When I first moved into Tiong Bahru, I had expected to see old folks at every turn. This is after all one of the oldest housing estates on the island, with the famous 4-storey high, white-washed “Tiong Bahru flats” that even NTU hostels are nicknamed after. Only old folks will want to live there, surely.
I was happily disappointed. My apartment block is in one of the zones that have been rebuild under the en-bloc scheme and bought by lots of young couples, pretty much like ourselves. The scheme has reduced the average age of the residents, but we still ignore each other most of the time. I remember back when we grew up with the kids of the next few units. Our parents knew each other because they had to watch over us and they trusted each other, so much so that they could keep a spare set of house keys with each other in case they lost their own. No fears of neighbours making off with a few prized possessions. No so with our present neighbours who either smile politely or turn their back and pretend that we don’t exist. I suppose we have to wait till we all have kids of our own.
There are ground floor units that I had thought will be taken up mostly by Malays, judging from what I saw in other housing estates. I was proven wrong again. Most units were taken by Chinese who enjoy the kampong feel. Many have huge pots of plants that line the corridors and hang their laundry on racks of bamboos outside the house to catch the breeze. Some even have deck chairs that they leave outside their doors so that they can lounge outside. Not unlike holiday chalets? They might blend well with the budget hotels that they are doing up nearby.
People have told me how they envied the good food that I have around my area. The hawker centre nearby is very popular, and there are a few good Chinese restaurants that we have tried but I still prefer the Redhill Hawker Centre that is a train station away though. I guess people have their own preferences. What we all agree is that we are paying a premium for the location. The same price that I am paying for my HDB unit can get me a condo in a more far-flung housing estate. I chose to give up that exclusivity and snob value for convenience and accessibility. After all, buying and maintaining a car in Singapore is a killer with the COE and ERP and current high petrol costs. With the bus stops and train stations nearby and with so many taxis in the area, I might never need to buy a car. It can be hard getting a taxi if you are living in ulu Seng Kang, but this is the heartland and is full of taxis.
The seventh month festivities is not as bad as I had feared. The getai is loud enough to be heard, but still bearable. The burning of incense paper is quite orderly. My old estate had lots of mentally unstable people whom we knew to keep away from. No such sightings yet in this area. The only problem would be to find a good primary school for future children. But that is still years away.We would hopefully work something out by then.
And something is wrong with my new laptop. Haven’t been able to post to wordpress.com for days, though I can navigate through the dashboard without problem, surf other sites and post to gmail. Keeps timing out. And I don’t have this problem with my office PC. Strange.