Reposted from Mothership.sg
1. With a-MAH-zing coffee at every corner, be spoiled for your daily caffeine fix.
Not to mention the many cool hip cafes you get to hang out at.
2. All the old school bird cage charm with none of the noise.
3. White-washed walls? Nah. Wall art FTW.
We’ve goat no reason to kid you.
4. Charming coconut trees for that beach holiday feel.
5. Delicious and Instagram worthy food which is also light on the wallet.
6. Pretty and exotic pastries with 150 years of heritage right at your doorstep.
Never mind if cannot pronounce kouign – just point.
7. The only place in Singapore where you use planes and ships to describe the homes.
These pre-war Aeroplane blocks and pre-HDB porthole buildings gives the place so much character.
8. Vinyl – hundreds of this comeback kid of the record world curated just for you.
In case you think this only appeals to baby boomers, vinyl is actually enjoying a revival thanks to growing interest from the millennials.
9. A quaint little bookshop to pick up the best local reads – no 10-year series please – to go with that afternoon cuppa.
10. No need to jostle with the gym crowd – plenty of space to de-stress here.
11. Discover interesting nooks and crannies during your walks.
12. A suburban mall means shopping convenience without having to head downtown.
13. Move over dragon playground, Tiong Bahru’s locomotive invokes the Wild Wild West.
14. Take the nearby MRT train, one of the many buses or hop onto your bicycle – it’s easy to go places.
You can take the hipster out of Tiong Bahru, but his moccasin-encased feet will never keep him away for long. Today, the estate, with its promise of heady nostalgia and cool café vibes, lures a steady flow of devotees who trample through the neighbourhood for that perfect, sunlit cupcake shot.
However, Tiong Bahru’s story stretches way beyond specialty foods and indie bookstores. The old apartment blocks may still be around but Tiong Bahru was a pretty different world back before it becameHipster Central.
It’s Tiong Bahru
Singapore’s oldest and most charming neighbourhood.
When I came back to Singapore after 11 years of Tokyo, London and New York, I moved into a rented apartment in Tiong Bahru as my friends were all living there.
I fell in love with the neighbourhood. 5 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the Central Business District, I found a yoga shala, a hair salon, 2 massage parlours (1 oriental, 1 spa), lots of quaint cafes and artisanal shops, and my favourite wine and pizza one-stop shop.
The yoga shala is one of the darkest ashtanga studios I’ve practiced in. Outside, you will often see 3 Porsches parked in a row. Who are these power players you are practicing besides?
Source: PS Cafe website
At PS Cafe Petit, I would often go for a drink and chat to the bartenders who would deliver cases of wine to my house. You’ll sometimes see an old man at 3pm, with his glass of red wine and his superfood salad. If you start talking to him (and he’s very friendly), “Uncle Peter” will tell you stories about how he grew up in Tiong Bahru, the place where businessmen kept their mistresses, and how he used to hide in the bomb shelters during the war. He has many stories about how he would take a year off sailing, go to the Galapagos Islands and watch birds mate. Curious to know who he is? Once very influential in the Singapore media space.
Everyone knows everyone by name. I have all my groceries delivered from the neighbourhood store with just a phone call and I can buy fresh produce and fresh flowers at the market. It reminded me of my days in Primrose Hill, London. With little alleyways I could cycle up and down, I’ve cycled all the way down the Singapore River to Marina Bay Sands all the way to Changi Airport.
Naturally I wanted to buy a place here and when I asked around, anyone who’s anyone in Tiong Bahru will tell you to call Alvin Yeo.
Buying my new home
I’ve seen hundreds of apartments. I been apartment hunting in London (Primrose Hill, Notting Hill, Chelsea, Holland Park, Clerkenwell), in Tokyo (Ebisu, Shinagawa, and my fave Azabu Juban), in Philadelphia (Centre City) and New York (Union Square). And I’m fussy about my real estate, so I’ve been known to see up to 17 apartments in one day.
Alvin is one of the nicest real estate agents I’ve met (and I’ve met plenty). Always on time, always smiling, humble and unassuming, Alvin will give you the full picture. The owner’s context, the timeline, sense of urgency, what you need to watch out for, the potential you could do with the property. All the good stuff good realtors do.
After Alvin showed me about 8 properties in Tiong Bahru, we found one that I liked. He helped me get my bank loan through a frictionless process with his recommended banker. And I bought it.
But in my free time, I decided to deconstruct the process. If you look at Alvin’s website, you will see that he has snazzy titles, elaborate explanations and fancy pictures on most of his properties. But with mine, there was only one description and one picture. I knew he didn’t show it to anyone. Until my loan was ready (did he know?), then he got another offer on the flat which forced me to make my offer and buy it. Was he saving it for me until I got my paperwork and loans in place? Am I special (:wink:) or does this master real estate magician always pull strings we cannot see? I’m told that the property I bought is one of the better ones in Tiong Bahru in terms of size and location. So if it’s true, how many times has this happened? (Check out his track record, do the math, and see if you can figure out which one is mine.)
If you google “buying a property in Tiong Bahru”, you will see two sites rank top www.tiongbahru.sg and www.tiongbahruestate.blogspot.sg, both Alvin’s. Alvin has been blogging about Tiong Bahru since 2003. This is pure content marketing. Does he buy google adwords, I don’t think so.
If you read Alvin’s blog, it reads like an Evan Carmichael Top 10 video of something that Steve Jobs, Tim Ferriss (4-hour Work Week) or Nir Eyal (Hooked) said.
Building my new home
Am I afraid that writing this will spoil the Tiong Bahru bubble? Nah my readers are like my first 1,000 twitter followers, all men in Silicon Valley. Anyway, I trust that Alvin will continue to gatekeep the oasis I call home.
My new conservation status home will be done by an extraordinarily talented, very young Singaporean architect. I also have a very young, very talented Singaporean industrial designer crafting a range of homewares for me. I want everything to be made in Singapore, made by young local designers, carrying only with me bits of furniture that have memories, pieces of furniture and homewares that I’ve brought back from Tokyo to London to New York to London back to Singapore.
Source: ODP website
And I will have an open door policy, like the name of a well-known local restaurant. Any one of my friends travelling through Singapore can stay with me anytime they want. I have a spare guest bedroom. Forget the fancy schmancy expensive hotels in Singapore. We can have breakfast at the popular Tiong Bahru Bakery and meetings at the PS Cafe Petit and catch up.
But that doesn’t answer the question. Who is Alvin Yeo and did one man a real estate market make?
- Alvin Yeo declined for comments. He can be reached on +65 9100 0001.
- My favourite guide to Tiong Bahru.
- A CNN Article on Tiong Bahru “Singapore’s oldest and hippest ‘hood”.
- There is even a movie coming up on Tiong Bahru (no comments about the acting).
- If you liked reading this, please like it on Medium too — I’m not getting a lot of Medium love… LOL..