Looking to move to a new neighbourhood? Nothing would be better than to hear from the residents themselves. We speak to David Burga and Jeanne Chai, about the ins and outs of living in Punggol Topaz in Punggol Way.
Where do you live? Punggol Way.
If it’s in another language, what does it mean? In Malay, punggol literally means “hurling sticks at the branches of fruit trees to bring them down to the ground”. The whole area was fruit plantations before being developed into housing estates.
Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home? “261C Punggol Way, the new estates.”
What’s the name of your neighbourhood? Punggol Topaz.
Closest MRT station? Punggol MRT station, by Soo Teck LRT station.
How long have you lived here? We moved here from Upper Bukit Timah a year ago.
Why here? We’re city people but we also hate being right in the hustle and bustle. Punggol was touted as the waterfront living location in Singapore with an ecological footprint, and we figured we could try to get away from the city for a while and enjoy the peace and quiet. David also loves the expansive and spanking new SAFRA Clubhouse where he spends most of his free time working out. On shady days, we sit by the water at The Promenade and enjoy the breeze and the tranquillity of the swaying trees and soaring birds. It’s also a good place to people- and dog-watch.
When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is: Our neighbourhood resident cat, Topi, who lounges around the playground and play school, looking for an ear scratch and cuddles from residents who have unofficially adopted him.
The closest store to your front door is: The 24-hour convenience store that sells everything we need.
Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of: A version of Fast & Furious for its deserted and lonely back roads! There was a fleet of around 30 Lamborghinis that drove through our neighbourhood once as part of a charity campaign.
Your neighbours are great, but you wouldn’t mind a little less: Irate garbage-tossing at the elevator landing and the mailboxes! The trash disposal is just around the corner, so I don’t understand why people just can’t walk around and dispose of rubbish properly. I also wish cars wouldn’t park illegally near the 24-hour coffee shop; it results in congestion at the entrance of the estate.
The unofficial uniform of your street is: Same as the unofficial uniform of Singapore: flip flops, T-shirts and shorts.
Which celebrity would be most likely to move in next door, and why? Maybe Tom Hanks? I can see him here in scenes from Forrest Gump. Funnily enough, David has been mistaken for Vin Diesel while we were walking in the park.
When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you: Head to Ya Kun for some local coffee – the Kopi C Gao (strong coffee with evaporated milk) along with runny eggs and kaya (coconut jam) toast. David goes there so often the barista knows exactly how he likes his local coffee and makes it without him having to say what he wants!
If you’re missing home, you: Stay home and make a roast on a Sunday or join some fun activities organised by the Canadian Association and American Club.
A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is: Coney Island! It’s a little piece of paradise that’s hard to find in Singapore. You’ll discover beautiful flora and fauna, exotic birds, and there was even a resident cow living there, though it passed on a few months ago. It’s one of the few remaining untouched places on this little island.
You’d swap houses in a second with: We’re pretty happy where we are and wouldn’t swap with anyone else in our neighbourhood. Besides, we painstakingly renovated and did a lot of DIY in our apartment to give it the look we wanted.
A common myth about your neighbourhood is: That it’s under-developed and far from everywhere else – but we have everything we need here, and the train ride to HarbourFront is less than 30 minutes, with Chinatown, Little India and Serangoon Gardens along the way! It’s surprisingly convenient and accessible.
If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s almost always due to: We’ve been woken by the noise of physical fights in the past. Once was a lover’s tiff and another was an altercation between a taxi driver and his passengers.
A massive late-night rager on your street is likely to be: The stray cats sometimes have a go at each other and we hear all the screeching. Other than that, it’s a pretty quiet neighbourhood.
Your hands-down favourite neighbourhood joints are: The tzi char (literally translated to “cook and fry”) stall in the 24-hour local coffee shop named Shi Fu downstairs. They make dishes to order based on whatever we want from the extensive menu. We eat there at least twice a week and our favourites are the salted egg crab, fish head curry and steamed grouper with radish. Waterway Point has some of our favourites as well: Zakka for spicy Thai and Menya Mushashi Kinko for ramen. Punggol Settlement has Simply Peranakan, which serves yummy Peranakan cuisine, and the breeze and view of the ocean makes a nice backdrop.
You won’t find better local food than at: The tzi char stall downstairs!
The strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street is: Someone passed away in one of the gardens right under our block. No one knows what happened; there was just a body one morning. We hope the family found some peace.
We love a good bargain. The best deals in your neighbourhood are: At Daiso in Waterway Point, where everything is $2 and of good quality!
The guiltiest pleasure in your area is: The perfectly done French toast at Miam Miam, a Japanese-French restaurant inWaterway Point.
One thing you’d never change is: Some of my neighbours! They’re mostly local, and most are friendly and hospitable. We bring each other food when there are extras, which is so nice. It helps to promote that “kampong spirit”.
Why should your neighborhood be featured in a guidebook? Punggol Settlement, which is pretty much the end of Punggol, has a stretch of awesome seafood restaurants, a great view of the ocean and is a good spot for taking sunset walks or cycles to Coney Island. You get to see exotic birds and interesting plants and just get away from the craziness of everyday life.
This is an extract from an article that first appeared in the February 2017 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy for the full article, or Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
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