Friday, April 19, 2013

Adventures on The Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail

Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre.

14 Apr 2013 marked the launch of the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail. I felt thankful that I could get myself registered for one of the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail guided tours that day. Before the start of the tour, I read through the first few pages of the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail brochure. It gave me a better appreciation of the history of Tiong Bahru.

The Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail brochure.

The gathering point of the tour was at the Tiong Bahru Community Centre. I learnt that the original Tiong Bahru Community Centre at Eu Chin Street in 1951 was a converted stand-alone air-raid shelter. It thought it was a ingenious way of making good use of the air-raid shelters.

The Tiong Bahru Community Centre.
67A Eu Chin Street.

The first stop of our tour was Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre. The current two-story building was reopened in 2006. I had the pleasure to visit the Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre before the start of the tour. As I listened to the volunteer guide about how hawkers used to sell their food or produce at the Seng Poh Road Market which used to occupy the site of the current Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre, I was reminded of how much Singapore has changed over the past five decades.

Tiong Bahru Food Centre.

One of the stalls at Tiong Bahru Market.

During the tour, the volunteer guide shared that the name "Tiong Bahru" combined the words: "Tiong" meaning "to die" in the Hokkien dialect, and "Bahru" meaning "new" in Malay. I suppose this is an apt example that reflect Singapore as a multicultural society?

Participants who prefer to go on a self-guided heritage tour of Tiong Bahru will find the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail brochure a wonderful resource that will lend insights to the etymological roots of the name "Tiong Bahru".

No birdcage was seen.

At the next stop, we learnt that on a small plot of land where the Nostalgia Hotel now stands, there used to be a very popular pet bird shop. Across the road, where the Link Hotel now stands, there used to be a coffee-shop named Wah Heng, where customers are allowed to hang their birdcages which they enjoy their drinks at the coffee-shop. What a unique recreation activity that people of my generation has yet to experience. During the tour, we saw a metal structure that would allow bird owners to hang their birdcages on. However, except during special events such as bird-singing competitions, the metal structure was generally empty as the pet bird shop and the coffee-shop no longer exist.

Blk 55, the first block of Singapore Improvement Trust flats in Tiong Bahru.

The Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail included a visit to the graves of Tan Tock Seng, Mrs Tan Kim Ching and Wuing Neo. I had passed by the hillock facing Outram Road and Tan Boon Liat building several times, and I did not realize that it was the resting place of one of Singapore's early pioneers! What a discovery I have made that day!

At a distance, across the road, is the grave of Tan Tock Seng.

Grave of Mrs Tan Kim Ching.

The tour also brought us to the site of the former Institute of Health and the former site of the Coroner's Court. We also learnt about the Outram Prison and the Outram Park Complex. Till now, I could not figure out why the Outram Park Complex was demolished.

Tiong Bahru Qi Tian Gong Temple.

One of the stops of the tour was the Tiong Bahru Qi Tian Gong temple. This temple is dedicated to the Monkey King. I am intrigued at how a character from a 16th century classic fable, Journey to the West, could earn the worship of the devotees.

Notice the architectural style.

My favourite part of the tour was when the focus shifted to the architecture of the buildings in Tiong Bahru. I learnt that the pre-war flats were built based on a modified form of a style known as Streamline Modern, which was a late development of the Art Deco movement. Buildings of the Streamline Moderne style can be recognized by their simple and functional lines, flat roofs, curved shapes and rounded corners.

Blk 49 Kim Pong Road. The road was named after Low Kim Pong.

While the tour group admire the beauty of the architecture of the buildings in Tiong Bahru, our volunteer guide generously shared with us the stories of some of the notable personalities whose names were remembered through the street names of the Tiong Bahru estate.

Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace.

One of our last stops of the tour was Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace which was affectionately known as the "horse-shoe" block. This block is the only five-storey Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) blocks in Tiong Bahru and was the highest in Singapore when it was completed in 1940. At this very block, there is a pre-war air-raid shelter that can be accessed from the carpark compound. I learnt that the air-raid shelter can hold more than 1000 persons.

Please take note that the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail Guided Tour does not include entry to the air-raid shelter. To visit the air-raid shelter, please visit and register for the bimonthly air-raid tour on the first Saturday of alternate months starting Jun 2013.

Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace and the carpark compound.

Overall, I have enjoyed my adventures on the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail. Joining the trail gave me the perfect excuse to walk for about two hours and I thought that this was an interesting way to exercise and to learn something new.

Seng Poh Garden and the Dancing Girl Sculpture.

Monthly Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail Guided Tour
There will be monthly Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail every first Saturday of the month starting May 2013, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The gathering point will be at the Tiong Bahru Community Centre. The tours will be conducted in English.

There will a nominal fee of $2 for this guided tour and the proceeds will go to the Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru Citizens' Consultative Committee Community Development and Welfare Fund (CCC-CDWF) to assist the needy residents.

For more information and to register for the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail guided tour, please visit

Tiong Bahru Community Centre
67A Eu Chin Street
Singapore 169715
Tel: 6223 0748, 6224 2967
Nearest MRT station: Tiong Bahru MRT station
(Within walking distance from the Tiong Bahru Market.)


xinying said...

Hi! I am a student working on a project regarding Tiong Bahru and the recents cafes and restaurants that have appeared in the area. I noticed that you have shared your thoughts about the estate in your blog.
Would you be so kind as to help me fill up this survey regarding the Tiong Bahru estate? It will take less than 10 mins at most, thank you for your time!

Link :

oceanskies79 said...

Yup, I have done so.