Welcome to one of my favorite neighborhoods in all of Singapore, Jalan Besar. The name of the area means, “Big Road” in Malay and it is appropriate. Honestly, it’s the smaller roads and alleys that bring me the most joy.
In the past, this area was swampland which gave way to farmland and slaughterhouses and later to rubber processing plants and pineapple canning. After World War I, industrialization became important, and many engineering workshops were established. You can still see many of them in action today.
For much of the 1900s, New World Amusement Park was the main character in this neighborhood. It was famous for its Chinese and Malay operas as well as cabarets. The park closed in 1987 but the area still attracts colorful characters and a vibrancy not found in more staid parts of Singapore.
This area is just starting to gentrify so you’ll find funky coffeehouses and bars tucked between small manufacturing businesses. You’ll catch a glimpse of Singapore from a generation ago while sipping your third-wave coffee.
I highly recommend grabbing a camera and having a wander around this neighborhood. You never know what you might see.
Food & Drink
- Chye Seng Huat Hardware – an old hardware store converted into an ultra-hip 3rd wave coffee shop
- Druggists – craft beer and pub food situated in a hip, retro setting
- Whiskey Library & Jazz Club – what more do I have to say
For a behind-the-scenes look
- Offbeat Singapore – for a closer look at some of the things that make this area so special, I highly recommend these tours.