Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trail #4: Balestier Trail

Before I embarked on the Balestier Trail, I was absolutely clueless about what was in Balestier. But a mini exploration through the roads and lanes of Balestier opened my eyes to the charms of this place- intricate carvings on preserved shophouses, tau sar piah shops, lots of shops selling lights and bathroom fittings and Bak Kut Teh shops.

For a start, Balestier Road was named after Joseph Balestier, the first American Consul to Singapore and the owner of a large sugar cane estate in the area. Other nicknames for it include Recreation Road, Or Kio ("Black Bridge" in Hokkien), Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Koai, Thannir Kampam ("water village" in Tamil) and Kebun Limau (Citrus Garden in Malay). Now, how's that for a multi racial society.

Balestier Trail 
I did a Balestier 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. Art Deco Shophouses (230 & 246 Balestier Road) 
This pair of buildings were built in the 1950s, in Art Deco style. Other buildings which are influenced by this style include the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center. Honestly, I was underwhelmed by this because I'm not a fan of architecture but those who are interested might find such buildings interesting. 

B. Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple 
"Goh Chor" is the Hokken transliteration of Rochore, the name of the surrounding area in the mid 19th century. Tua Pek Kong is a Taoist deity. One interesting feature of this temple is the wayang stage where Teochew and Hokkien operas are still performed here during important festivals.  

Even if you are not interested in visiting this place, if you are a fan of durians, THIS IS FOR YOU. I've heard of Combat Durian countless of times as it's high recommended by many people.

C. Whampoa Makan Place 
Out of the top ten hawker centres listed on ieatishootipost, this is the only one that I haven't been to before! Naturally, we had to try some of the food here. Lots of famous food at both blocks- take your pick before continuing with your journey!

D. Sim Kwong Ho Shophouses (292-312 Balestier Road)
Different shophouses have their own little charms. For these shophouses, it's the European glazed floral tiles and the various carved animals on the shophouses. These include flowers, birds and bats. Apparently, there was a centre-piece in the form of a dog but it's no longer there and people don't know where it has gone to. 

E. Balestier Point 
These are supposed to resemble "an assembly of colourful Lego bricks". It didn't really strike me as that but I thought it was pretty fascinating that somebody could have thought of such a building design- literally thinking out of the box! Each apartment has its own private terrace and garden. It received an Honourable Mention Award from the Singapore Institute of Architects in 1987.

F. Traditional Bakeries (10/12 Kim Keat Lane)
If you walk down Kim Keat Road and turn right into Kim Keat Lane, you will be greeted by this factory-looking bread shop. Next to it is a traditional bakery known as Sweetlands Confectionery. You can buy  bread and buns from the shop. Give it a try! We didn't try it because we were too full from Whampoa Makan Place. But the aunty at the shop was still very friendly. 

G. Water Kiosk (Corner of Boon Teck Road)
This is something pretty random at the corner of the road but it serves as a reminder on how small acts of kindness count. This cart used to offer water and tea to passers-by in a time where clean drinking water was not easily available. Although we read that this service continues to be provided by Thong Teck Sian Tong Lian Sin Sia, we tried opening the taps and nothing came out so I suppose it's no longer available! 

H. Maha Sasana Ramsi Burmese Buddhist Temple 
This temple was founded in 1878. It contains many Burmese influences, including woodcarvings made from Burmese teak. There are some Burmese cultural and religious artifacts displayed on the third floor. There is also a Bodhi tree in the temple grounds.

I. Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall 
This two-story villa is apparently fairly typical of Chinese bungalows in the colonial area. A beautiful place to be so take your time to walk around the compound. Click here to read more about this!

J. Tau Sar Piah stalls 
By now, you might be hungry from the walk. You can walk through this stretch where you can find Loong Fatt Eating House and Confectionery (639 Balestier Road) and House of Tau Sar Piah (529 Balestier Road). If you are looking for a vegetarian option, go for House of Tau Sar Piah! Don't go too late though because they run out of flavours!

One thing that really struck me during this trail is that we should really take the time to note our surroundings and not wait for things to be torn down before we start flocking to look at the buildings. Live in the moment and appreciate the little things in your life, no matter how trivial they may be! 


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