In addition to a large and robust subway system (the MRT), Singapore a light rail system called the LRT. The country’s 100% automated light rail lines run through densely populated residential neighborhoods cluttered with HDBs (Housing and Development Board apartment buildings) — these are very local and very much commuter oriented. Here’s what you’ll find if you explore each stop on the Bukit Panjang line.
The Bukit Panjang LRT station connects travelers to the Hillion Mall, the MRT (the end of the Downtown Line), and the Bukit Panjang bus interchange, so it’s a busy place. As with just about every stop on the LRT, there are HDBs in every direction.
If you want great Indian food, you can walk about ten minutes south from here to Karu’s Banana Leaf restaurant. The paneer tikka is the best we’ve found.
It’s about a six-minute walk from Bukit Panjang to the Petir station — some of the LRT stops are so close together that you wonder why they need so many of them. There’s not much to see or do at Petir, which is wholly residential. It’s just a good place to get glimpses of everyday HDB life.
Pending Station sits just opposite the Bukit Panjang Community Club:
In all other directions, there are rows and rows of HDBs:
As a side note, pending means “waist buckle” in Malay. Also, while I focused on the stations stops themselves on this trip, you can see plenty out of the tinted train windows as you travel. Just a few blocks beyond Pending station you’ll find Masjid Al-Iman, a mosque whose design I just love:
There’s not much to see when you alight at Bangkit Station, but walk just a little ways and you’ll get to a wide green swath behind the HDBs, a colorful community garden, and the trails, playgrounds, and workout stations of Zhenghua Park.
This was the first LRT station where I noticed art just below the stairs. None of the artwork I saw on this journey was labeled or credited in any way; my best guess is that it’s all the product of local schoolchildren.
I really like riding the LRT — if you can get a seat right up front, it’s like being on the world’s slowest roller coaster.
I saw the first real signs of life at Fajar Station, which lets out onto the Fajar Shopping Centre.
This shopping mall was an unusual space for Singapore, in that it was both multi-storied and not air conditioned. There was lots and lots of food on offer in multiple eating areas, including this dessert stall:
I really liked the architectural detail of these HDBs at Fajar.
Every LRT stop has a small convenience shop at the entrance, and the one above at Segar is no exception. Just beyond this was a food court …
… and beyond that, HDBs of all shapes and sizes:
Jelapang felt pretty beige — this was not a stop that offered much in the way of visual interest.
The only HDB group that broke up the monotony was this purple extravaganza, which had great floor tiles:
As an aside, I had some concerns about the education being offered at this institution:
And I loved the station art!
Duck behind the HDBs here, and you’ll soon find yourself at tiny Bukit Panjang Park and Pang Sua Pond:
It’s also a short walk to the Senja-Cashew Community Club, where you can buy salmon from a vending machine!
To get from Senja to the next part of the line, you have to return back through Bukit Panjang — the eastern part of this LRT line is a loop:
Everything changes at Phoenix — this area feels newer, more open, and less densely populated. There is a mix of HDBs, condos, landed houses, and empty green space. The HDBs are more colorful and architecturally detailed …
… and there is a park connector that you can walk along all the way up to Kranji!
Teck Whye has exactly three things: a mall, HDBs …
… and impenetrable green space (I know from having tried that you won’t get very far in exploring it — there are fences with “we’ll shoot you” signs).
There’s a lot going on at Keat Hong: there are condos, there are HDBs that look like old HDBs …
… and there are HDBS that look like condos:
There’s a mall here, too, and a number of eating options …
… and they also have scary station art!
Things change again at South View — now it’s back to densely-packed HDBs, lots of them, everywhere you look.
This is as good a place as any to note that the LRT windows are famous for being made of “smart glass,” which means that they become tinted for privacy reasons when they pass apartment buildings. Pretty cool stuff.
Choa Chu Kang
It’s hard to tell where South View ends and Choa Chu Kang begins — they’re all part of the same great big planning area and residential center.
This is by far the busiest station on the line, even busier than Bukit Panjang. Choa Chu Kang is on the North South line of the MRT; it’s also a bus terminal and home to Lot One, a large shopping mall. From the LRT stop you can also walk to Choa Chu Kang Park and to the uninspired looking Keat Hong Community Club:
As a side note, Choa Chu Kang is also home to the largest cemetery in all of Singapore — but you need to take a bus to get there!