Looking to move to a new neighbourhood? Nothing would be better than to hear from the residents themselves. We speak to New Zealander Kim Forrester, a Holistic wellness educator, about the ins and outs of living on Haig Road in Katong.
Where do you live? Haig Road.
Who is the road named after? My good friend Google assures me it is named after Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, 1st Earl of Bemersyde.
Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home? “Haig Road. Take the CTE to the PIE, down the KPE to the ECP, please.”
What’s the name of your neighbourhood? Tanjong Katong, or Joo Chiat.
Closest MRT station? We are equidistant to Dakota and Paya Lebar. My teenagers tell me that Paya Lebar is better … because it has a Burger King.
How long have you lived here? Nearly two years.
Why here? Because we love the East Coast, and the house is within walking distance of the Green Line (to hubby’s work) and the Yellow Line (to the kids’ school). I rented the house off Property Guru without even seeing it in person. It was a delight to discover that we had accidentally stumbled on to the grooviest neighbourhood on the island.
When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is: Tanjong Katong Secondary School.
The closest store to your front door is: A Shell service station on Dunman Road. Close enough for a sneaky snack, though the potato chip flavours are, well, interesting!
Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of: The Aussie TV soap opera, Neighbours. We have an awesome, friendly group of neighbour-friends.
Your neighbours are great, but you wouldn’t mind a little less: Band practice! TK Secondary School has an incredibly talented, dedicated school band that (due to lack of space) often has to practise outside. Their performances are fantastic to listen to, but the days and days (and days) of practice can wear a bit thin. Note: My empirical observations have concluded that brass and drum noises travel more effectively – and with less distortion – than any other instrumental sound.
The unofficial uniform of your street is: School uniforms! We have TK Secondary School, Tanjong Katong Primary, Tanjong Katong Girls’ School and the Canadian International School very close by.
Which celebrity would be most likely to move in next door, and why? Australian actor Michael Caton. Our home is under the flight path to Paya Lebar Airforce base, so we’re often graced with the sound of incoming Orions or F-16s. It makes me think of Caton’s hilarious character in the film The Castle – Australians and New Zealanders are nodding at this stage (all you others – do yourselves a favour!) – and his famous line about the purchase of their house: “Location, location, location; and we’re right next to the airport. It’ll be very convenient if we ever have to fly one day.”
When you’re in need of a dose of culture, you: Walk Joo Chiat Road and silently revel in the chaos of KTV bars, restaurants and hawker stands.
If you’re missing home, you: Watch a game of rugby at the Trenchard Arms.
A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is: Rumah Bebe, an exquisite Peranakan store at 113 East Coast Road, and the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Hindu Temple at 19 Ceylon Road.
You’d swap houses in a second with: The lovely neighbours behind us, who live in what was (until recently) the North Korean Embassy. Seriously. Cool.
A common myth about your neighbourhood is: That it’s “all the way out there”. East Coasters will understand.
If you’re ever woken up at night, it’s almost always due to: School band practice.
A massive late-night rager on your street is likely to be: A funeral; we had a five-day funeral in the neighbourhood recently. (Rest her soul.) It was 120 hours of non-stop music, chanting, bells and prayer; a beautiful and poignant cultural phenomenon.
Your hands-down favourite neighbourhood joints are: Bangku Bangku, an exquisite furniture, antiques and curio shop on Joo Chiat Road that has something new every time you visit. Two Pigs Fly is our favourite family dinner venue – casual and friendly hawker-style dining with a wide range of menus and cuisines. Carry On Café on Tanjong Katong Road is my husband’s unofficial office and a delightful hangout that sells fresh, nutritious food and up-cycled backpacks. Then there’s Merchants Wine Cellar. (Wine. Cellar. ’Nuff said!) Also, the Haig Walk park connector that runs the full length of Haig Road is a people-watcher’s paradise!
You won’t find better local food than at: Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre on Tanjong Katong Road. The queue it generates is almost as impressive as the food it serves!
The strangest thing you’ve ever seen on your street is: Crowds of squealing schoolgirls waving as Olympic gold medal winner Joseph Schooling paraded by on an open-top, double-decker bus.
We love a good bargain. The best deals in your neighbourhood are:
- Property: Even with prices rising, the rental rates in this area are still some of the best value around.
- Appliances: Lucky Store on Tanjong Katong Road will get you anything you want, at the lowest price possible.
- Hardware: There is a hardware store on Joo Chiat Road that doesn’t have a single spare square-centimetre on its walls or ceiling! You can bet they have what you need, and the prices (and price tags) are straight out of 1997.
The guiltiest pleasure in your area is: Delicious homemade ice cream or sorbet at Scoop Therapy, just a quick stroll along our park connector.
One thing you’d never change is: The mix of kampong and city. Many of the older shops, with Uncle or Aunty manning the cash register, are being pushed out due to higher rents. “Noooooo!” I say. I love that the traditional side of Singapore still abides here.
But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is: The traffic. It’s getting popular (read: busy) around here.
The city gives you $5 million to soup up your street. You use it to: Build a soundproof, indoor auditorium for the TK Secondary School band.
Why should your neighbourhood be featured in a guidebook? I’d love for more people to experience our wonderful neighbourhood. Thanks to the likes of Lonely Planet andTripAdvisor, more and more tourists are wandering the streets, and it would be nice if expats also came to enjoy the buzz. It truly is old-meets-new. And it’s changing quickly. So get here now, while the old-world charm still holds firm against the (inevitable) gentrification.
This is an article that first appeared in the December 2016 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!