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Guide to Paya Lebar

Looking to move to a new neighbourhood? Nothing would be better than to hear from the residents themselves. We speak to Richard Lenton about the ins and outs of living in Paya Lebar.

Name: Richard Lenton
Brighton, England
TV presenter for mio TV

Check out all the scenes from the neighbourhood above, plus head here for heaps more guides on cool places to live around Singapore.

The Specifics

What street do you live on? Corner of Tanjong Katong Road and Guillemard Road.

Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home? Four words: “Back of City Plaza.” Never met a taxi driver who doesn’t know where City Plaza is.

What’s the name of your neighbourhood? Paya Lebar.

Closest MRT station? Paya Lebar.

How long have you lived here? Moved from Tanjong Rhu Road in July last year.

Why here? We met some great friends at our condo in Tanjong Rhu, but it’s a very quiet place that’s perfect if you have young children. We don’t. As much as I like my friends’ kids (especially Charlie and “Rain Man” Henry), when you’re trying to relax by the pool and you’re being whacked over the head with an inflatable dolphin it does your nut in after a while.

The Scene

When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is: City Plaza. It doesn’t rank as my favourite shopping venue by any stretch, but I love the vibe on Sundays when hordes of families and groups of friends get together for picnics. It really feels like you’re in Asia, and that’s something that we wanted to experience when we came to live out here.

The closest store (of any type) to your front door is: The shop downstairs for essentials. Giant is less than two minutes’ walk away.

Your neighbours are great, but you wouldn’t mind a little less: Cigarette ash. There’s a fella a couple of floors above who loves chuffing on a fag on his balcony, and if the wind changes we occasionally get a bit of ash floating towards us. Mildly irritating, but I haven’t felt the need to smash his door down yet.

The unofficial uniform of your street is: Anything and everything. Unusually for Singapore, you rarely see anyone dressed in slacks, shirt and tie. Not too many city boys around here.

If a celebrity moves in next door, it will most likely be: Bill Murray. I reckon he’d fancy exploring the heartlands.

When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you: Play football. Does that count? If so, I’m a bona fide culture vulture.

If you’re missing home, you: Remember how cold it is in the UK, how long it takes to commute from Brighton to London and the outrageous price of a season ticket on the overcrowded, unreliable trains.

A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is: The Tuckshop on Guillemard Road. It’s a safe option with decent grub, great beers and wine.

You’d swap houses in a second with: One of the few fabulous houses on a lovely street around the corner called Pebble Lane. One of the owners has got loads of gym equipment in his huge driveway – boxing bags and all sorts. Not to mention a massive 4 x 4 vehicle. Very jealous indeed.

A common myth about your neighbourhood is: That it’s just around the corner from Geylang Road, which obviously has a certain reputation for being a bit fruity. However, at the top end of Geylang Road near where we are, it’s all lighting shops and food courts.

If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s almost always due to: It’s debatable whether a nuclear explosion would wake me from my slumber to be honest. As far as sleeping goes, I’m heavier than Sherman Klump.

A massive late-night rager on your street is likely to be: A distressed, pregnant stray cat screaming blue murder. That happened one night, but now we’ve got cats of our own we’re very sympathetic! It’s pretty quiet, to be fair.

The Superlatives

Your hands-down favourite neighbourhood joints are: The Tuckshop, Smith’s Fish and Chips, Ruby Thai and Nan Xiang Chicken Rice.

You won’t find better local food than at: Nan Xiang or the chicken rice stall at Paya Lebar MRT food court.

The strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street is: A fella in football boots dressed as Spiderman.

We love a good bargain. The best deals in your neighbourhood are: Various electronics in City Plaza, and the missus reckons they’ve got some decent, seriously cheap nail salons. Also, the mutton rendang at North, East, South, West. Strangely, it’s a vegetarian restaurant that serves meat. I couldn’t work it out either.

The guiltiest pleasure in your area is: Smith’s Fish and Chips. I usually train six days a week, and as long as I don’t miss a session then I’ll treat myself to haddock, chips, mushy peas and lashings of red sauce on a Sunday.

One thing you’d never change is: The vibe of the area – it’s a genuine community. And the lovely wheelchair-bound lady at the MRT station who sings her heart out while selling tissues and other bits and bobs.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is: All the cranes. There’s loads of building work going on opposite Tanjong Katong Complex.

The city gives you $5 million to soup up your street. You use it to: Give City Plaza a lick of paint. And we could get horticultural in the area between our condo and the MRT to make that look nicer. Oh, and somehow change the colour of the murky river water.

Why should your neighbourhood be featured in a guidebook? The location is great. It’s three minutes’ walk to the MRT station, you feel part of a real Asian community, yet you’re just down the road from creature comforts on Tanjong Katong Road and East Coast Road. And you can see the sea from the rooftop pool.


This article first featured in the April 2014 issue 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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