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Tiong Bahru, Singapore: A resident’s guide to living, eating and shopping


Name: Tara Rushton

From: Sydney, Australia

Occupation: TV host of Tiger Goals on Sunday and E-Buzz: Hot-Spots Malaysia, freelance writer, MC, actor, teacher, model – full-time drama queen!

The Specifics:

What street do you live on?

Moh Guan Terrace.

Why is it called that?

Apparently, Mr See Moh Guan was born in Malacca and the fourth son of Si Hoo Keh. He died in 1879 and the street was named after him.

How do locals pronounce it?

Moh Gwan.

Exact words you tell a taxi driver to get home?

Ha ha… this is a funny one! Honestly, only two percent of taxi drivers know where Moh Guan Terrace is. And I’ve neverhad a taxi arrive outside my apartment when booked. So, I say: “Tiong Bahru, please Uncle… you know wet market? Kim Tian Road?” Whichever they say yes to, I then say, “You go there, and I direct you.” That’s the standard procedure.


What’s the name of your neighbourhood?

Tiong Bahru.

Closest MRT station?

Tiong Bahru.

How long have you lived here?

Seven months.

Why here?

Initially, the appeal was its renovated pre-war walk-up apartments – the way they’ve been renovated and modernised makes for an interesting living space. Also, this neighbourhood is really bohemian. Modern and edgy lives alongside old and traditional. Trendy cafés, such as 40 Hands, Drips, Orange Thimble and ODP (Open Door Policy), stand beside conservation estates and businesses that have been here for decades. Also, the food in Tiong Bahru is amazing. The wet market is a great place to do a weekly shop for fresh produce, and the delicious local food here such as the pau and crab, together with the Szechuan restaurant, are incredibly good value for money. It is also right on a train line and really close to the city.

The Scene:

When you walk out of your place, the first thing you see is:

The park… and usually a cat.

The closest store to your front door is:

Poh Aik – this store is bursting with crates of various beers, soft drinks, cartons of cigarettes and iced tea. The Uncle is running a tight shop, as prices are half that of 7/11.

Your street would make the perfect backdrop for a remake of:

Reality Bites.

The unofficial uniform of your street is:

Wayfarers. With the cool cafés has come a mass influx of cool kids.

If a celebrity moves in next door, it will most likely be:

Ryan Gosling. Tiong Bahru is shabby chic to a T. When I think of who would live here, I draw a comparison to celebs who would live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

A mandatory stop for out-of-town guests is:

A hawker centre for chilli crab, stingray and satay. It’s a great way to experience food in Singapore.

You’d swap houses in a second with:

The corner apartment on Moh Guan Terrace – their curved balcony is killer!

A common myth about your neighbourhood is:

It’s really old and nothing happens here.

A massive late-night rager on your street is likely to be:

The aunties and uncles busting out some serious Canto pop songs on the karaoke machine at Seng Poh Residents Committee.


The Superlatives:

Your favourite neighbourhood joints are:

Thai Lion, above the wet market, was a complete OMG moment. It’s a weekly staple for Thai – the mango salad and basil chicken are great, and you’re absolutely stuffed for $8. Tiong Bahru Pau has the tastiest pau I have ever had! Ever! 40 Hands has great coffee, and their mushroom truffle sandwich is extremely addictive. And my feet take a pummelling at Oriental Traditional Therapy on Eng Hoon Street, but this foot massage is heaven.

You won’t find better local food than at:

Golden Spoon for crab mee hoon, chilli crab and pepper crab.

We love a good bargain. The best deals in your neighbourhood are:

Food, glorious food – eggs, beer, fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood are all cheap at the wet market.

The guiltiest pleasure in your area is:

Bite-sized chocolate éclairs at Cheng Delicacies, located at 27 Yong Siak Street.

One thing you’d never change is:

How eclectic this neighbourhood is. The fashionistas who lounge at the coffee shops with their iPads, Macbooks and iPhones rub shoulders with taxi drivers and shirtless uncles stopping for lunch. It’s fantastic.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing go is:

The fibreglass office set up in the park whilst a new HDB block is being constructed on Kim Tian Road. It ruins the view of the park.

The city gives you $5 million to soup up your street. You use it to:

Install a large sign that states this curve in the road off Kim Tian Road is Moh Guan Terrace. Then, I’d create a Street Art Space with a courtyard and outdoor gazebo in the car park behind Moh Guan Terrace for a monthly art fair and market with live music.