For the third instalment in our series of neighbourhood gems, we unearth treasures hidden in the colourful district of Joo Chiat
By Pamela Chow
An old saying in Singapore goes, “Tanglin is gold, and Katong is silver”. This was used in the days of yore to distinguish prime residential estates.
Today, the Joo Chiat neighbourhood, which also spans Katong and East Coast, is the seat of Singapore’s rich multicultural heritage. This area is our country’s largest architectural conservation district that has blended the Malay, Peranakan Chinese and Eurasian (Portuguese, Dutch and English) communities of Singapore.
Besides the commonly known gems of Joo Chiat and the larger Katong area — such as 328 Katong laksa and the iconic shophouses on Koon Seng Road — there are numerous other treasures waiting to be explored.
Weekender lists six of them here for your next urban adventure.
Be whisked away into the heart of Joo Chiat and all its stories, with No Man’s Land. (Photo: OH Open House)
1. Enter No Man’s Land
No Man’s Land is as mysterious as it sounds. This immersive theatre experience will take you through the story of Joo Chiat in the embrace of Katong, in all of its historical and geographical sagas.
In No Man’s Land, you may be subject to challenging conditions such as enclosed spaces, loud noises and extreme temperatures, and you may be asked to confront sensitive themes. The ‘show’, which lasts an hour and 45 minutes, has extended its run to include the dates of Mar 27 and Apr 3 and 10.
Please note, it is open only to visitors aged 18 years and older, who are recommended to be in good physical health. The location will be revealed only to those who purchase a ticket.
For information and bookings, visit www.nomansland.sg.
2. Have kaya toast in a classic coffee shop
On weekday mornings en route to school, my mother and I would sometimes make a quick stop at Chin Mee Chin Confectionery for the timeless taste of old-school kaya toast and half-boiled eggs. If we were lucky, they would still have the sweet, butter-almond sugee cake in stock.
This quaint shop is still going strong today, and locals flock here in the mornings for a hearty breakfast before work, or to relax in the day and watch the world go by. Older regulars still spend their afternoons here reading the paper and chatting with the owners.
Chin Mee Chin is also famous for its hot cross buns during the Easter season that many proclaim to be the best in Singapore.
Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, 204 East Coast Road
Woolf Works is a communal workspace for women who wish to work in a quiet and conducive environment. (Photo: Woolf Works Facebook Page)
3. Work in a women-exclusive space
Inspired by the words of legendary author Virginia Woolf — who once said that a woman must have a room of her own — this space was started as a relaxing communal space for the women of Singapore, be they budding entrepreneurs, creatives, bloggers or stay-at-home moms.
Ladies can step in with a day pass, or sign up for different membership packages depending on how often they’d like to use the space, such as one day per week or five short days per week. Users have access to free Wi-Fi, printing and scanning facilities, pantry amenities and coffee and tea.
Woolf Works, 176 Joo Chiat Road, #02-01
Get intimate with the area of Joo Chiat by discovering some of its best food spots. (Photo: Betel Box Hostel & Tours Facebook Page)
4. Embark on a food trail
What better way is there to experience a place than to taste its delightful offerings? Thanks to its culturally-diverse heritage, Joo Chiat and the greater Katong area is regarded as one of the best districts for foodies.
If you’re not sure where to make pit stops at, or if you’d like to discover even more tasty treasures of Joo Chiat, join the Joo Chiat / Katong Food Walk organised by Betel Box Tours, where you’ll get to sample more than 40 dishes of popular and traditional local food.
The sensory six-hour tour comes highly recommended on TripAdvisor, where even Singaporeans recommend it to locals.
The food trail is conducted every Thursday at 6.30pm starting at Betel Box Hostel, and costs $80 per person.
Betel Box Hostel, 200 Joo Chiat Road
5. Go for open diving lessons
Thinking of taking your travels to the next level? Diving opens up a whole new world — and you can begin right here in the heart of Katong.
Licensed diving school GS Diving offers PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) recreational diving courses, from open water to emergency first response courses, as well as technical diving courses. Its courses are conducted in English, Mandarin, French or German, and possibly other languages upon request.
GS Diving also organises local diving trips out to the Singapore Southern Islands every weekend, and owns a live-on-board diving vessel in Indonesia.
GS Diving, 363 Joo Chiat Place
Learn to prepare creative and healthy vegetarian meals at Little Green Kitchen.
6. Learn to cook tantalising vegetarian meals
Would you prefer to learn how to prepare your own healthy meals? Joo Chiat has just the thing for you. Little Green Kitchen is a cooking studio run by former lawyer-turned-professional cook Shalu Asnani, in her own home in Katong.
Here, you can learn how to make creative, mouth-watering and healthy vegetarian cuisine spanning Asian street food and contemporary Western dishes, which are derived from Asnani’s secret family recipes and modern reinventions.
Each cooking class lasts two hours and costs $85 per person, and private classes can be arranged with a minimum of three participants. You have the option to stay and eat or to take the food home.
Little Green Kitchen, 1 Hacienda Grove, #03-05
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 148, March 18 – March 31, 2016, with the headline ‘6 Hidden things to do in Joo Chiat’.