Mar 12, 2012
Posted by Icemoon
Before I was posted to Si Pai Por, I could count the no. of times I visited the pre-war SIT estate of Tiong Bahru with my fingers. It was either a drive past along the main road or a food hunt - I remember Chwee Kuei - at its famous hawker center before it was rebuilt. I could not remember any of the Trust flats nor did I look out for them. All in my mind was the grave of Tan Tock Seng, which I used to associate with Tiong Bahru; my neck would be craning inside the car as it made it way around or out of the estate. Was my effort rewarded? I think so, for I remember catching a glimpse of a solitary grave on a hill beside the estate.
I was posted to Si Pai Por in 2011 and the assignment was a godsend. It is very convenient to visit the surrounding areas - Bukit Merah, Kampong Bahru, Chinatown, Tanjong Pagar, Outram, Bukit Ho Swee etc. as they are easily covered by a single bus trip, including "bus 11". Before the curtains were drawn on Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, I made countless trips on foot to check out the compound including housing quarters and to take photos. With new-found friends, new-found places and constant exchange of information, I learn more about Singapore in a year or so than I ever did in decades.
As I'm not based at Si Pai Por everyday now, I have to plan my lunchtime even more carefully so as not to waste any opportunity in exploring the Si Pai Por vicinity. Recently I became interested in Tiong Bahru after I realized how near it is to my workplace and how tranquil it is compared to Chinatown next to Si Pai Por. I was both disappointed and elated to find the old market demolished and replaced by a building that is blended with the estate architecture and easily Singapore's most unique food center. When I went with a colleague who drives, I was surprised to find the car parked on the rooftop. What an ingenious use of space on a building which is not even a multi-storey car park! The big, wide open space with high ceiling at the eating area and the triangular layout make for a relaxed eating experience, certainly a far cry from dark and gloomy food centers like ... Chinatown Complex.
There are also other eating places in Tiong Bahru - the kopitiams at the ground floor of the pre-war SIT flats. Peter recommended the porridge stall at Tiong Poh Road - Ah Chiang - which reminded him of Cantonese porridge in Hong Kong. To my surprise, I actually tried their branch at Toa Payoh Central few months ago and forgot about this porridge shop which started in Tiong Bahru.
Where shall I begin my blog on Tiong Bahru? For a start, I would like to blog something different. I just realized I do not have a label "Tiong Bahru" which means I have not blogged about the estate! By the way, the de facto blog is still the one by SGalf here who started blogging when the estate was gazetted for conservation in the 2003 Master Plan.
For 2012 I have decided to try out an alternate presentation format for my second shots. I call it a scene reconstruction. This demands even greater precision from the shots as the old and new photos have to merge and merge beautifully they must. In the above photo of Tiong Poh Road, I superimposed the 1940 photo onto the 2012 one - I'm not sure if readers can tell which is which at first sight. Enjoy!