Singapore's east side is mostly residential, but although it doesn't boast as many famous attractions as downtown or Sentosa, there are more than a few sites around here that are well worth visiting...
This is the only area in Singapore where you can visit a "sort of" rural community that somewhat resembles how Singapore's society used to live in bygone days...
There are also some nice beaches around this side of Singapore and, of course, the unique ethnic quarters of Geylang Serai, where the city's Malay community lives and Katong, where Singapore's Peranakan community used to flourish in the old days.
If you are looking for something to do with your little ones, you'd probably be happy to know that some of Singapore's best theme parks are located in Pasir Ris, just a stonethrow from the MRT terminus.
Geylang, also known as Geylang Serai, is the home of Singapore's mostly-Muslim Malay community: The only ethnic minority that was present on the island before the arrival of Sir Raffles and his fellow Brits.
Located in the eastern side of Singapore, pretty much away from the center, this relatively large area was not influenced heavily by large urban redevelopment projects and managed to maintain some of its "old world charm"...
The name Geylang is derived from the Malay word Kilang, which means food processing plant, and the area was, indeed, a centre for coconut and lemongrass processing in the old days, when many home-style processing plants operated around the region...
An insight from 'Metropolasia-Man':
Did you know? Singapore's mostly-Muslim Malay communityis theonly ethnic minority that was present on the island before the arrival of Sir Raffles and his fellow Brits... Many of whom, however, used to live in floating villages around the mouth of the Singapore River, before they were moved to Geylang.
Geylang started to develop as a residential suburb around the second half of the 19th century, after the Brits evacuated the Malay floating villages around the mouth of the Singapore River and their dwellers had to move here. A few years later, the area started to gain popularity among Singapore's then wealthy families, such as the Alsagoffs, the Alkaffs and the Aljunieds...
Large areas along Geylang Road and the neighboring streets underwent major renovations and preservation in the last decade or two and the area is quite popular for its shops, authentic restaurants and entertainment venues... The area around the central section ofGeylang Road, south of MRT-aljunied (especially between Lorongs 6 and 24) is the hub of Singapore's thriving sex industry...
Most of the brothels within Geylang's red-light district are legal... However, as it normally happens in the sex business, things went out of hand along the years and hundreds (if not thousands) of "street walkers" from across Asia can now be seen in the numbered streets (Lorongs) on both sides of Geylang Road.
A 'sexy' insight from 'Metropolasia-Man':
Although Singapore's thriving sex industry is regulated (just like almost everything else in this well-organized country), it somehow managed to get out of hand, and today, hundreds ,if not thousands, of "street walkers" from across Asia can be seen in the numbered streets (Lorongs) on both sides of Geylang Road.
A visit to Geylang Serai should probably start with the Malay Village, where you can see a reproduction of an old Malay Kampong (village), as it looked like more than 150 years ago, with the typical houses, day-to-day paraphernalia, a scene of a traditional Malay wedding, arts and crafts and so on... There is also a small museum and some shops and restaurants within the complex and although it is somewhat kitschy, it is still worth visiting, especially if you are in Geylang anyway.
The Malay Village is open daily, 10am - 10pm and the entrance is free, unless you want to visit the museum (where you will have to pay an admission fee of SG$ 5 for an adult and SG$ 3 for a child). For more details, call them on 6748 4700 or visit their website.
How to get there ? From MRT-Paya Lebar (located along the Green marked East-West line): Turn right to Eunos Road and almost immediately left to Sims Avenue (after you have crossed it). Walk along Sims Avenue for a couple of minutes, passing an open carpark and then turn right, to Engku Aman Road, where you will see the entrance to the "village" on your left (all in all, it's less than a 10 minutes walk from the MRT station).
Geylang Serai Market is a large and popular wet market that has long become one of the area's landmarks. The 40 years old market was pulled down in 2006 and has gone through a complete facelift before it was reopened, in 2008. As a market that mostly serves the Malay-Muslim community, it boasts more than a handful of spice shops, alongside boutiques that sell traditional clothes, jewellery shops and many eateries and snack shops, where you can indulge on local delicacies.
The market is a stone's throw from the Malay Village - Just acros Geylang Serai Street.
After visiting the Malay Village and the market, cross Changi Road and walk down along Joo Chiat Rd. (which is like the continuation of Geylang Serai)
Joo Chiat Road is lined with pre-war Peranakan shophouses, where you can still find all sorts of vanishing trades... Traditional furniture shops, authentic eateries and nightclubs of all types are dominating the street's business scene.
Down at the bottom of Joo Chiat Road, near the junction of East Coast Road, lies the centre of old Katong, with some beautifully restored buildings that have been converted to shopping and entertainment centers. This is where Singapore's Peranakan community used to flourish in the old days and Katong Village, where the old police station used to be, is now housing some restaurants and cafés.
Recommended trip around Joo Chiat Road and its historic shophouses:
When coming from the Malai Village and Geylang Serai Market, cross Changi Road and start walking down along Joo Chiat Road. Turn left to Joo Chiat Lane near Hotel 81 Sakura and after a few steps, on the corner of Tembeling Road, you will see a colorful Chinese temple on your left hand side, dedicated to Guan Yin - The Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion.
As soon as you walk out of the temple, turn right and walk down along Tembeling to the corner of Koon Seng Road, where you turn right and pass by a row of some beautiful old shophouses.
Turn left and walk down to No. 406 Joo Chiat Road, where you turn right to Fowlie Road. After a few minutes stroll along the quiet street, turn left to Ceylon Road and soon you will see one of Singapore's nicest Hindu temples, on your right.
Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple started its way 150 years ago as a thatched hut and developed during the 20th century, when Singapore's community of Sri Lankan Tamils started to become sizeable.
Despite being relatively anonymous, this temple is architecturally rich and boasts plenty of beautiful ornaments and sculptures.
As you walk out of the temple, turn right and continue walking along Ceylon Road, till you get to the corner of East Coast Road, right in the heart of historic Katong.
Right on the corner, on No. 53 East Coast Road there is a small and very popular eatery, called 328 Katong Laksa, where you can indulge on a hearty bowl of Katong Laksa: A well-known Peranakan favorite and a serious candidate to the "Singapore's national dish" title. The Laksa is a rich coconut-based curry soup, with tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles.
In Roxy Square, on the other side East Coast Road, there is another ultra-popular Laksa eatery, called The Original Katong Spoon Laksa, which also claims for the 'best laksa' title…
From Ceylon Road, turn left to East Coast Road, cross it to the other side with the pedestrian bridge, turn left and after a couple of minutes' walk you will see the old Katong Police Station on your right side (on No. 86 East Coast Road, next to Katong Mall). The building, which some of Singapore's most notorious gangsters were held in custody between its walls, has been restored and is now home to some restaurants, including the popularHong Kong Teahouse, where you can enjoy Hong Kong style dim sum 24 hours a day.
Rumah Bebe, on 113 East Coast Road (on the other side of the road) is a lovely Peranakan arts and antiques gallery, housed in a traditional light blue shophouse and is worth seeing, even if you will not buy anything eventually.
A particularly beautiful Peranakan shophouse can be seen on 150 East Coast Road… Few more steps up the road will bring you to Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, on 204 East Coast Road – A tiny 'old times' coffee shop which has been serving the most authentic breakfasts in Singapore for who knows how many years…
Two doors from there, on 208 East Coast Road, is Katong Antique House – A gallery which dispalays one of the best collections of Peranakan antiques and artifacts (to visit it, you have to call the owner, Mr. Peter Wee, in advance, on 6345 8544 and tell him you are coming over).
Strolling along Joo Chiat Road and its smaller offshoots, between Geylang and Katong, is all about marveling those old and beautiful shophouses...
From Katong, you can easily proceed to a great nearby attraction: Singapore's East Coast.
Other than a long coconut fringed beach park, with walking paths, picnic areas and kids' activities, the park is home to two of Singapore's best and most popular food centers, namely the East Coast Lagoon Food Centre and the East Coast Seafood Centre.
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The major attraction here, however, is the Ski 360 complex, where you can do Cable water skiing, Wakeboarding or Wakeskating., being pulled by a cable instead of a boat… It is quite a nice experience actually, for children and adults alike...
The beach park, the lagoon and the dining areas around it are popular both day and night, and the food centers remain open until fairly late.
Ski 360 is open daily, 10am - 10pm (Till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). Ski passes rates are SG$ 32 per hour (midweek) or SG$ 42 (weekend), and SG$ 48 per two hours pass (midweek) or SG$ 64 (weekends). They usually have all sorts of promotions, like special evening rates and so on... . For more information, call them on 6442 7318 or visit www.ski360degree.com
How to get here ?
From Katong : Walk down to the bottom of Joo Chiat Road, turn left to Marine Parade Road and after a couple of minutes you will reach a bus stop, from which you can take any of the following routes: 31, 43, 48, 196, 196-e, 197 or 853-c. Alight at a bus stop called 'Opposite Laguna Park' (also on Marine Parade Road) and walk back a few steps, to the corner, where you turn left to Siglap Link and after 2 – 3 minutes left again, to East Coast. Almost immediately you will see an entrance to an underpass on your left, through which you cross under the road and into the park – right to where the lagoon is.
From the City: travel to MRT- Bedok station (located along the East-West line, which is marked with Green). From the Bedok bus Interchange (next to the MRT station, exit B), you can take No. 197 to Laguna Park and proceed by foot (see instructions above)
On Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, you can take line 401 from Bedok Bus Interchange
directly to the lagoon and the food centre.
Changi area, at the easternmost part of Singapore Island (near the airport), also boasts some nice sightseeing spots, that are worth visiting...
The Changi Chapel & Museum is dedicated in memory of those World War II POWs (prisoners of war), civilians and soldiers alike, who managed to survive the horrors of Japanese captivity, thanks to their courage and willpower...
In the museum, you can see the inhuman conditions that POWs had to suffer, alongside a collection of their personal effects, including letters, photographs and paintings they drew while in prison.
The chapel, in the middle of the open courtyard, is a replica of similar chapels that were built by POWs across Southeast Asia and became "a torch of hope for those desperate men and women... "
The museum is fairly authentic and visiting it creates a strong experience.
Open daily, 9:30am - 5pm. Entrance is free
For more information, call 6214 2451 or visit their website.
How to get there ? From MRT-Tanah Merah (located along the green marked East-West line): take SBS bus No. 2 (this bus goes all the way to Changi Village, so you can combine the visit to the museum with an excursion to the village and its sites...)
You can also take bus No. 29 from MRT-Tampiens (on the same East-West line).
Both buses stop at the Changi Museum (after Women's Prison / opposite Changi Heights condominium).
Sunrise on Changi Boardwalk
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Changi Village is one of Singapore's quaintest suburbs (although there are still one or two "true villages" on Pulau Ubin Island).
It's a very pleasant place, with easygoing ambience, a good food centre, beautiful beach park and a nice sandy beach. This is also the place from which you can take the boats to Pulau Ubin Island, in the middle of the strait, between Singapore and Malaysia.
The bus will take you up to Changi Village Bus Terminal, right in the middle of the "village" and next to the food court. A couple of minutes walk from here, across the bridge, lies the Changi Beach Park: an extremely long (and beautiful) park, stretching along the sandy beach, with plenty of coconut palms, green lawns, recreational and picnic facilities.
The main draw, however, is the 2.5 Kilometers long Changi boardwalk, which provides some lovely beach views. It starts just a couple of minutes from the Bus terminus (next to the Ferry Terminal, on the creek) and curves along the beach and the cliffs, via the Sailing Club and all the way to Changi Beach Club.
How to get there? From MRT-Tanah Merah (located along the green marked East-West line): you can take SBS bus No. 2 to the Bus terminus, or SBS bus No. 9 to the village and the beach park (it actually has a few stops along the beach park).
Another option is to travel to MRT-Tampiens (also located along the East-West line), and to take SBS bus No. 19 from the neighboring Bus Interchange, to Changi village, as well as to the beach park (it makes a few stops along the beach park).
Stretching along almost seven kilometers of sandy beach, Pasir Ris Park is, probably, Singapore Island's most beautiful beach park. Alongside the lovely beach, there are wide lawns, plenty of coconut trees, nice walking trails, picnic sites and recreational facilities.
The main attraction, however, is the Mangroves Forest Reserve, where you can walk on wooden boardwalks and watch this tiny yet magnificent ecosystem. There is also a bird watching tower within the reserve.
Along the beach, there are two or three 'alfresco' cafés, as well as one or two inexpensive seafood eateries, which means that you don't have to worry about food either...
The park is open 24 hours a day and the entry is free (entry is also free to the Mangroves forest reserve).
How to get there ? Getting to Pasir Ris park is very easy... Simply travel all the way to Pasir Ris MRT Station (the last station along the Green marked East-West line).
The entrance to the park is less than 10 minutes walk from the station: Walk to the end of the Pasir Ris Bus Interchange (adjacent the MRT station), cross Pasir Ris Drive 3 and enter the park through the concrete-path (under and along the MRT railway bridge). You can also cross Pasir Ris Drive 3, turn left and after a few minutes walk turn right and enter the park through Pasir Ris Green.
Wild Wild Wet and Escape, two of Singapore's most popular themed park are just a few minutes stroll from Pasir Ris Beach Park and the MRT terminus, and while they have no pretensions to be better than Sentosa, they are well worth visiting, especially Wild Wild Wet, which provides a pleasant and cool escape from Singapore's gooey heat… What's more, you can combine them with a visit to the beach park and its mangroves reserve.
Wild Wild Wet, one of the if not THE best water park in East Asia, is open on Monday, Wednday, Thursday and Friday, 1 – 7pm and on Saturdays, Sundays and Public holidays, 10am – 7pm (closed on Tuesdays)
For more information, including prices and 'special offers', visit their website.
Escape is open only on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays, 10am – 8pm
For more information, including prices and 'special offers', visit their website.
How to get to the parks ?
Take exit A of Pasir Ris MRT Station, turn left and cross the bus-interchange and the road behind it (the shops and the railway bridge should be on your left). Turn right after crossing the road and walk for a few minutes… As soon as you have crossed the bridge over the canal, turn left and enter the complex of "Downtown East", where the two themed parks are located.
There are other things to do in Downtown East, including a big shopping mall, restaurants and a nice play centre for toddlers.
You can also easily access the complex and the two themed park from Pasir Ris Beach Park.