Domestic Tourism Day

Katrathonall photos on this post, including this graphic composite, are by J

It is strange how on an island just 640 square kilometres (same size as Tokyo and 2.5 times smaller than greater London), some form of regionalism still exists. Maybe regionalism is too big a word...maybe I should say kampung-ism.

J and I have lived in the Toa Payoh-Bishan-Bendemeer area all of our lives. And even when our families moved, they stayed within this kampong, unable to imagine life any further north, south, east or west. And since J and I don't own a car, we seldom wander to other kampongs unless...

Grand Katong Dame - the Iconic "Red House" Bakery...undergoing surgery's Domestic Tourism Day!

In our lower/middle-class Singapore minds, once bus #31 turned into Katong, we smelled Old Money. Katong is the genteel east, leisure-class east. The quaint peranakan east. The nostalgic art-deco east. The place where the early families used to keep their seaside/holiday homes. Here the buildings are lower and you can better see the sky. Even if all the land reclamation has pushed the coastline far away, in our imagination we saw faded sepia photographs of half-naked children with gold ankle bracelets and colourful beach balls, slim men in slicked-back hair and white suits on wicker chairs, and ladies who wear pearls to the beach.

RetroNetCafe@Katong2 RetroNetCafe@Katong1

But even Katong cannot resist change. Its sleazy neighbour Geylang has already crept into Katong with its Hotel 81 and dingy karaoke bars and foreign hostesses. The cheap hotels and migrant population has spawned a row of internet cafes (only $1 per hour!) in the old shophouses sporting names like "Heaven and Hell". Its expired shopping centres now house SME shipping companies, traditional chinese physicians, middle-aged beauticians and domestic maid agencies.

kimchoo Kuehkuehlicious
kim choo - my inspiration!

What has not changed over time is Katong's reputation as a foodie's heaven. We had a teatime snack of nonya kueh, kaya toast, otah toast and kopic-c (and free aroma of chup chai from the kitchen) at peranakan matriarch Golden Pearl/Kim Choo's kitchen, followed quickly by Laksa and Otah. And folks, Katong also has a very authentic looking Taiwanese eatery where we spotted on its menu, among other Taiwanese yummies, Wan Kueh and YouYu Gen!

So friends, on your Domestic Tourism Day, if you are not familiar with the Katong kampong, we recommend that you drop by for a day's worth of strolling, photography, conversation and feasts. And be serious about tourism, take the bus.


sUdkeOki said…
I thought I need a car coz I wanna go to all these unexplored areas, but dunno how. But ur trip to Katong is inspiring. Will get a map and bus guide soon. There's more to dig around for on this island. Better still, lemme know of your next field trip, if you dun mind me tagging along. HA! N thanks for the Tokyo reference. Now I can tell people the size of S'pore without them feeling like it's that claustrophobic.
ampulets said…
but it is claustrophobic! tokyo has the rest of japan...singapore has, er, JB?!? city-states are like tool sheds, never quite part of the main house. tokyo is the living room of a mansion. and i guess NY is the penthouse of a condominium ;P
monk said…
Amerika is imperial Rome, and NYC is Circus Maximus.
rinaz said…
Errm .. sorry but, how do I get there? Take 31 and drop where exactly?
Anonymous said…
er.. I think u got it wrong. Tokyo is like three times bigger than Singapore.
ampulets said…
marina - bus#31 leaves from Toa Payoh interchange. press the bell once you spot the old Katong shopping centre. Alternatively, i think bus #14 (from orchard rd) and #10 goes directly to the street with all the shophouses/food.

anon - you are right, thanks for pointing it out :> i guess singapre is about the same size as Central Tokyo, but way smaller than the whole of tokyo.
Anonymous said…
Tokyo is 2187.08km2 and Singapore is 683km2.

Anonymous said…
marina- SBS 12 also goes down the area.

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