Katja and David Baxter from The Netherlands and Australia share their love for the multicultural Joo Chiat area. So much so that they grabbed the chance at living in a shophouse with a mural on Joo Chiat Terrace when the first opportunity came up. It’s well connected by public transport too being fairly near Paya Lebar MRT station,
The history of Joo Chiat Terrace and the area
Chew Joo Chiat was born in 1857 in Fujian Province, China. He left China for Singapore aged 20, looking to earn his fortune. Building shophouses and residential properties in the Geylang and Paya Lebar areas, he also purchased land towards Changi and Joo Chiat Place, using it for spice and then coconut plantations.
One piece of East Coast land he owned, known as Confederate Estate Road (which is today part of Joo Chiat Road) , was a dirt track stretching all the way to the sea. The municipality wanted to purchase this stretch of land and turn it into a proper roadway, making the popular beach bungalows of the wealthy easily accessible. Realising this better roadway would benefit his businesses in terms of export and increase in land and property value, Chew bequeathed the track to the municipality. In recognition of this, the Confederate Estate Road was renamed Joo Chiat Road in 1917.
What’s the name of your street? Joo Chiat Terrace.
If it’s in another language, what does it mean? It’s named after Chew Joo Chiat, a wealthy plantation owner and philanthropist.
What’s a common myth or misconception about your neighbourhood? That it’s bad for public transport! The buses are actually very good.
Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home? “The house with the mural on the corner of Everitt and Joo Chiat Terrace.”
Closest train station? Paya Lebar MRT (green East West Line and yellow Circle Line).
How long have you lived here? We’ve been here for one year. We fell in love with the area, and when this shophouse came onto the market we snapped it up!
When you walk out of your place, what’s the first thing you see? Shophouses and the Joo Chiat Terrace park.
What’s the closest store to your front door? A tiny convenience store out of a shophouse just three doors down.
What’s the unofficial uniform of your street? What I love in this street and area is that it’s so multicultural. There is no unofficial uniform as we have such a great mix of different nationalities. Then there are the pensioners, the working people and several houses in the street where migrant workers live.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street? When opening our shutters in the morning, tour groups taking pictures of our house
What are your three favourite places to eat or drink near Joo Chiat Terrace? Brewing Ground for the Burrata & Tomatoes Tartine – one of the best dishes in Singapore, and one that I never grow tired of! Then there’s 233 Bahn Mi for lunch – it’s so nice, fresh and affordable. Blue Smoke is a great place for a beer and a couple of snacks or dinner with a large group.
What are the best places to shop at in Joo Chiat? Joo Chiat Road has loads of little boutiques but also a great butcher (Butcher Box), an upmarket supermarket (Little Farms) and many local food spots for things like popiah and sweets.
What are some fun or interesting things to do in the Joo Chiat neighbourhood? Walk and people-watch. We love sitting outside on our terrace and chatting with people passing by. When we have guests, we always go for a walk to take in the beautiful local shophouses.
What’s one thing you’d never change? The authenticity of the place.
How about one thing you would change? I hope not too much gentrifying will happen. The atmosphere is so genuine at the moment; it would be a shame if local businesses were pushed out.
If the city gave you a million dollars to soup up your street, how would you use it? Repaint some of the shophouses.
Beyond the Hood
What are your favourite Singapore spots for taking out-of-town guests? Pulau Ubin, and LeVeL 33 for drinks.
When you’re in need of a dose of culture, where do you go? Kampong Glam.
If you’re missing home, what do you do? Get ingredients from the German Marketplace or Huber’s and cook a meal.
Do you love your neighbourhood?
Share it with others – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Street Talk” in the subject line. Include your name and street, and we’ll be in touch.
This article first appeared in the September 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a co
Are you looking to live in the east? Read our Guide to Living in Tanjong Katong. Nearest MRT: Paya Lebar.