Continue my adventure of visiting every MRT (subway) stop in Singapore, watching the island change from one stop to the next. For this adventure, I rode the East West Line (less formally known as the Green Line), starting in Tuas and moving eastward toward downtown.
Tuas is known for exactly two things: (1) light industry and (2) a bridge to Malaysia. I have never met anyone who has traveled to Tuas for fun, so I was surprised to find that just behind the Tuas Link MRT stop lie both a country club …
… and the Raffles Marina:
From here, you have a clear view out to usually traffic-clogged bridge that connects Singapore to Johor, Malaysia — but due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the bridge was nearly empty on Friday morning.
The East-West Line is one of the older MRT lines, so the stations tend to feel a bit dull and utilitarian. But the Tuas Link stop is a recent addition — it opened in 2017 — so it’s all shiny and new:
Tuas West Road
Things start to get pretty boring at Tuas West Road (unless industrial buildings are your thing).
The view from the train (which ran aboveground for most of the trip) says it all:
Tuas Crescent looked exactly like Tuas West Road: more boxy buildings, more overpasses, more trucks:
But this sign — found on a warehouse gate — was a new one for me:
As you ride the train east from here, you can see out over the water to the largely manmade Jurong Island, home to dozens of petrochemical industries:
Here, we continue the slog through industrial Singapore:
There’s not much variety to the landscape.
The scene starts to feel a bit more lively at Joon Koon, in part because there’s a mall! Singaporeans love shopping, so a mall is a true sign of civilization. Joon Koon also has some nice plantings that indicate that the government actually cares about this area looking attractive.
From here, you can walk to places like the Singapore Badminton Hall and the Singapore Discovery Centre (a museum where you can “discover the Singapore Story”). But Joo Koon is still pretty much an industrial zone — the air smells vaguely of chemicals, and factories predominate:
Pioneer feels like an entirely different world — at this station, you leave Tuas behind and enter the endless HDBs (Housing and Development Board apartment buildings) of the Jurong region. I found nothing but blocks and blocks of residences and a small hawker centre:
Boon Lay station lets you out directly at Jurong Point, easily the largest shopping mall in western Singapore. It’s so popular that for COVID-19 reasons, you now have to stand in line and be counted before you can enter:
A cab driver once told me about this mall’s Japanese Food Street (called Shokutsu Ten), where you can apparently get great Japanese meals for reasonable price. You can also see fake (and dusty) ninjas on the ceiling:
Lakeside offers the journey’s first real glimpse of green grass and trees:
In a perfect world, a short walk would also provide views of Jurong Lake — but the entire lake is surrounded by construction fencing right now, so there’s no water to be seen. Instead, you’ll just find condos in one direction HDBs in the other, with the above-ground train station in the middle:
This station sounds promising, but unfortunately, Singapore’s Chinese Garden (and its baby sister, the Japanese Garden) will be under renovation until 2021. So there’s not much to see right now — just this tree-lined walk (which leads to construction fencing) …
… and the first station art I’d seen on this particular adventure.
Some of Singpore’s MRT lines, like the Downtown Line, have art at every station, but the East West Line has almost none. So it was nice to see this rare example.
Sitting at the intersection of two MRT lines (the East West and the North South), a bus interchange, and three shopping malls — and surrounded on all sides by residential buildings — Jurong East is crazy-crowded. The MRT stop itself leads to a warren of mall corridors, where I ran into this giant flower:
Clementi is nothing but HDBs as far as the eye can see. And while HDBs can sometimes feel monotonous in their boxiness, I’ll never get tired of the ubiquitous laundry poles that stretch up, up, up toward the sky.
While Clementi does feel packed with buildings, there are some lovely patches of green just beyond the station:
Dover offers something entirely new: on one side of the tracks sits Singapore Polytechnic, a giant institution; on the other you’ll find a long, empty stretch of green, which separates the train tracks from the landed houses and condos beyond:
This is the first place along the East West Line that feels truly wealthy, where the housing stock is so deliberately protected from the noise and crowds of the MRT.
Buona Vista, also a stop on the Circle Line, serves a number of high-tech business parks. It is also home to the fascinatingly-shaped Star Theater …
… and is fringed by a variety of HDBs (including some with “My Buona Vista” stenciled jauntily on the facades).
High-tech, shiny architecture disappears at Commonwealth, and you’re right back into the world of HDBs. I walked along typical storefronts like this one …
… and stopped for an ice kachang at a Koufu hawker centre.
Just outside, I found what may be my favorite sign ever in Singapore:
Who knew that killer litter was a thing?
As with Lakeside, Queenstown feels entirely local on one side of the station …
… and very condo-heavy on the other:
The best part of this stop was the Redhill Market (a combination wet market and food centre). Just behind it stand a few different styles of HDB:
At Redhill, I also walked by my first mosque of the trip: Masjid Jamiyah Ar-Rabitah.
Tiong Bahru is a hipster haven, a warren of twee bookstores, fancy coffee shops, boutique galleries, and justifiably revered local eateries. It is home to Singapore’s oldest housing estate as well as enormous high-rise HDB complexes:
On the edge of the neighborhood sits Tiong Bahru Park …
… a small but welcome “haven of tranquility.”
Side note: Tiong Bahru was the first of the stops on my journey to be underground. It’s amazing how good a little bit of air conditioning can feel.
Singapore is a city-state, but this was the first stop that felt really urban. At the edge of downtown, Outram Park is a huge station — there’s a lot of underground walking to be done here. You also have a lot of exit options: you can transit to the Northeast Line or go up to Singapore General Hospital or to the enormous Police Cantonment Complex. But I opted for the quieter side of Outram Park, which brings you up near Chinatown and Duxton Hill. Here, there is a row of shophouses …
… which are home to everything from nightclubs and bakeries to the Grassroots Bookstore …
… and what I was told is the “Purple Essence Location” (aka the Purple Temple):
As with many temples in Singapore, this small temple houses both Taoist and Buddhist deities — but it also has Islamic writing and a picture of Jesus hanging over the door. If you ever have a chance to visit, the guide here (who called himself a “watchdog”) is very chatty and informative.
There’s also art all over the place around Outram Park, including sculpture …
… and murals:
But while you may feel solidly in the city at this part of the East West Line journey …
… there’s always something just beyond the buildings to remind you that you’re in the tropics!