Links to the past

Old flats in Tiong Bahru have been revamped into a snazzy boutique hotel called Link.
TAY SUAN CHIANG tracks down other transformations.

New lease of life
Instead of being torn down, three old buildings are being refurbished with heritage intact

By Tay Suan Chiang, DESIGN CORRESPONDENT, The Straits Times (29/07/07)

IN THESE days when it is hip to recycle, some people are going beyond plastic bags... to bricks and mortar.

A growing number of property owners and developers are choosing to work with the buildings they have on hand rather than tear them down and create a spanking new building.

Not only is the heritage of the building retained, but industry experts say refurbishing an existing building can sometimes also be half the price of tearing down and building a new one.

One building getting a new lease of life this way is the former Asia Insurance Building at Finlayson Green in downtown Raffles Place.

The 53-year-old landmark building - which was the tallest in South-east Asia during the 1950s - was bought by serviced residence owner and operator The Ascott Group last year for $110 million.

It is being turned into serviced apartments at a cost of $60 million, and is due to open next year. It's also acquiring a swanky new name - Ascott Raffles Place.

Though the 20-storey building is not required by regulations to be conserved, Ascott is conserving and restoring it anyway.

'The building has a special place in local architecture,' says Mr Gerald Lee, chief brand and marketing officer of The Ascott Group, 'and like an unpolished diamond, it has charm upon closer look.'

What's more, by conserving a building of its age - with the character that comes with it - Ascott is able to offer jaded travellers a different experience from the usual contemporary-modern serviced apartments.

Mr Lee, 41, adds that given the building's historical significance, the retro residence tucked away amid skyscrapers might well become a tourist attraction or a 'must-see' for visitors.

At trendy Tiong Bahru, two blocks of former Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) flats have been converted into the newly opened Link Hotel, with 288 rooms of boutique accommodation.

The SIT is the predecessor to today's Housing Board, and built affordable housing for workers.

Link Hotel's director and general manager George Chen, 38, says: 'Being one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore, Tiong Bahru has a rich heritage of its own. The charm and cultural history of these two buildings are part of this heritage and should be retained.'

This move is getting the nod of approval from industry experts.

The president of the Singapore Heritage Society Kevin Tan, 45, hails the move to give a new lease of life to Singapore's architectural golden oldies.

He says: 'Buildings are meant to be used and not only to be admired, and these efforts should encourage more developers to convert iconic buildings for modern living.'

Well-known architect Mink Tan, 42, of Mink Tan Architects, says it is crucial to leave a part of past architecture to the next generation, as it 'shows the transfer of aesthetic values through the years and in some cases, even cultural values'.

However, he adds that such buildings should not be conserved just for the sake of conservation, but have 'energetic redaptive use'.

In other words: 'Ultimately, they should still continue to encourage people to come to the place.'

Links to the past

50 Tiong Bahru Road

By Tay Suan Chiang, DESIGN CORRESPONDENT, The Straits Times (29/07/07)

THE sound of birds singing at the famed Tiong Bahru bird corner may soon be heard once again.

Bird lovers clutching cages containing their chirpy feathered friends used to flock to the open-air corner at the former Block 53 in Tiong Bahru Road.

However, they stopped going there about four years ago when the block was slated for redevelopment. The area fell silent.

But, good news - the bird corner is to rise like a phoenix.

The housing block where the corner was located has been transformed into the 288-room, boutique Link Hotel, which opened two weeks ago.

And the hotel is encouraging the return of the bird enthusiasts to showcase the songs of their talented tweeters.

It may also hold an annual bird singing contest to recapture the former glory of the area, says a spokesman for the hotel.

The hotel is made up of two blocks which used to be flats under the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) - the predecessor of today's Housing Board.

Over the past two years, these have been converted into the boutique hotel. The cost of this extensive renovation was $45 million, according to earlier reports. However, when Life! checked this week, the hotel said the figure had changed, but did not disclose details.

Conservation challenges
IT IS not just the bird corner that is staying. Even the facade of the housing blocks has been kept.

Turning the two residential blocks into commercial buildings came with its challenges. One of which is age. Each block is more than 50 years old and the hotel had to deal with wear and tear of the older building materials.

The facade and structure of the two blocks also had to be conserved according to government regulations. This meant the original window louvres had to be retained.
Each piece was painstakingly taken down and treated for water seepage and parasites before being reinstalled.

'Retaining the facade and structure required extra effort during construction but we went ahead with it so the heritage of the building can be preserved,' says Mr George Chen, 38, the hotel's director and general manager.

The original balconies were retained, but guests no longer have access to them. Each room also comes with double-glazed windows to keep out noise.

Another challenge faced by the project's architects, local firm Liu & Wo, is that an MRT tunnel runs below the two blocks. That meant the weight of the two buildings had to be carefully regulated to not affect the tunnel.

Besides reconfiguring the hotel rooms from former three- and four-room flats, sections of the second, third and fourth floors were removed to create an atrium in the lobby. This allows in natural light, making the hotel look more spacious.

The interior of the rooms reflect Singapore's multicultural heritage - they are done up in Chinese, Indian, Malay and modern styles.

The hotel is the first project in Singapore for Macau-based Hang Huo Enterprise Group, which has businesses in property, construction, hotels and casinos.

The group won a tender put out by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to build the 62-year-lease property four years ago.

The hotel did not disclose the original tender bid when Life! asked this week. But judging by the buzz and number of visitors when Life! stopped by, the multi-million-dollar exercise has been worth it.

And with 288 rooms, Link Hotel is possibly Singapore's largest boutique hotel. There are 150 rooms in its Lotus block (named after a flower symbolic of Macau) and 138 rooms in the Orchid block (named after Singapore's national flower).

The two blocks are linked by a 38m-long air-conditioned bridge - a first for a hotel here.
Rooms in Lotus are open for bookings and cost from $260 to $600 a night. These cater more to business travellers.

The Orchid block is aimed at tourist groups - mainly Chinese - and will be ready in October.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Parts of the second, third and fourth stories of the building were removed to create an atrium, but the original windows and louvres were retained. -- ST PHOTOS: DESMOND FOO

COMFORT FOOD: In the Malay-themed room, the headboard was designed to recreate the weave found on ketupat. Other rooms are done up in Chinese, Indian and modern styles. Guests can buy the custom-made lamps and other furnishings.

TROPICAL TOUCHES: The dark wood of the hotel lounge gives it a modern, tropical look.

can't get enough of calico?

how about her endless "why" questions?

"smally, why do you prefer the toilet sink than say, the kitchen sink?"

"chaplin, why doesn't smally have a tail?

"tuxedo, why do you have these furry things growing on your behind? don't think i have any. why?"

"slide, why does your 8mm template turn everything green?"

"woman, why are some plastics recyclable and some not?

"man, why don't they all like cats?

(click on slide for captions)

Singapore PhotoPoetry

"On the street I knew before"

I saw a place with a nice new face

On the street I knew before -

A place where passion stirs and memory stays,

A lingering dream of yesterday once more.

I saw a house that memories rouse,

And an old tree I used to climb

To see the shed for cows, the garret for mouse,

Just like once upon a time.

Now I often walk on the street we lived and loved before.

I linger long, as I've missed you more and more.

Each pace brings new hope as I try to trace

Old folks and friends who still stay in God's grace.

Poem: Andrew Yip

An Ingenious Reverie through the Poetic Vision

"Our vision is binocular, it is in a continuous state of flux, while the camera captures but a single isolated condition of the moment." - Edward Western (1886 - 1958)

"Our poetic vision is beyond lights and shadows, beyond human eyes and the most powerful lenses and sometimes beyond our understanding of the things around us. It is a creative process that is often powered by a helicopter vision and supported by a keen sense of awareness of God's greatness and grace, a spontaneous overflow of feelings and a balance of reason and imagination." (Andrew Yip)

The poetic vision is achieved here through photography and poetry. It is PhotoPoetry, but we can refer to it simply as A Poetic Vision in Photography.

The photography presented here is the creative photography of Yip Cheong-Fun, the Master Photographer who was named "Outstanding Photographer of the Century" by the Photographic Society of New York in 1980 in recognition of his achievement in photography, particularly for his work in Seascape. In the citation of this award, the Society stated that this was the highest tribute ever given to a photographer in the world. The Singapore Government conferred on Yip Cheong-Fun the coveted 1984 Cultural Medallion, the highest national award given to an individual for his or her achievement and contribitions to art and culture.

The poetry presented here is that of Andrew Yip, an accomplished poet and author of many publications, a psychologist, university administrator and teacher, property developer, and a military commander of field rank.

Braving the Rain - Andrew Yip

"No greater love than thine"

I walk in the heavy rain

And search in vain in a narrow lane

The tender love I once knew

To start my life anew.

It was the same narrow lane

Where I was caressed by wind and rain.

With you then by my side, we whispered and walked together,

The fury or roar of a downpour - It didn't matter.

Are those rain-drops on my face

Or sadness and guilt that time won't erase?

Take, oh take those tears away,

And say You'll forgive and by my side stay.

I brave the wretched wind and relentless rain

To search for You in the narrow winding lane.

Here I'll remain - lonely, lost and in pain,

And I will call out Your name - again and again.

Photo: Yip Cheong-Fun

Poem: Andrew Yip

Chinatown - 牛車水









葉文 Andrew Yip 著

Singapore PhotoPoetry

A Poetic Vision

A tribute to Yip, SEL for his contribution to lyrics

God made the world in six days flat,
On the seventh, He said, “I’ll rest,”
So He let the thing into orbit swing,
To give it a dry-run test.

A billion years went by, then He
Took a look at the whirling blob;
His spirits fell, as He shrugged,
“Ah well,It was only a six-day job.”

“Back to the Drawing Board”, Yip

Yip was the lyricist for The Wizard of Oz and Finian’s Rainbow. He also wrote the lyrics for Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, April in Paris, and dozens if not hundreds of other songs.

I suspect that Yip and I agreed about practically nothing in politics, religion, or anything else but, if there’s a heaven (which Yip most definitely denied), he’s certainly one of the people I’d like to meet there.

For more poetry and photography of the ServiceWorld Gallery, visit our blog sites at and and our web sites at and

A new lease of life

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Front)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

Taken for granted and treated as USELESS, these building are now in the spotlight again! Though old, they can still be useful and can be called upon to help Singapore retain her economic competitiveness!

See the excerpts from the mainstream newspaper reports:

From the Straits Times :
THE Housing and Development Board (HDB) is taking steps to increase the supply of flats amid growing demand.....The HDB is also working on a pilot project to lease vacated flats under the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) to the public in the short term......Next month, the HDB will call a tender for a managing agent to lease out 120 vacated Sers flats in Blocks 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 at Tiong Bahru Road.

From TODAY newspaper:
The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will lease 120 flats meant to be demolished under its en bloc scheme for public housing. HDB said the vacated flats in Tiong Bahru Road, part of the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers) scheme, will be rented out to the public on a short-term basis......Mr Eugene Lim, assistant vice-president at ERA Singapore said, "The first batch is in Tiong Bahru Road. The location is quite central and would appeal to those looking for locations near the city. The Sers flats are in serviceable condition. As a short-term solution, it will work."

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The Original Boon Tiong Flats (Back Facing)

The NEW Boon Tiong Flats.

(Most of the residents in those short blocks in front moved into these few brand new tall blocks after SERS)

sun(set) gazer

Share my Grief.

Drop my kids off their kindergarten at Pearlbank this morning and was shocked to see that 80% of residents at Pearlbank has agreed to put their property up on sale.

I may not have lived in Pearlbank before but I still feel a deep sense of loss. Everyone who had lived in the Tiong Bahru Estate before could not have missed this Iconic building during their stay here.

This building was recently featured in URA's SINGAPORE 1:1 City, A Gallery of Architects and Urban Design. But I guess that has done nothing to help protect this building from destruction. It will probably remain in URA"s Gallery and we will have nothing REAL to show the future generations except for pictures from flickr or videos from youtube.

I'm not sure if it is too late to help these Pearlbank Anti En-Bloc folks now.

I sincerely hope their resistance will not be futile.

Global Warming Raining

Last few days have cast some serious doubt on me whether our planet really suffers from Global Warming.

Most of the days I had been wet & cold & as much as I tried to evoke my anger to keep me warm, I couldn't. The flu came. And knowing how resting (that is sleeping or lying on bed reading plenty books) is the best medicine (for me, at the very least), I have resigned to the fact that I'll look (and sound) sickly for the next few days.

Try to make the best out of the situation, I'd say.

Nothing so far (except for some childish, defiant gesture in MRTs when I purposely coughed towards the direction of people who refused to give a way--despite me coughing an "Sorry, excuse me"--and those who just pressed into the train while I was trying to disembark).

Oh well, their thick skin should be adequate to protect them.


Back to Global Warming. Came across this rather old article, "The Irony of Global Warming: More Rain, Less Water" by Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor (16/11/05) & realized how clueless I have been. Global Warming does lead to raining. A lot of it.

Quoted from the article:
As the climate warms, more water will fall in the form of rain rather than snow, studies have shown.


And we can expect more 'showers with thunders' if this Singapore Weather site were to be believed.

Click the above snapshot to enlarge

Same Same But Different

Blk 78 Yong Siak Street

Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace

Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street

Block 78 in the Tiong Bahru Estate is the only building in the Tiong Bahru Estate with 3 different street names.

It is also the longest and tallest building amongst the conserved flats in the Tiong Bahru Estate.

In past, people refer to this estate as the "GOR LAU CHU" (Hokkien for 5 storey house).

In fact, after these buildings were completed, people often pop by this area to gawk at the "tall" buildings as it was the only place in Singapore where they could see flats! (Remember, this was in the 1930s).

Okay, back to my story on block 78. Being Singaporeans, most of us would assume that all blocks in Singapore has only one block number and one street name...which is always the case.

But the rules are different here at Tiong Bahru! How often I have to walk back and forth to look for some lost "sheep" who insisted that they are waiting at the right block for me.

Yeah! The block number is right but the spot is wrong. Many generations before us had been confused. And many generations after us will continue to be confused.

If you have nothing to do, just walk around Block 78. Chances are, you will meet some brand new pizza hut delivery boys making their rounds.....looking hopelessly lost. And during the Chinese New Year period, the hamper uncles will be walking around looking quite frustrated as they struggle to find the right address.

I wonder if Santa would be confused too........

exemplary community cats, exemplary communities

news release | for immediate release

the ministry of social concerns recognises that well-integrated community cats are a testimony of their community's cohesiveness, cultural tolerance and sense of responsibility.

in recognition of the efforts of the exemplary townships that have overcome great odds to keep their cats tipped, fed and safe, we hereby present them with a much deserved "Our Town Meows" Award.

in third place, represented by Auntie Ah Lan and Auntie Ann's regal 'grandma' tabby, the "Our Town Meows" Award goes to...

Tanglin Halt 10-storey (zhap-lao)!

in second place, represented by this larger-than-life mascot of fuzzy black fur, the "Our Town Meows" Award goes to...

Lorong Ah Soo!

last but not least, and no small credit to this curiously and uncommonly rotund puff tortie, grand prize goes to...

Toa Payoh Lorong 4!

mayor ma receives award from minister with pride, "I am so proud of the people of toa payoh and the other winning towns, who are an example to all for their humanity towards the cats and to each other. on behalf of the cats, especially our lorong 4 puff tortie, i say a big thank you to them."

honorary mention


whenever the woman visits lorong ah soo and sees the cat auntie, she always feels a sense of the unresolved. this arises from many years ago when she was much younger (and obviously stupid). coming home late one day, she saw the cat auntie scolded by a nasty man who told her that her feeding was a nuisance. the girl the woman was felt compelled to step forward to the cat auntie's aid, but her indignation rose as a hopeless jumble in her mind and turned to fear and cowardice before she could take the first step. now as an auntie herself, she is spoiling for just such a fight but the split second opportunity to stand up for what you believe in comes mostly once. miss it, it doesn't likely come knocking again.

annoying kid sister

it's a little crowded here already, calico!

alright, have it your way...

The Coma

Say the name, Alex Garland & I doubt it rings a bell. But say the movie, The Beach & I guess you will have heard about it. Yes, no thanks to the rather chubby Leonardo DiCaprio acting in that show.

Anyway, the movie was adapted from the similarly titled novel—also his first one—written by Alex Garland.

This review is, however, not about that novel.

It’s about his third novel, published 10 years later: The Coma.

It is about a young man reluctantly stood up against some thugs in a train as they harassed a girl. Understandably, the baddies, in turn, rewarded his heroic effort by attacking him & he fell into a coma.

Thus the title.

But wait, there’s more to it.

The story unfolds as he apparently woke up in a hospital & started to experience “strange” things (Well, nothing as spectacularly eerie as that in “The Dead Zone”, by Stephen King). For examples: in one moment it was night & soon, in another, it was dawn. In addition, the young man couldn’t recall how he went from one place to another. He couldn’t remember his name, nor his occupation.

A case of amnesia, you’d say.

No, there’s more to it.

Oh well, further elaboration will definitely spoil the plot.

Let me just say why I like this book. First is its unique plot. It narrates a coma patient, after encountering “strange” things, realized that he’s still in coma & started his quest in regaining his consciousness. (A spoiler? Hope not) Second is its brevity. Relatively short & easy to read. Some chapters are condensed into one single page effectively conveying the plot straight to the point. Third is the illustrations by the author’s father, Nicholas Garland, a British political cartoonist. Odd sketches in black & white, but fits the ambience.

One of Nicholas Garland's sketches in The Coma.

It’s a gripping book, not unlike Kafka’s Metamorphosis (also reviewed here).

And just like the latter, there’s a chapter towards the end that puzzles me, namely, Chapter 13. Get the book & hope to hear your thought about it (especially on that chapter). I suspect it just makes a rather convenient, albeit senseless, transition from Chapter 12 to 14, but somehow I doubt it.

Then again, I won’t make sense till you read the book.

Leave kids something to remember

The Electric New Paper :
By Leong Ching
23 July 2007

HOW quickly we forget. For years, I have been driving to work, passing by a giant on the left, and on Monday, he was gone.

I almost didn't notice it. A negative presence is like a ghost and we have no time for ghosts in our determinedly cheery island.

It was sad, too bad, but life goes on, with or without an 80-year-old Angsana tree.

We are stupid and cruel and ignorant, and after 20 years, when it is several degrees hotter, we will realise it, but it will be too late.

In the meantime, we have National Day Parades to watch and new property launches to view.

Our homes are all new, because the old ones have been torn down.

There is no room for old in this young country, because we are for peace and prosperity, don't you know?

I once shed a tear for the National Library. It was the place of many memories and a reminder of a time of innocence.

But now it's gone, like innocence lost. It was found to be - too small, too old, standing in the way of the new university. Today, it's a nice big tunnel. Much better. It's short, doesn't save us much time, but every second counts, don't you know? How many of you even remember the old National Library?

Can't remember right? You won't even notice it's gone. Chipping away at memories doesn't seem to matter.

It doesn't show up in any national statistic, it doesn't lead to Singapore slipping down any competitive index.

It is merely a negative presence in the hollow of our collective minds.

Recently, there appears to be a greater urgency for the older generation to tell their stories - before they are forgotten.


The older MPs are writing books, former Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee, who ought to have written his own memoirs, had a biography released.

Why do they bother? Because they think, as I do, that it is important to have a history.

Here is what former MP Chiang Hai Ding said about writing his memoirs and encouraging other MPs to do the same.

'Our nation is just over 40 years old, or two generations. How did it come about? What did it take to make it up to here? What future awaits us?

'How many younger Singaporeans, of 50 years and below, know these historical facts?'

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who has written his own memoirs, said that the stories by different MPs will 'give a multi-dimensional view of past events and provide richness and texture to the story... When writing memoirs, you are talking to posterity.'

It is an urge which springs from something primordial in us, in any collection of people who have shared experiences. Somehow, having gone through something together - dengue outbreaks, Sars, financial crises, race riots - we become closer.

But it is one thing to tell a story. It is another to listen to it. You can't get people to listen to a story if they feel it bears no relation to their lives.

We can't feel part of the same country if it is like a dune of shifting sand, change from one day to the next, with no sense of permanence, no sense of history. We ought to be more judicious in what we are doing in the name of progress.

I like to tell my kids about the places I ate in when I grew up (Odeon beef noodles), the places I studied in (the kindergarten off Oxley Road where I lived), my favourite place for ice-cream (Cold Storage Creamery, opposite the present Centrepoint).

Most times, the stories hang in thin air - I can't take them to look at any of the places because they were nearly always gone.

One day, I might wake up and see there isn't really anything for me to remember.

Where are the Privates and where are the HDBs?

There are 2 categories of flats in the Tiong Bahru Estate and these flats are
split up into 2 sections within the Tiong Bahru Estate.

On one side are the HDB regulated flats while on the other side are the privatised properties.

HDB SIT flat (Post War)

The HDB Post War flats are rather angular and the shapes are very standardised. Some people always refer to it as the ones with the round balconies. Actually, they are not balconies but the staircases for the residents to climb up to their unit. It is also what makes the building unique and charming.

These flats were built from the 1948 - 1951 period. It was built by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT). Some people refer these flats as the LIM YEW HOCK flats but I do not think they are built during his reign as Chief Minister of Singapore as he only took office in 1956. So to call these the LIM YEW HOCK's flats is actually inaccurate. I usually call them the SIT flats but that still does not clear up the confusion as the PRE-WAR section are also built by SIT.

An easier way is to identify them by the block number. Blk 17 to Blk 50 are flats which requires the buyer to comply with the HDB's eligibility scheme.

Originally, these flats were rented out and later, resident were "encouraged" to buy them in 1973, when HDB took over the responsibility of running the estate.

Blk 55 to Blk 82 are the Pre-War Conserved flats which were privatised in 1965 to 1967 under the Government's pilot Home Ownership Scheme. The conservation status was only awarded in 2003.


These flats were built in 1936 and most of them survived the bombing of World War II. Blk 78 Guan Chuan Street even has a bomb shelter beneath them.

The walls of these buildings are really tough. If you even need to hack away these "historical" wall, your contractor can get rather creative with his choice of words while hacking them.

Although these buildings look almost the same from the outside, the buildings actually contain apartments of various sizes. Even the building height is rather varied. Some buildings are a mixed 2 to 3 storey high while some are as tall as 5 storey. The "super senior" taxi drivers will always refer this place as the "GOR LAU CHU" (5 storey flats). (Do not attempt to utter this to the modern day taxi drivers...unless you have a lot of time or is dying to start a conversation.)

The Singapore Government started selling these flats to the residents from 1965 to 1967 under a Government's pilot Home Ownership Scheme. Which explains the reason why the 99 lease starts from 1965 to 1967 and not from 1936.

they love big cats

don't worry, calico is just yawning!

your results

pristine forest - i know a place like this even though i have not seen it for myself. i see it in my mind and i go there sometimes in a private moment of pure desire, to look at who i am truly meant to be.

"Magneto was right"?

Oh yes, that phrase came to mind when I read this article, "Recognise gay rights, McKellen urges Singapore" (ABC News, 18/07/07) and this one, "Homosexuality: Legalising something that is not right does not make it right" (Straits Times, 19/07/07). Especially as the former features Ian McKellen (who played "Magneto" in the X-Men movies).

But first, let me state that I'm not a gay.

However it doesn't mean that I subscribe to the idea that it is not right to be a gay.

Who to decide what is right or not? C'mon. Legally speaking, it is the government, of course. Morally? Just because "the bible tells you so"? (Oh man, now the song American Pie comes to mind).

Touchy subject, isn't it?

So, let's not talk homosexuality being right or wrong in that "moral" context.

In legal term, it is then. Up to the government. That is to say, it is relative. In one country it can be wrong, in another it's right. Take Hong Kong for one example. Let's refer to the recent news, "Hong Kong court rejects gay sodomy law" (, 17/07/07).

If it's relative--if whether homosexuality is right or not is relative--I lose interest to further discuss about the topic. Heh.

Really, why bother? It's beyond anybody's power. Just ensure one is aware of certain country's law regarding homosexuality. Respect the law.

Something is going to happen here!?

I had a very strange encounter with a buyer yesterday. Something that she mumbled to me got me pondering if what she had said does makes any sense at all.

The words uttered to me was, "I'm gonna buy this place because I know the Government is going to do something about this place!" (From her facial expression, you could tell that it must be something good.)

Yah! Right! I thought to myself. If it is true, why tell me BEFORE buying the place? Why not tell me AFTER you secure the unit.

My skepticism kicks in. I was already quite cheese off with the fact that this buyer tried to by pass me by going to my seller directly. Luckily my clients are people with a HEART and they contacted me about this unexpected buyer who pop up at their door. I had to drop everything I was doing and rush down to the unit to guide this buyer through the flat.

It was halfway through the viewing that this buyer uttered those words. Being one who is excessively curious (the unglam word is KAY POH ), I kept probing to find out what she meant. I guess she is probably the best tease in Tiong Bahru. I just cannot squeeze out any information from her. It is like she has taken the oath of secrecy and the information she had are the STATE's official secrets. Breath a word and you die!

So no cheque, no offers, no attempt to negotiate or whatsoever, and no answers to my questions, she left.

In the evening, I received an email from a fellow agent who has a unit for sale in Tiong Bahru. In his email, it contain something....."hearsay that the garmen is naming Tiong Bahru the Heritage Town"

Wham! Is this what it is all about? Could this be the piece of information that lady was struggling with? Maybe yes, maybe not.

I googled HERITAGE TOWN and all possible combination of the words but I found nothing conclusive. I was probably googling for more than 1 hour. By then I was too tired and furthermore, I had to lend a listening ear to my friend who is kinda frustrated with office politics. So I logged off and forgot about the whole thing and my attention shifted to my friend's woes.

Fast forward to this evening. While talking to a friend's friend, potential buyer and Tiong Bahru 'sample" resident turned Tiong Bahru Permanent Resident, I popped the question on what he thinks about the possibility of Tiong Bahru becoming a Heritage Town.
Without hesitation, he said it is possible. One sentence from him kinda lit up the light bulb in my head. "The entire Tiong Bahru Estate was built by the British!" "It is one of a kind in Singapore and despite it being built so long ago, it remains relevant and practical to the current generation." (He said something to that effect lah,).

As he is quite well travelled, he said he has not come across something like this in the region. Even Hong Kong, being a British colony for the longest time, does not have an entire town preserved or conserved.(Facts need to be verified).

Wow! That never crossed my mind. The entire Tiong Bahru estate was really built by the British Administration! Even the Post War SIT flats were built by them! Now there are even more reasons to extend the conservation status to the HDB POST WAR 50's SIT Flats.

I always felt the 2 sections compliments each other like Siamese twins. Tearing down the HDB section is unthinkable to me. If that happens, that will really make Tiong Bahru lose her charm and character.

So the next time you walk around Tiong Bahru, I really hope that you can begin to see, feel and appreciate the beauty and historical value of this place.

And Oh.....never never never never tell me you are buying this place because you hearsay from someone who works for HDB, URA, TOWN COUNCIL, RESIDENT'S COMMITTEE, people in high places or MPs etc etc etc, that the HDB side of Tiong Bahru will go for SERS (Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme). I know some of you can articulate those sentences with a deep seated convictions.

But if you really cannot help it and really do blurt out those questions to me, I really hope you are DEAD WRONG.
There can be many faceless buildings in Singapore BUT there is only ONE Tiong Bahru.
Leave it alone!

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