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Neighbourhood Guide: What it’s like to live by the river on upper Circle Road

Australian Megan Scott, an APAC Learning and Development Manager for a Chicago based bank tells us what it’s like to live in her ‘hood…

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The Specifics

What street do you live on? Upper Circular Road.

Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home? “The Riverwalk Apartments, on Upper Circular Road, between Eu Tong Sen and South Bridge Road – near Boat Quay, above Jumbo Seafood, the same building as the Ministry Of Manpower office.” I usually continue to give directions until we pull up at the front or the driver tells me he knows the place – whichever comes first.

Closest MRT station? Clarke Quay.

How long have you lived here? In Singapore three years, at this address just one year.

Why here? It’s an older apartment building so there’s much more space than at the first place I lived in when I arrived in Singapore. I love the convenience of being able to walk to work and to meet friends for drinks, dinner or Sunday brunch at the Fullerton in less than 10 minutes. I can take my visitors down to the pool deck to watch the MBS laser show any night of the week, and this year I also had a great view of all the aerial displays at the SG50 parade.

The Riverwalk Apartments
The Riverwalk Apartments

 

The Scene

When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is: A car park. It’s a great shortcut to avoid being delayed in the surrounding oneway streets.

The closest store to your front door is: The Rare Wine Shop – I have yet to venture inside as the price of everyday wine in Singapore still brings me close to heart attack, and I don’t imagine rare wine would equate to bargain wine.

Your neighbours are great, but you wouldn’t mind a little less: Noise from the Indian dancers next door when they get home from work at about 3am.

The unofficial uniform of your street is: Suits on a weekday, anything goes on a weekend.

If a celebrity moves in next door, it will most likely be: Someone from the “B list” rather than a box-office star.

When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you: Pick from the many choices nearby! I could walk up the road and through some of the side streets of Chinatown, or along the River to the Asian Civilisations Museum, or around to the Theatres at the Esplanade or Marina Bay. Just stepping out of my front door is a good dose of culture.

If you’re missing home, you: Walk up to Sarnies on Telok Ayer for a weekend breakfast with the newspaper and a flat white or two. I usually have a visit home planned, so I don’t miss it too often; and I have also found Skype to be a connection lifesaver, to keep up to date with what everyone back home is doing.

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A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is: An afternoon at Gardens by the Bay to explore both domes and see the light show; this has been a highlight for quite a few of my guests. For the foodie visitors, I like to take them to the extremes: one day it’s a lunch of my favourite wonton noodles at Golden Shoe, and another day it’s Pasar Bella with some wine from Merchants and a platter from the Rare Cheese Shop.

You’d swap houses in a second with: Nobody, but there’s a line-up of people who would like to swap with me.

A common myth about your neighbourhood is: That my apartment building is an office block. That’s true for only the first four floors; level five is the pool and recreation facilities and levels six to 26 are residential apartments.

If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s almost always due to: It’s only happened once in the last year, and it was the 1am rehearsal for the funeral procession of Lee Kuan Yew. There were multiple military units in full dress uniform and also a brass band. It was actually quite emotional to watch through my window as Singaporeans queued all night to pay their last respects and the procession rehearsal continued back and forth for several hours.

A massive late-night rager on your street is likely to be: Almost every night, at any place on Circular Road. If the wind is blowing the right way and I have my window open, I can also hear the band from the Bungy Bar; they’re pretty good.

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The Superlatives

Your favourite neighbourhood joints are: Southbridge; it’s across the road and has a gorgeous view up and down the river. Sarnies in Telok Ayer Street reminds me what good coffee tastes like; it’s also tough to fault their pancakes with berries, homemade yoghurt and honey for an indulgent breakfast. Heroes Bar on Circular Road is a great place to watch the footy – both AFL and rugby on a Friday night, and they have a decent band that starts later if you have your dancing shoes on. Song Fa Bak Kut Teh at the corner of Upper Circular Road and New Bridge Road – it’s not my favourite, but it’s definitely the most popular place within walking distance. The only time they don’t have a queue is Monday, when they’re closed. Hong Kong Street itself is now home to the new Bacchanalia, cocktail bars, coffee shops and a Brazilian restaurant, and is a great place to hang out day or night.
clarkequaypropertyuppercircularroadsingapore
You won’t find better local food than at: There’s not one single location but different places for different dishes, and it’s often an unnamed stall at a hawker centre. I work close to home, so I try to regularly head for lunch with locals from the office as a way to expand my options in the area.

The strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street is: A bright, shiny red Ferrari that was parked on the street for about a week a while back. It seemed like there was always someone posing for a photo with it during that time. Maybe not that strange, but it amused me for a few days. We love a good bargain.

The best deals in your neighbourhood are: If you get up early it’s worth having a look around the Hong Lim wet market. It’s small, but there’s nearly always a bargain to be found. I love the fresh flower stall.

One thing you’d never change is: The low-rise developments and heritage buildings. My block is really the only high-rise right on the riverfront. I love the view up and down the river, so I’d like the others to stay as they are and not be replaced with more high-rises.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is: The dodgy-looking bars across the road and around the corner. I am suspicious of the distinctly dressed ladies loitering on bar stools out the front and the blacked-out windows.

Why should your neighbourhood be featured in a guidebook?: As well as having some great historical buildings and monuments, my neighbourhood is showing itself to be a real upcoming area in terms of great bars and restaurants; there’s a lot for people to check out here.

templesingaporeclarkequayproperty

Whether they’re newcomers or “old hands”, we’d love to get to know your neighbourhood. Help us by sending an email to contribute@expatliving.sg with “Street Talk” in the subject line. Include your name and street, and we’ll be in touch.

This article first featured in the December 2015 issue of the magazine.

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