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Cairnhill Circle, Singapore: Guide to living, eating and shopping in Orchard


Name: Galena Binder

From: US

Occupation: Senior Business Analyst and Wanderluster

What street do you live on?

Cairnhill Circle.

How do locals pronounce it?


Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home?

Uncle, Cairnhill Circle, please. You know, Canheel, behind Paragon? PA-RA-GON.

What’s the name of your neighbourhood?


Closest MRT station?

Cairnhill Circle is virtually equidistant from Newton, Somerset and Orchard. When giving directions, I tailor to the audience. When looking to impress out-of-towners: “Take Orchard exit. Turn left at Chanel and pass Gucci.” For practical locals: “Exit at Somerset, pick up kaya at Ya Kun and cut through Cairnhill behind Heeren.” When trying to downplay our surreal life in Singers, I give direction from Newton: “Sorry about all the construction, it’s just something you live with.”


How long have you lived here?

About a year.

Uniquely Singaporean:

Dainty locals in stilettos taking their Hermes for a walk, smartly suited Eurasians on their way to and from work, hip moms on their way to breakfast/brunch/lunch at Beviamo, fashionable Indonesian and Malaysian women adjusting their burkas as they jaywalk from Masjid Al-Falah Mosque to Paragon, petite Filipino helpers walking petite dogs, confused tourists looking for the Botanic Gardens.  

When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is:

A neat row of construction workers ensuring job security by taking a break. The neighbouring developments were scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010, but here we are in mid-2011 …   

The closest store to your front door is:

A quaint shophouse with a sushi restaurant called Eno-Oka, and a respectable spa, My Cozy Room, upstairs. 

If a celebrity moves in next door, it will most likely be:

Someone with a suspended licence like Lindsey Lohan or George Michael would be comfortable here, since everything is within comfortable walking distance and taxies are plentiful.

If you’re missing home, you:

Drive to Wheelock Place. They have really big parking spots. 

A mandatory stop for all of your out-of-town guests is:

Crystal Jade Palace on Level 5 of Paragon; their yusheng, a salad of raw salmon and shredded vegetables, is outstanding. Tossing the salad with your guests during Chinese New Year is part of the fun!

You’d swap houses in a second with:

One of the renovated Peranakan shophouses along Cairnhill Road; they are full of character and are a delicious morsel of Singapore’s past in a neighbourhood that is undergoing a massive facelift.  

If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s generally due to:

A seizure-inducing laser beam from Ku Dé Ta at the Marina Bay Sands.

One thing you’d never change is:

One-dollar ice-cream sandwiches sold from carts along Orchard Road. The enchanted ingredients of this local delicacy make it impervious to the Singapore heat, so it doesn’t melt all over your hands.

One thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is:

The never-ending Orchard Road improvement projects. In the time we’ve been here we’ve seen the installation of new sidewalk tiles, then underground fibre-optic cabling, and now the road is being raised and the sidewalks are being re-laid.

The city gives you $5 million to soup up your street. You use it to:

Lobby the city to create underground roads to relieve traffic congestion and noise.  I would also reserve $150 to spruce up the poster that keeps residents abreast of dengue cases in the area; it’s a bit faded.