Continue my adventure of visiting every MRT (subway) stop in Singapore, seeing how the island changes from one stop to the next. Here I took on the second half of the East West Line (less formally known as the Green Line), starting in Singapore’s downtown center and then heading east.
Once a fishing village, Tanjong Pagar now sits at the southern edge of Singapore’s central business district. So it’s crowded with skyscrapers, the most notable of which is the plant-covered Oasia Hotel:
A few older buildings still survive in this neighborhood, including the 1905 Seng Wong Beo Temple (where you can have a ghost marriage performed)…
… and the 1933 Singapore Custom House:
Tall buildings tower as far as the eye can see above the beautiful station exits at Raffles Place (above). This is the heart of Singapore’s financial district, which is commemorated in this “Progress and Advancement” sculpture from 1988:
Raffles Place is one of the busiest MRT stations in the country, and it was once both the largest and the deepest. It serves as an interchange with the North South (Red) line.
City Hall is the gateway to Singapore’s civic district, where you can visit everything from the National Gallery …
… to St. Andrew’s Cathedral …
…to the Asian Civilizations Museum, the Victoria Theater and Concert Hall, the Arts House, and the Singapore Cricket Club (those are the older, shorter buildings in the foreground, with the skyscrapers of downtown just beyond):
And you can, of course, walk from here to the Raffles Hotel!
When the MRT was first being developed in the late 1980s, this was one of the very first stations to be opened — and like Raffles Place, it is both a Green-Red Line interchange and one of the busiest stops in the country.
Another wildly busy interchange — this time with the Downtown (Blue) line — the Bugis MRT station sits beneath a sprawling shopping area. The centerpiece is Bugis Junction Mall.
Bugis has a colorful past (it was once the center of Singapore’s now-illegal trans culture), but it now feels pretty shiny. And the area is gaining new developments, like Parkview Square (affectionately known as the Batman Building):
If this isn’t your speed and you find yourself looking for a taste of old Singapore, the Kampong Glam neighborhood is just a short walk away.
I had high hopes for Lavender, entirely based on the name (though I knew that residents had chosen the moniker back in the mid-1800s as a humorous nod to the neighborhood stink that arose from the local gasworks and night soil disposal areas). Sadly, I was disappointed — unless you walk up to Jalan Besar (which has its own stop on the Downtown Line), there’s not much to see here. It’s largely commercial, and I walked by a good number of auto parts and hardware stores. My favorite things to look at were the alleyway spiral staircases …
… and this tiny altar, which was tucked in underneath a fire extinguisher at the base of a semi-industrial building:
The MRT peeks its head out into the open at Kallang, the first aboveground station on the eastern side of this line. At first, it looks like the station is a bit in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but wide fields and HDBs off in the distance.
Walk toward the National Stadium, however, and you’ll come across the ruins of what was once the imposing entrance to the Kallang Airport.
This shaded promenade, constructed in the late 1930s, would have welcomed visitors to an airport hailed as “the finest in the British Empire.”
Sadly, if you want to see the Old Kallang Airport today, you’ll have to squint through the barbed wire (you can also see the National Stadium just beyond):
The Kallang station also offers easy access to old Singapore shophouses, some of which have beautiful Peranakan styling and tile work.
Side note: the name of this hotel comes from the Gay World Amusement Park that once stood nearby (other amusement park worlds in Singapore included Great World, New World, and Beauty World).
The Aljunied stop sits smack in the middle of Geylang, one of Singapore’s oldest Malay settlements. Today, Geylang is most famous for (1) its food and (2) its red light district (legal and regulated). For whatever reason, there are also a lot of temples — they seem to be everywhere.
The other thing really worth seeing in this neck of the woods are the shophouses, many of which seem to have been built in the fabulously detailed Late Shophouse style so popular in the 1920s.
Wandering down the street and looking at the architecture is a real treat in this neighborhood.
If you find yourself near Aljunied and need a great lunch, I’d recommend An La Ghien for Vietnamese food — it’s nothing fancy, but it’s delicious.
As far as I can tell, people pretty much head to Paya Lebar to go to the mall — it’s the largest “commercial hub” in this neck of the woods. But a short walk will bring you to the Wak Tanjong mosque …
… the Sri Sivan Temple …
… and the Foo Hai Ch’an Monastery …
… with its fabulous shrine cat!
Eunos is a very local neighborhood, and they’ve tried to keep true to the area’s heritage in the MRT station design: the roof has been crafted to suggest a traditional Malay atap building. Just beyond lies a vast world of HDBs.
Long rectangular buildings stretch out as far as the eye can see, some in the older style (above), and others in a more contemporary design:
The world changes abruptly at Kembangan, as HDBs give way to a large swath of condos and landed houses. It’s an elegant neighborhood with homes that range from fascinating …
… to just plain fancy:
But it’s not just houses here; various temples and mosques are tucked in along the side streets:
My summary of Bedok is this: HDBs, condos, and a mall.
We did not find much to see here, though we did investigate the ill-named “play corridor.” This sounded promising, but we couldn’t find anything to play with (the wind towers featured in this tiny park have lost their sails) — and the “corridor” is 4 kilometers long, so if you really want to play, you have to be willing to walk a lot.
HDBs stretch out as far as the eye can see between Bedok and this stop …
… and then at Tanah Merah, you’re suddenly in the land of private condos.
The real excitement of Tanah Merah is that this is where the East West Line splits — you can either head north through Tampines to Pasir Ris, or east to Expo and Changi.
The name here says it all: this is the site of Singapore’s convention and exhibition center. You can also access a good number of malls and business buildings at this stop. But to me, the best thing here is the station itself — I’m a big fan of the UFO (the flamingo sculpture is just a bonus):
Back in the days when we could all travel, this impressive station was the gateway to the Singapore airport — and the world.
Now, planes are few and far between, but dozens of people still get off at this stop to go to the wildly popular Jewel: “Singapore’s nature-themed entertainment and retail complex.”
That’s a fancy way of saying that the Jewel is a mall with a waterfall — but this particular waterfall (at 40 meters, the world’s tallest indoor specimen) is so impressive that it’s worth the trip.
You have to double back from Changi to get to Simei, which sits in the middle of a large cluster of HDBs …
We had a great mixed veg rice snack at a coffee shop here, but there’s not much to see — even the park connector feels distinctly un-park-like:
Tampines is a huge residential town with all sorts of amenities: a multitude of malls, a giant community space (Our Tampines Hub), and even a skate park:
It’s still very local, though — this is an area packed chock-a-block full with HDBs.
At first glance, Pasir Ris is an incredibly busy stop with a mall, a bus interchange, and a pretty cool station:
But a short walk will take you to pleasant little Pasir Ris Town Park — and another ten minutes will get you to the beach!
There are small stretches of sand, palm trees, and mangroves (all in evidence above). There’s also a great boardwalk through the mangrove swamp, where you can see an untamed river (a rarity in Singapore) …
… and where we were lucky enough to catch a jellyfish bloom!
These river jellyfish, also known as mangrove jellyfish, are wonderfully fun to watch. I can’t guarantee that they’ll be around if you try an East West Line adventure, but here’s hoping!