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Guide to Kovan

By: Katie Roberts (photography by Zoe Hasker)

Looking to move to a new neighbourhood? Nothing would be better than to hear from the residents themselves. We speak to Jessi Timm, about the ins and outs of living in Kovan.

Jessi and the girls, Olive and Eleanor

Name: Jessi Timm
From: Erie, Illinois (“Small Town, USA”)
Occupation: Hairstylist extraordinaire at The Parlour and loving mother of two

What street do you live on?
Hillside Drive.

Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home?
I say, “Hillside Drive, off Upper Serangoon”. They repeat, “Hillside condo, Bukit Timah?” It happens 90 percent of the time, so I always have to say, “Off Upper Serangoon”. Apparently a lot of expats live in Hillside condo.

What’s the name of your neighbourhood?
Serangoon, Kovan or Hougang.

Closest MRT station?
We’re almost equidistant from Serangoon and Kovan.

How long have you lived here?
Three years.

Why here?
It’s very nice and quiet, and our condo is in the middle of landed properties.

When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is:
The house across the street, which has an amazing tree that buds a million orange flowers. When they are in bloom (which is most of the year), it’s a beautiful sight.

The closest store to your front door is:
Choices, our almost daily go-to for coconut water. But it’s been closed for two months for renovations, so we have to walk a little further to a different Choices outlet for the same cold drink.

Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of:
A murder mystery. It’s eerily quiet, but anything could happen at any time! Probably not, though.

Your neighbours are great, but you wouldn’t mind a little less:
House renovation. It seems as soon as one person is finished, someone else starts. Right now there is a huge house being built right outside our window. It’s pretty awesome listening to jackhammering and drilling all day…

The unofficial uniform of your street is:
Exercise gear. There are lots of athletes in our area and I always see people running and fast-walking. It’s motivating.

If a celebrity moves in next door, it will most likely be:
James Franco. (Maybe that’s just me wishing he would move in next door.)

When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you:
Go to the Joo Chiat area and get some local food.

If you’re missing home, you:
Skype my family.

A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is:
The hawker near our house, for bagged coffee, tea and lime drinks. Everyone loves it!

You’d swap houses in a second with:
A beautiful glass house that has just been built a few blocks away on Richards Avenue. It has a spiral staircase, a rooftop deck and a pool. It’s the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen.

A common myth about your neighbourhood is:
That it’s dirty because it’s on the purple (Northeast MRT) line and not well maintained. That’s not true at all. We have amazing street cleaners in our area, and they work hard to keep it looking sharp.

If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s almost always due to:
A crying baby, usually one of mine.

A massive late-night rager on your street is likely to be:
At the house directly beside our condo. Its top floor has a massive open-air patio area with a pool table, a huge TV and very large speakers. It’s really hopping during Chinese New Year.

Your hands-down favourite neighbourhood joints are:
Nakhon Kitchen
for the best Thai food outside of Thailand; it’s always very busy. Nectars and Vine for delicious craft beer and good wine at reasonable prices. They don’t serve food, but you can bring your own in. Punggol Nasi Lemak, because I love me some fried chicken! And The Parlour at 33 Lowland Road, the best salon for expat hair.

You won’t find better local food than at:
Chomp Chomp Serangoon Gardens.

The strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street is:
I was riding my bike home from the MRT one night and noticed there were about 40 policemen in front of a house a few blocks away. I eventually found out there was a double homicide. It was very eerie, as though we know there are police in Singapore, we just don’t see them often.

We love a good bargain. The best deals in your neighbourhood are:
Good waxing services, massages and facials.

The guiltiest pleasure in your area is:
Lola’s Café
’s Nutella pie with Oreo crust. It’s pretty much heaven in your mouth.

One thing you’d never change is:
The sound of the birds every morning.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is:
Horrible use of the sidewalks. Trying to push a pram around garbage bins and parked cars that are blocking the way is incredibly frustrating. Seriously, who wants to push their pram in the streets? That’s what sidewalks are for.

The city gives you $5 million to soup up your street. You use it to:
Plant more trees, and create more shaded green space for the kiddies. Plus: bike lanes on the streets – I like cruising around on my bike, but I always feel like I could get knocked off at any moment.

Why should your neighbourhood be featured in a guidebook?
It’s an up-and-coming area with lots of new restaurants and shops. Not many people even know it’s here, so it would be nice to get some exposure – maybe people would then venture out and explore this area a little more.


This article first featured in the August 2015 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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