose your bread and the staff will generously bake butter, kaya or peanut butter – the choice is yours! The curry buns here are also popular among regulars.
Get an eye exam at Lim Kay Khee Optical & Contact Lens Center 5 minutes’ walk from Whampoa Makan Place
There is an Owndays and a Lenskart in every mall, but old-fashioned optical stores like Lim Kay Khee are a dying breed. Walking into this store opened by Lim Seah Seng’s father, you’ll feel like time has stood still – the retro eye testing machine and old photos on the wall make it look like you’ve traveled the world. time in the 80s.
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Visit Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple
The little red brick temple is the oldest religious institution in the neighborhood. It was created by workers from Hokkien in 1847 who worked in the sugar cane field of Joseph Balestier. Aim your cameras at the rooftop, which features figures adorned with flowers, birds, dragons, fish, and phoenixes.
Before Covid, the temple hosted wayang (Chinese opera) productions for deities on their 115-year-old stand-alone stage, one of the few remaining in Singapore. The temple hosted a traditional puppet show in September, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that there are more shows soon.
Your Insta-walk checklist here:
We’ve featured several residential buildings in our Adventures At Home series, but none so far as unique as Balestier Point. Completed in 1986, architect Chan Fook Pong was inspired by the Habitat 67 housing complex in Montreal, Canada.
The cubic Lego-ish modules of this 18-story building are arranged in such a way that each household has its own private terrace.
Sim Kwong Ho Boutique Houses
Pop your Insta feed with photos of these shops, designed in the Chinese Baroque style, aka Singapore Eclectic, by architects Westerhout and Oman. This style mixes classic European elements with local symbols and motifs. Try to spot the reliefs of various animals and flowers along the building’s colorful glazed tiles.
These stores were built in 1926 by Madame Sim Cheng Neo, who also owned properties in Sophia Road and Roberts Lane. The name “Sim Kwong Ho” comes from the Chinese characters inscribed on the facade of the roof.
Stores Kwan Yow Luen
Another row of stores for the ‘Gram, these were also built by Sim Cheng Neo in 1928. Designed by local self-taught architect Kwan Yow Luen, the buildings feature animal reliefs (including a pair of lions flanked water buffalo) and flowers on all cream-colored exterior walls.
These stores were featured in two old Malaysian films, the 1955 film “Penarek Becha” (“The Trishaw Puller”) and the 1956 P Ramlee film “Anak-ku Sazali” (“My Son Sazali”).
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Pre-war terraced houses
The next Instagram-worthy place on our checklist was built between the 1920s and 1940s. The layout was not that of a typical shophouse – the 1st floor was also where people lived. These houses were preserved in 2003, and the unit at 13, chemin Martaban received the Architectural Heritage Award in 2007 for the quality of its restoration.
Martaban is actually the old name for the port of Mottama in Myanmar. In fact, several other roads in the region have been named after places in Myanmar – Pegu Road, Irrawaddy Road, and Akyab Road. The Burmese link with Balestier is not clear. Some believe it was because a respected Burmese resident lived in the area, while others believed it was because of the region’s proximity to this temple …
Burmese Buddhist temple Maha Sasanaramsi
This temple serving the Burmese Buddhist community in Singapore was completed in 1991. It was originally established in 1878 at Kinta Road next to Serangoon Road, but moved to its present location after the original site was assigned to a redevelopment.
The tiered roof is made of Burmese teak, and inside is a 3.3m tall Buddha statue carved from a 10 ton block of marble discovered in Mandalay, Myanmar in 1918. Wow fact : It is the largest marble Buddha statue in the world outside of Myanmar.
Happing history sia
If you are interested in exploring Balestier’s rich history, you can follow the NHB Balestier Heritage Trail. You can take three suggested routes:
This article first appeared in Wonderwall.sg.