Thursday, August 9, 2012

Trail #3: Katong/Joo Chiat

Since we had time on National Day, we decided to walk the Katong/Joo Chiat area. This isn't what you would consider a touristy area but it is pretty much a gem of its own, with a long heritage and well-preserved buildings. According to Wikipedia, Katong was "born out of Joo Chiat" and Mr Chew Joo Chiat was known as the King of Katong. And if you are Singaporean, you must know that this area is concentrated with lots of good eateries. 

If you're interested, here's a blog by Mr Chew's great-grandson. It's pretty admirable how people take the effort to document the history of places that hold a special place in their hearts. 

Katong/Joo Chiat Trail 
I did a Katong/Joo Chiat trail and here, I've marked the places on Google Map. If you are interested in retracing my footsteps, all you need to do is to print out the map and to follow it accordingly. Why I did this was because sometimes when I was travelling, I was often bothered by which sequence I should take in order to maximise my sightseeing.

View Larger Map

A. Katong Shopping Centre
The first air-conditioned mall in Singapore, Katong Shopping Centre was established in 1971. It's not a place where you would go to find your fashionable clothes and shoes, but rather a place where you can find photocopying companies, Teo Heng Karaoke (a relatively cheap karaoke place), lots of maid employment agencies and even a ghostbuster shop. Not sure how long it will still be there though because 80% of the owners have already given consent to the en-bloc sales. 

You can also walk into some of the sidelanes such as Ean Kiam Place or Marshall Road where you will see distinctive and interesting houses.

B. Sri Senpaga Vinyagar Temple 
The Hindu temple, Sri Senpaga Vinyagar Temple, was established in the mid-19th century by the Ceylonese Tamils from Sri Lanka. It is the second-oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. You can see the Chola style of architecture here. The Cholas were the greatest temple builders in the history of India. You can enter regardless of religion or race, but do take off your shoes and socks if you step into the main hall.

C. Carnival Beauty Salon
You seldom see hairdressing shops like this anymore. When we tried to peek into the salon, we realised we couldn't see anything.

D. Katong Laksa
What's a trip to Katong without trying the laksa? But with so many contenders for the real Katong Laksa, maybe you should just settle for one of the most popular at 328 Katong Laksa. You will see the walls plastered with pictures of the shopowner with lots of big shots, including ministers and actors.

E. Kim Choo Kueh Chang
Kim Choo Kueh Chang has been here for over 60 years. Madam Lee Kim Choo was 12 years old when she learnt the secret recipe to making traditional Nonya rice dumplings. Yet another story of a lady with steel grit, she set up a stall under a tree, with 5 kg of rice everyday. This remains a very popular and favourite shop for people to get dumplings.

F. 112 Katong
A very new shopping centre, this place houses many new eateries and is a worthy contender with the nearby Parkway Parade. It also introduced a Golden Village (movie theatre) with a Peranakan theme. It is a major transformation from the previous shopping centre occupying this piece of land. As Katong is not really accessible by MRT, you might want to consider the free shuttle bus from Paya Lebar MRT. 

F. Chin Mee Chin Coffee & Cake Shop
Chin Mee Chin is a place where many food bloggers rave about their kaya toasts. Apparently, everything about this place is original- using a charcoal fire to heat the coffee, baking their own buns etc. Nostalgia is the key here, but the food has to be good too. While I haven't eaten here yet, this will be on my to-eat list.

F. Katong Antique House
Besides Mr Chew Joo Chiat's great-grandson, Mr Peter Wee is another of those who strive to keep cultures and traditions alive. At this two-story shophouse,  if you make an appointment with Mr Wee, you will get to see the Peranakan costumes, crockery and furniture put on this display by this fourth generation Baba Peranakan.

G. Food in general
From traditional pastries to modern cupcakes, this area has it all. For those who crave for durian puffs but are not willing to fork out Goodwood Hotel's prices, Puteri Mas may offer you good durian puffs at a lower price. I don't really eat cupcakes  because some places make it too sweet but if you want to check them out, Hey Cupcakes! looked pretty attractive. And a shop that sells cookies, My Lovebites has been very popular with magazines and newspapers recently. Pity we were ignored when we entered the shop, which wasn't the best way to tempt us into buying cookies. Heard it's really yummy though. 

There is so much more you could do at Katong. Don't be lured away just by the food. Do take a moment to look at your surroundings. The colourful paint splashed on the buildings, the unique Pernakan floor tiles etc. Enjoy your time in this place where shophouses still dominate and where people care enough about their roots and heritage. Some things can stay the same even when everything else changes. 


Hi there! I'm Olivia from My Lovebites, the cookie shop at 412 Joo Chiat Road.

We are sorry that you felt that you were ignored when you walked into our shop. We do apologise. We always make sure to at least greet our customers who walk in and ask them to give us a minute if we are in the midst of serving other customers. We could have been really swamped with customers when you walked in and thus may have overlooked even greeting you.

As we are still new and there are only 2 of us doing everything in the shop, from the baking to the serving of customers, we are pretty shorthanded. We seek your kind understanding.

We hope you will pop by when you are in the area for a cookie tasting. And we look forward to serving you better.

This is a very warm hearted reply, Olivia.
Although i am not the intended recipient, i think this is a nice way of saying sorry to the customer comcerned.
And that will give me a good reason to tell my friends and patronise your shop.

Uncle Linus

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