Published Date: 17 Mar 2017
Explore three districts, each with their own distinct character and attractions
Aside from iconic precincts like Chinatown and Orchard Road, visitors who enjoy going off-the-grid will appreciate the unique highlights of these neighbourhoods.
The Telok Ayer area covers a long stretch that runs from Market Street to Anson Road. With its rich concentration of religious sites and Chinese clan associations alongside hip bars and cafes, this neighbourhood could be an interesting addition to the standard Chinatown itinerary.
A beautifully restored national monument, Thian Hock Keng is one of the oldest temples of the Chinese Hokkien dialect group in the country. Built in 1842 to honour Ma Zu, the Goddess of the Sea, the temple features intricate design details in the stone, tiles, wood, and columns.
Address: 158 Telok Ayer Street, Tel: +65 6423 4616
What was once one of Singapore’s oldest Chinese temples dedicated to the Chinese deity Tua Pek Kong, Fuk Tak Chi is now a religious and cultural museum that’s part of heritage-themed boutique hotel Amoy. Admission is free and together with the area’s quaint shophouses and beautiful architecture, this part of Telok Ayer is great for avid photographers in your group.
Address: 76 Telok Ayer Street, Tel: +65 6580 2888
The Nagore Dargah Indian Muslim Heritage Centre is situated at the site of the Nagore Dargah shrine. This shrine, constructed by immigrants from South India between 1828 and 1830, was previously known as Shahul Hamid Durgha, after Syed Shahul Hamid Qadir of Nagore in South India. At the heart of the heritage centre is the story of Singapore's Indian-Muslim community, which is featured in the storyboards and multimedia displays. Admission is free.
Address: 140 Telok Ayer Street, Tel: +65 8591 5724
For a really unique experience, take your guests to the Singapore Musical Box Museum. The first of its kind in the region, it’s a showcase of over 40 rare, antique musical boxes, including classic cylinder ones from the 1870s as well as The Atlantic, a coin-operated musical box made up of various instruments in its simplest forms, from the piano to the mandolin and cymbal. Entrance fee for adults is S$12, and group discounts are available for groups of 10 people or more. Hourly guided tours (in English and Mandarin) start at 10am, with the last tour at 5pm.
Address: 168 Telok Ayer Street; Tel: +65 6221 0102; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Set in a row of shophouses, Al-Abrar is one of Singapore's oldest mosques. Established in 1827, it boasts gorgeous Indo-Islamic and Neoclassical architectural features. After visiting the mosque (entry is free), visitors can walk across the street to Halal-certified eatery, Nusantara Cuisine, for delicious Malay fare.
Address: 192 Telok Ayer Street, Tel: +65 6220 6306
Finally, completing the eclectic mix of religious and cultural sites in one area is the Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church. Founded by Dr Benjamin Franklin West, the church was established in 1889, and even though it started off as a place of worship for the Hokkien-speaking Chinese, the church now serves Chinese from different dialect groups as well as English-speaking church goers.
Address: 235 Telok Ayer Street, Tel: +65 6324 4001
Visitors keen to explore the Chinatown precinct, where Telok Ayer is located, can opt for the Red Clogs Down the Five Foot Way Tour. It takes place every Tuesday (9:30am to 12noon, S$45 per adult, S$23 per child) and highlights include a visit to traditional Chinese trade stores, Ann Siang Hill, the Chinatown wet market, and the Chinatown Heritage Centre.
What was once a swampland and then home to a sugar plantation called Balestier Plain, this charming neighbourhood (named after Joseph Balestier, the first American Consul to Singapore) is steeped in history. Highlights include the Balestier Conservation Area (along the main stretch of Balestier Road, between Thomson and Serangoon) and its picturesque two-storey pre-war shophouses, as well as a range of eateries that serves up some favourite local classics.
Honouring Dr Sun Yat Sen – leader of the 1911 Chinese Revolution and the first president and founding father of the Republic of China – the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall consists of five galleries of interactive exhibitions and ancient artefacts that tell the story of Dr Sun and his revolutionary activities in the region. Free guided tours are available on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to 15 participants per session. Admission costs S$4 per adult and S$2 for kids (six to 12 years old).
Address: 12 Tai Gin Road; Tel: +65 6256 7377; Email: email@example.com
From its humble beginnings as a small stall in Chinatown in 1979, Boon Tong Kee – known for their tender and tasty sesame and soy sauce-laced chicken rice – is now a full-fledged restaurant with various outlets around Singapore. This outlet on Balestier was the first to be established in 1983, and their Signature Boiled Chicken starts from S$5 for a single portion. Other zi char (home-style food) dishes like sweet and sour pork and crispy cereal prawns are also available, which makes this a great communal dining spot for large groups. Giving Boon Tong Kee a run for its money is Loy Kee Chicken Rice. A set meal of moist chicken, vegetables and rice, with side orders of beansprouts with soya sauce oil, is about S$10 per person. Either eating spot should be included in Balestier itineraries as they make excellent lunch stopovers.
Boon Tong Kee – Address: 399, 401 & 403 Balestier Road, Tel: +65 6254 3937
Loy Kee Chicken Rice – Address: 342 Balestier Road; Tel: +65 6252 2318;
Having transformed from a red-light district to a commercial area popular for its trendy bars and restaurants, indie boutiques, and traditional cultural associations, Keong Saik is a great alternative to other popular hangouts such as Clarke Quay and Orchard Road. The nearby Bukit Pasoh is lined with conserved buildings and shophouses that now serve a range of businesses, from hotels to cafes. Both Keong Saik and Bukit Pasoh are part of the cultural precinct of Chinatown.
Include Potato Head Folk in your itinerary for great burgers (there's even a vegetarian option on the menu). If you are bringing guests over for dinner, be sure to head upstairs to The Rooftop for lovely views of the city skyline and tasty cocktails. For groups larger than 30, the staff can customise menus and make special arrangements.
Address: 36 Keong Saik Road; Tel: +65 6327 1939; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To preserve the ancient southern Chinese music genre known as Nanyin (said to have originated from the Han Dynasty), and the Liyuan Opera (one of the oldest surviving genres of Chinese opera) in Singapore, the Siong Leng Musical Association was set up in 1941. Book a guided tour for your clients (about S$25 per person) to learn more about these musical traditions, and even witness a demonstration.
Address: 4B Bukit Pasoh Road; Tel: +65 6222 4221; Email: email@example.com
Fans of Chinese literature will appreciate the Grassroots Book Room. As one of the country's most prominent Chinese bookstores, this establishment carries a good selection of books for different audiences, for children to photography enthusiasts (prices go from S$12 up to S$300). For those feeling peckish, the store also houses a cafe that serves coffee and light bites.
Address: 25 Bukit Pasoh Road, Tel: +65 6337 9208;