Adventures At Home: Let’s Rediscover Tampines
STORY: Nicholas Yong
15 September 2021
If I close my eyes and think of Tampines, three things come to mind: shopping malls, the massive IKEA, and Our Tampines Hub.
The Tampines of yesteryear, though, is a far cry from today’s matured estate of high-rise HDBs. Tampines Road, named after the Tempinis tree (which comes from the fig family), was a dusty winding route that passed through kampungs and farms. Feral fact: in the past, this place was considered so ulu that there were “Beware Of Tiger” signages in the area until the 1930s.
Fast forward to today and Tampines has become a mini-city with offices, homes, and recreational facilities – it was the first in Singapore to do so, following a 1991 concept plan to decentralise commercial activity from the Central Business District. Tampines is also the only place in the country to be conferred the UN World Habitat Award in 1992 (wow!) - the awards are handed out to "recognise and highlight innovative, outstanding and sometimes revolutionary housing ideas, projects and programmes from across the world".
Get ready to revisit iconic sites and rediscover incredible stories (and savour yummy nosh) of Tampines through the National Heritage Board’s Tampines Heritage Walk - and remember to keep your phone batt full, and your stomach empty!
Makan at Tampines Round Market & Food Centre
We begin our trip at this food centre, a Tampines landmark that has been around since 1983. Before the Tampines shopping malls, this was the go-to place for bakeries, bicycle shops, clinics, hair salons, and more, all of which were in the ring of shophouses around the food centre.
Heads up: come for breakfast or brunch - most of the stalls are only open until 3pm.
Must try: Yummy Sarawak Kolo Mee, Song Han Carrot Cake, Rajarani Thosai (the egg thosai is especially sedap), and House of Dessert 甜品之家. Here’s a preview of these mouth-watering dishes.
Still hungry? Let one long-time Tampines resident tell you what’s best.
Bring the doggos to Tampines Central Park
Tampines Central Park is the precursor to all the park connectors in Singapore, introduced by HDB as a way to integrate green spaces into its town planning.
Besides the fruit-themed playgrounds (more on that later), there’s a bronze Mother and Child sculpture by the late Ng Eng Teng, a Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient. The amphitheatre at the park has been known to host events throughout the year.
More importantly for dog lovers, there’s a fenced-up dog-run space for your furkids!
Cycle along the Tampines Green Spaces Trail 🚲
If you prefer being on wheels, set your Google Maps to follow NHB’s Tampines Green Space Trail – as its name suggests, this cycling path takes you on a 1-hour trip through the town's most verdant spaces:
Bedok Reservoir Park
Your journey begins at Tampines Ave 10, at Bedok Reservoir Park. It's a little-known fact that the park was one of 20 quarries in Tampines supplying sand for the construction of HDBs all over the country - so guess what, there might be a bit of Tampines in your flat! The park was converted into a reservoir in 1986 and has become a hub for water sports activities like wakeboarding, sailing, and kayaking.
Weekend paktor ideas for non-cyclists: Rent a tandem kayak for a chill day on the water, or challenge bae at Forest Adventure’s treetop obstacle course. The Forest Adventure also has a 300m zipline that crosses right over the reservoir.
Stay on the cycling path towards Tampines Link, where you will find…
Kew Sian King Temple and Tampines NEWater Service Reservoir
This is one of several temples in the area, but the Kew Sian King Temple is notable as it has been around since the early 1900s!
Also in this area are two inverted cones that look like they belong in another dimension – these other-wordly NEWater tanks look great from the Gram, especially when they're photographed at dusk.
Keep cycling to the end of the cluster of temples along Tampines Ave, and you should see a row of shophouses.
Take a break at the former Hun Yeang Village
These shophouses are all that remains of the former Hun Yeang village, and one of the few remaining physical reminders of Tampines’ past. The corner lot Goodyear Seafood serves good fish head curry and assam fish.
Once you’re well-rested and satiated, follow the road down Tampines Ave 10. Turn left at a junction intersecting Pasir Ris Industrial Dr 1, then turn right at the end of the street into Pasir Ris Farmway 2. Follow this road until you reach…
Lorong Harus Wetland
Talk about making the most out of a shitty situation: Lorong Halus was the last place in Singapore to handle night-soil aka 💩, when it used to be collected in buckets (ew) until January 1987.
Today, it’s not only a beautiful park, but a wetland that treats water from contaminating the Serangoon Reservoir.
Insta-tip: You can shoot some cool “lalang field” photos here.
While NHB’s trail ends here, you can continue along the red bridge (featured in our longboarding music video) to take you towards Punggol Waterway.
If you're sian of rented bicycles like I am, read this article first before you buy your own 🚲.
Your Insta-walk checklist here:
The fruit-themed playgrounds were the brainchild of HDB architect Lee-Loy Kwee Wah, who was inspired by the fruit farms of rural Tampines. Insta-tip: For some cool perspectives, take a shot at the entrance of the stairs that leads to the slide, or make use of the tiny “seed” windows to give your face a fantastically fun and fruity frame.
This other playground isn’t as popular but you can get an interesting shot using the hollowed out holes. The seat between the two mangosteens used to be a set of swings in the past.
Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity
Compared to most Catholic churches, this one looks quite different – that’s because it’s supposed to take the form of a fish. The fish symbol, also known as the Ichthys, was a way for early Christians to identify each other when they were persecuted. Officially opened on 30 October 1990, the interior of the church features beautiful stained glass panels imported from Milan.
Tampines Chinese Temple
This is a combination of 12 Taoist temples that once stood in Tampines, some before the 19th century. Opened in 1992, one interesting feature to look out for at the Tampines Chinese Temple (淡滨尼联合宫 or Dan Bin Ni Lian He Gong) is a 270m dragon sculpture along the perimeter. The floor tiles in the temple’s interior make for a good Insta post too.
As with all religious institutions, be respectful and follow any instructions on appropriate behaviour and attire.
Happening history sia
Explore the rich history of Tampines and how it's transformed into what it has become today by following NHB’s Tampines Heritage Trail. Here are three suggested routes: