A little about Singapore
Singapore, the tiny island off Malaysia, known for its planning ways, cleanliness, safety, development and of course the building with the ‘ship’ on top, has been successful in creating tiny towns within the tiny island. Having lived in Singapore for over two years, my impressions of Singapore have changed so many times; don’t think I can count them. Presently, I’d term it as a ‘Love Hate’ Relationship.
So let me begin by telling you a little about Singapore from a planning perspective. Singapore, no the modern Singapore, was founded in 1819 when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles negotiated a treaty to create a trading port in Singapore. This act increased the movement of western world onto this island and thus began a new wave development. Caught in World War II, then handed back over to the British control; it has gained exposure to a varied cultures resulting in an eclectic form of architecture. From buildings that look like a spaceships to English style houses hidden in the foliage; Singapore challenges itself to find the balance in maintaining the cultures it once brewed in, to looking front ahead into the future and absorbing the new ways of living.
Holland Village, a cradle to the multiple cultures and lifestyles, located in Central Region of Singapore, is one of the finest examples of successful integration of the old and the new.
Life in Holland Village
This place blows my mind every time I get there. With people of all ages enjoying the small open park, the wet market placed in the centre of the most happening street and the use of the old building to house the small business people. Incredible. Holland Village, a former plantation and land of nurseries, was the first Dutch community in Singapore. The British people then moved into the area to convert it to their home stay land, with semi attached houses and big backyards, a few expensive clubs with leisure facilities. In todays date, the region holds the same vibe – the expatriate uptown residential region with a social centre. The development plans of the region plans to maintain the low building heights to keep the human scale intact, although you can see a few sky touching towers in the neighbouring areas.
The centre, where all the action happens, is a good mix of bars, restaurants, local businesses, food courts, shops, public spaces, public facilities… list goes on. The metro station at just a stone’s throw distance makes it accessible and brings in people from around the island. It has managed to keep itself in dim light with the tourists though. Hence, I strongly suggest HV as a pit stop for travellers in Singapore to drop in and grab a drink or two, day time or night, it will take leave an impression.
Bars and Restaurants: A Must try Menu (on the main centre street)
- Stärker – the Charcoal Beer
- The Park – The Charcoal Burger/Truffle Macaroni (highly recommended), 7$ Prosecco
- Wala Wala – on Thursday/Friday evenings for some live music sessions
- D’ Good Café – for afternoon tea and reading (Try the terrace!)
And there is a hidden gem, name I cannot recall, but located on Holland Road (the small steps leading to the street). I believe it’s a grill place, but must go there for a nice porch sit-out setting.
More to explore in Holland Village:
Now, time to explore the restaurants on the other side of the village! This place is full of surprises. Look for those all white houses, low rise old dilapidated houses in a row; yes, that’s where you’ll be heading. Chip Bee Gardens. Cross the Holland Avenue, and walk towards Chip Bee Gardens to be mind blown with these hidden gems.
This well thought/planned food retreat is maintained in the old quarters built during the time of British, revamped to suit the current needs. The lower section of the apartments is used as commercial spaces and upper level as residential (just like the Shop Houses in Singapore). Catering to the higher income group, the cafes and restaurants offer a variety of food, and some ice cream – for which you usually need to stand in a queue for at least 45 mins. The crowd around here varies from the main village. The main centre area attracts a lot of youngsters, old people, locals as well as international crowd. This little street of food haven will be bustling with expatriate’s housewives, kids and nannies and of course, the pets. During the day its quite peaceful and finding a nice corner seat in Baker and Cook is a possibility but as the hours pass by, it gets tough to find a quite spot around the cafes. There are also few cosy Pilates corners that might catch your fancy. During the weekends, it’s a must to make reservations especially if you plan to visit Original Sin or Sunday Folks (Ice Cream place). And if you find yourself craving for some desserts or hot chocolate after midnight, you should without a thought, prance to the 2 AM Dessert bar in the main village area (above The Pit).
In a nutshell, Holland Village is very famous among the local and international people living in Singapore, but still holds back from going touristic. And its only fair as it might steal the charm it currently holds. Though the government has started informing the people about the History of Holland Village to create a sense of belonging among the people, many still are unaware of how the place has evolved and why the buildings are the way they are. A few landmarks to walk you down the memory lane are the shop houses on the main bar lane, the recently renovated HDB houses and the food court. There are newly put up information board right at the Exit B of the MRT station guiding you through the stories and tales of Holland Village.
So I hope you enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning at D’Good Café, a little brunch with a harmless Prosecco at Park, a grand lavish dinner at Original Sin and ending your evening at this hidden haven with some wonderful lavender ice cream at Sunday Folks.