I’ve lived on this small island for nearly 2 years but there are still many interesting places I’ve not been to. I went to Joo Chiat Road for the first time last week, and it’s well worth a visit. Unlike Singapore’s Chinatown, Joo Chiat Road is sufficiently far from the main tourist areas to retain some authenticity. It’s a real mixture of the old and the new, the smart, the run-down and the seedy.
0Businesses are run from the ground floor of old shop-houses—little engineering companies open onto the pavement, or old men sit at workbenches or at sewing machines in dark interiors. Hardware stores full to the ceiling with merchandise, or thick, unidentified smells from grocery stores. These are the kind of place that would be swept away if the road became more prosperous. There’s a place making funeral accessories—items to burn for the deceased to enjoy in the afterlife. Partly complete paper-covered houses on bamboo frames stand outside. A Mercedes seems to be the car of choice in heaven.
To look at, it’s the first floor that is most interesting. Painted walls with bright shuttered windows, mouldings and ceramic tiles depicting birds and flowers. Not all of the houses are in good repair. Some are left to decay, with plants growing in gutters, neglected roofs, and unpainted woodwork. There’s an empty building with heavy wooden props at one crossroads.
The late-night karaoke bars give the road a seedy edge, and numerous KTV lounges line the street. With adverts for cheap drink and pictures of the hostesses outside, the inside is hidden behind dark glass windows and doors.