Singapore by MRT: the Thomson-East Coast Line, Caldecott to Woodlands North

If you want to get a sense of a tiny nation with great public transportation, one way to do it is to visit every subway station in the country and check out the surroundings. I recently completed this mission in Singapore by exploring the newly-opened Thompson-East Coast Line. My post on the southern half of the line is here; this is what you’ll find if you head north:


This is a stop waiting for something to happen. When you emerge from the station, all you see is empty space with tall buildings in the background.

Of course, given its location and the fact that there’s an interchange with the Circle Line here, Caldecott won’t stay empty for long. You can already see lots of construction. In the meantime, there’s not much to see or do — though if you commit to walking about 350 meters, you can access popular stretch of giant flower shops and garden centers.

The Art-In-Transit at Caldecott is called “:) (:”. A nearby plaque says that the art is “saying HELLO 🙂 to us when we arrive and depart” with a “performance of dancing strings and smileys.” The sign also says that “the artwork is configured by a specially designed software which enhances the character, overall mood and sensation of the artwork for everyone to enjoy.” I’m not sure I get what that means, but I suppose I’d rather have some artwork than none at all.

Upper Thompson

Speaking of station art, Upper Thompson is a wasteland of tiles (some stark white, some pasty yellow with waves) until you come to the top of an escalator and find these random and delightful monkeys. If this weren’t in Singapore, I would think it might be graffiti.

The Upper Thompson stop sits smack in the middle of a large area of landed homes and shophouses.

There’s plenty of good food here, so it’s a bustling spot on a Saturday morning. And if you walk around the corner, you’ll find the Church of the Holy Spirit …

… and the tiny Zeh Shing Keong temple (the caretaker translated this as “Seven Star Mountain”).

Bright Hill

Now we’re in Bishan, a land of HDBs, temples, and the long and wonderful Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. There are many things to see here, and after reviewing a screen of options in the station, we chose to head over to Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

Founded in the early 20th century, this giant complex has grown to include multiple temples, a crematorium, gardens, and the Buddhist College of Singapore.

While at Bright Hill, we saw what might be my very favorite sign in Singapore:

As stations go, there’s not much to talk about at Bright Hill — just a few blue waves painted above the train doors and a whole lot of beige everywhere else.


The first thing you notice at the Mayflower station are the honeycomb walls. But if you want something more fun, look carefully to find the teeny-tiny bird statues that dot the walls and floor in random locations. Called “Bird Sculptures,” these just-about-life-size artworks pay homage to the nearby Kebun Baru Bird Singing Club.

Tucked in at the edge of Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West, this is a fascinating place to get a glimpse of a venerable Singapore pastime.

Mayflower is also home to a large market and food center — and beyond that, it’s HDBs as far as the eye can see.


When we asked what might be interesting at Lentor, the helpful SMRT employee at the station assured us that that “this is the most boring stop” in all of Singapore. While there’s not much more here than landed homes and HDBs, I would argue that there are other contenders for that title (we’ll get to one below). We enjoyed making our our way to the bustling AMK 628 Market …

… and seeing the little touches around Lentor that made it seem not-so-boring.

Lentor’s Art-In-Transit is called “Interlude,” a meshwork mashup of musical notations and calligraphy.


The Springleaf stop is a burst of color after the many neutral-toned stations that come before it. The focal point is the interesting (if somewhat hard to make out) “Tree of Memories” composition.

Once you get outside, you can visit a long row of shophouses (it’s like Upper Thompson but less crowded and less charming) …

… or walk down to the the Springleaf Park Connector, which runs along Sungei Seletar from Springleaf Nature Park to the Lower Seletar Reservoir.

Signs here teach you about the Orang Laut, or “sea people,” who once lived along this river.

Woodlands South

Wow — now here’s station art in full color! “3652 x 50” offers a blast of fun visual stimulation.

It’s good that there’s so much color underground, because this won our most-boring-stop-of-the-trip award. It’s pretty much HDB-land:

The only features we found were a large blocky mosque, Madjid Yusof Ishak …

… and this funny little Merlion statue in the middle of a small community garden.


If you spend long enough on any MRT, you’re bound to end up at a mall.

Woodlands dumps you out into Causeway Point, the seventh-largest suburban mall on the island. If you’re able to find your way outside, you’ll see plenty of HDBs nearby.

Woodlands is a major interchange; from here, you can catch the North South line or dozens of busses (with fruit-designated lanes).

The sometimes-entertaining, sometimes-perplexing Art-In-Transit offering here is titled “The Day’s Thoughts Of A Homespun Journey Into Night.”

Woodlands North

This is a huge station, and it looks newer and more modern than nearly any other stop on this island.

It’s surprising to find such a thoroughly developed station in the middle of mostly nothing — this is another stop that looks like it’s waiting for the world to spring up and develop beyond it. For now, it’s hard to capture the boring vastness that surrounds Woodlands North. My notes say “Republic Polytechnic … long and inaccessible green area … concrete company … construction … watchtowers … so many buildings surrounded by barbed wire.”

My favorite things about this stop are (a) this rubbish bin …

… and (b) that, if you are willing to walk 15 minutes, you can make your way to sleepy, mangrove-y Admiralty Park.

If you keep going — though this is really beyond the bounds of the Woodlands North stop — you’ll reach Woodlands Waterfront Park. From here, you can see Malaysia!

If you make it this far, I would recommend lunch or a snack at Rasa Istimewa @ Waterfront. You’ll get a view out over the water — the restaurant sits out on the jetty above — and their noodle dishes are wonderful after a long day out (side note: they also have a sister restaurant at Pasir Ris Park that’s worth a visit).

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