Home is everything you can walk to.’ - Jerry Spinelli
Balestier Road was better known for its labyrinth of old shophouses of lighting and electric shops that will not bring about excitement and familiarity among the younger generations. That was not the case for me. My grandfather’s shophouse was located in the heart of this ageing yet bustling food street; this was my playground since childhood. I watched this space grow from old sweaty uncles in white singlets serving my coffee shop breakfasts to the new current addition of commercial buildings and backpackers’ hostels.
Beyond the peppery fragrance of Bak Kut Tehs and savoury-sweet aroma from Tau Sar Piahs around Balestier Road is a long history dating back to the 1800s. The name was borrowed from the first United States consul in Singapore, Joseph Balestier, who then owned a sugar plantation here. While Balestier Road is the official label that we are all accustomed to now, there are a few colloquial names attached to it. Some come with interesting meanings that I didn’t even know of:
‘O Kio’ in Hokkien; directly translates to Black Bridge.
‘Wu Hap’ in Cantonese; directly translates to Taro Plantation as it was one of the more commonly grown vegetables here then.
‘Thannir Kampam’ in Tamil; directly translates to Water Kampong as the villagers would draw water from this area and sell it at the nearest market.
‘Kebun Limau’ in Malay; directly translates to Lime Garden.
Many are envious of the rich culture in China, Zhong Hua 5000 Years, and Europe, with its Napoleon Warring Years. Singapore has its own history beyond the mere 49 years. Sidenote: Happy Birthday, Singapore!
Photo credit: Timeoutsingapore
Address: 12 Tai Gin Road
Admission: Free for Singaporeans & Permanent Residents | $2 - $4 (for Tourist & Foreign Citizens)
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm, Closed on Mondays
Photo credit: indesignlive
Zhongshan Park is an integration of the memorial hall, dedicated in the honour of Dr. Sun Yat Sen. It was only a few meters walk before I was wholly immersed in the concept of ‘Garden in the City’. I could not resist the luring shadows of the umbrella-like trees; I took off my heels and detached myself the city-stress.
Coming back on to the main road, you will have a few famous eats that have been around for decades.
1. Loong Fat Tau Sar Piah
Address: 639 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329922
Opening Hours: Closed on Sun, Mon to Sat and PH: 08.00am - 04.30pm
2. Sea City Curry Rice
Address: Blk 1 Thomson Rd #01-326
3. Whampoa Food Street Keng Fish Head Steamboat House
Photo credit: hautestuff
Address: 556 Balestier Rd
Opening Hours: Monday - Friday 11am - 3pm / 5pm - 11pm | Weekends & Public Holidays 11am - 11pm
Boon Teck Road
Photo credit: budgethotel Singapore
4. Rochor Beancurd House
Photo credit: rochorbeancurd
Address: 432 Balestier Road #01-436
5. Balestier Market
Address: 411 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: 9am - 9pm (generally)
Photo credit: makansutra
b. Bugis Street Chuen Chuen Chicken Rice
Photo credit: pingram
c. Ah Hui Big Prawn Noodles
d. Ah Hui Fishball Noodles
Photo credit: misstamchiak
Address: 412 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: Mon - Sun: 11am - 11pm
The shophouses were built by wealthy developer Madam Sim Cheng Neo and designed by Kwan Yow Luen in 1928. This 'Singapore Eclectic' shophouse style is described as 'Late Style'; a unique blend of western and eastern elements. Though commercialised now, these shophouses still retain its mystical facade.
The rich culture and ethnic diversity of Singapore have played a role in creating a distinctively local architecture. The traditional Chinese warriors on pillars were replaced with Sikh Guards; a local adaptation when Sikh came to Singapore as Sepoy (policemen and security guards).
Photo credit: dayshotel
At the end of Boon Teck Road, you will see the last free water kiosks in Singapore. You may find it absurd now to be drinking from metal tins by the road side but its significance goes beyond quenching your thirst.
Photo credit: ourexpatadventure
It is a voluntary effort from Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia. This water kiosks symbolise clean water as a luxury in Singapore since the earlier days. Clean water sources were appreciated by the labourers such as the trishaw riders and rickshaw pullers.
Photo credit: ghettosingapore
Along the same lane, there are some eateries that you might want to try.
7. Kai Juan Bak Kut Teh
Address: 395 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: 24 Hours daily, except till 2pm on Sundays.
8. Loy Kee Chicken Rice
Photo credit: 12ttniang
Address: 342 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: 730am - 930pm
9. Lam Yeo Coffee Powder
Photo credit: arihara1010
Address: 328 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 9am - 7pm | Sat: 9am - 5pm
Photo credit: ura
Kim Keat Road
Kim Keat area off Balestier Road was named after Chua Kim Keat of the Straits Trading Company. He was of Peranakan descent and the only son of Chua Kai Hoon of Malacca.
10. Three Wombats Cafe
Address: 18 Kim Keat Road
Opening Hours: 11am - 10pm
11. BJ American Diner
Photo credit: dealsg
Address: 312 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 12:00 - 15:00 | Mon - Fri: 17:00 - 23:30 | Sat & Sun: 10:00 - 23:30
12. Sweetlands Bakery
Address: 10 Kim Keat Lane
Opening Hours: 24 Hour
13. Eastern Rice Dumpling
Address: 300 Balestier Road
Opening Hours: 24 hours
14. Sing Hon Loon Bakery
Photo credit: hardwarezone
Address: 4 Whampoa Drive
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
Opposite the start of Kim Keat Lane is Balestier Point. Balestier Point is an architectural inspiration drawn from Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67 in Canada; consisting cube-like blocks arranged to form a stepped terrace structure. This block is a combination of a residential area and a shopping centre. The most envious is - all units have their own gardens.
15. Founders Bak Kut Teh
Photo credit: danielfooddiary
Address: 154 Rangoon Road
Opening Hours: 9am - 11pm
16. Ng Ah Sio Bak Kut Teh
Address: 208 Rangoon Road
Opening Hours: 10am - 11pm