Photo: The Straits Times
Modern day Keong Saik street is a vibrant enclave lined with hipster restaurants and boutique hotels. But did you know, the street that was named after a Malaccan-born Chinese businessman?
Two religious places of worship - Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple and Cundhi Gong Temple - mark the start and end of the street that was once a seedy red light district in Singapore in the 1960s.
Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple (Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World)
Decades ago, Cundhi Gong Temple was frequented by majies, who would come to the temple to take a vow of celibacy when they arrived in Singapore from mainland China. So the street on Keong Saik was often filled with bustling activities, not to mention notorious ones as the area was a gangsters’ paradise rife with turf wars. Brothels brimming with prostitutes also lined the street. While the Keong Saik of today is mostly cleaned up, two brothels still remain operational on that street.
Thankfully for me, I was born into a much more peaceful and orderly era of Singapore. I never encountered a majie before and I’ve certainly not seen Keong Saik in its heydays.
Keong Saik Street (Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World)
When I took a morning walk around Keong Saik with my guide one Saturday morning, it was sleepy town (save for one or two coffee shops or bakeries that welcome early birds). But the streets came alive in my mind as my guide told me stories from a time before.
Tong Ah Eating House is open for breakfast in the mornings. Go there for traditional kaya toast served in French toast or steamed bread. In the evenings, it also serves zi char dishes. (Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World)
I was on a walking tour organised by Park Regis Singapore as part of its year-long Stay Well programme which aims to add value to guest experiences by incorporating a personal touch.
And one way the hotel tries to do so is through its Rent an #SGInsider tour that’s conducted by a local guide.
The tour takes you off the beaten track away from the touristy Chinatown, a spot that is often identified as a ‘must-see’ attraction in guide books.
Instead, you’d embark on the tour on foot beginning with a train ride from Clarke Quay MRT station which is literally a stone’s throw (less than 5 min walk) from the hotel. Take the train two stops (your train ride will be paid for by the hotel) to Outram MRT station where you’ll begin the walking tour. Along the way, the guide will point out to one of Singapore’s first condominium apartments.
One of Singapore’s first condominium apartments built around Chinatown. This apartment building might look run down today but it was considered very luxurious in the past. (Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World)
Then the guide would head through Keong Saik where you’ll see temples and shophouse architecture from the 1920s-1940s, before moving on to The Pinnacle @ Duxton of the 20th century and then to the 1960s flats and Peranakan houses at Everton Park.
As a local Singaporean, the 1.5h-long tour was one of the best ways I spent my Saturday mornings. Taking the tour was like one big history lesson for me, but not in a bad way. There were so many gems of information about the Singapore way of life that were unlocked, and suddenly given a new meaning, just by observing historical buildings.
At the crossroads of Spottiswoode Park Road and Blair Road. The area near Everton Park is the first Peranankan enclaves in Singapore. (Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World)
Here are 4 other things not to be missed on the Rent an #SGInsider tour. I suggest you keep your ears peeled when the guide is talking you through these stops and you might even want to snap a pic or two for the gram’ while you’re there:
- Listen out for what Potato Head on Keong Saik was built to look like.
- Must try the traditional ang ku kuehs from Ji Xiang Ang Ku Kueh at Everton Park. They are #TheBomb. Plus, only $1 each.
Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World
- Wall art at Everton Park: Find out who drew them and why?
- Look out for symbols of cranes and phoenixes or Chinese words on the Peranakan houses at Everton Park. Find out what they mean.
Photo: Mary-Ann Soh, Her World
You can sign up for Rent an #SGInsider tour when you book a Stay Well package at Park Regis’ hotel. Rooms start from $199++. As part of the package, enjoy complimentary use of Handy phone with mobile internet, complimentary daily buffet breakfast for up to 2 pax and priority access to the tour that is held every Saturday from now until end of Oct from 9am-10.30am.
Other hotel facilities include swimming pool, gymnasium, bicycle and e-scooter rentals, business centre services and more.