Let's Go Jalan Jalan: Rediscovering Chong Pang
STORY: Ng Kai
27 January 2021
In this series, we help you (re)discover gems in your own backyard with the help of JalanJalan.me, a community project spearheaded by the people behind the #savefnbsg movement, and supported by Enterprise Singapore and Singapore Tourism Board.
1. Chong Pang's very own famous pandas
The River Safari might have famous giant pandas like Kai Kai and Jia Jia, but Chong Pang has this beautiful statue of a mother and baby panda. It is displayed prominently outside Block 101, at the junction between Yishun Ave 5 and Sembawang Rd.
K Shanmugam, then-MP for Sembawang GRC, visited Xindu County in 1994 and presented the county's residents with a Merlion statue as a gesture of friendship. In return, Zao Dexi, Magistrate of Xindu County, visited Singapore for the bi-annual Chong Pang Day Celebrations in 1995, and presented local residents with this statue of a mother and baby panda.
Fun fact: Did you know that Chong Pang has a sister city called Xindu in Chengdu, China? The two cities signed an agreement in 1994 and embarked on various business, academic, and cultural exchange programmes.
Located at: 101, Yishun Ave 5, Singapore 760101 (map)
2. Cute reptiles
Connie Tan has been collecting pet turtles since she was a little girl, and in 2001 she opened the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum with her late father Danny Tan at Chinese Garden, in the hopes of educating children about these intriguing reptiles. The museum relocated to ORTO in 2018. Visitors can shell out a couple dollars for lettuce bunches or pellets to feed their new friends, and even pet some of the gentle giants that roam on the grass patches.
Fun fact: It is currently home to over 400 animals, which include rare species like the Indian Star Tortoise, Alligator Snapping Turtle, and Mata-Mata.
Located at: 81, Lor Chencharu, #01-16 ORTO, Singapore 769198 (map)
3. Grand entrance gateways
Chong Pang City was the first neighbourhood centre to be established in Yishun New Town in 1984. It was home to several shops owned by residents from nearby villages, but business became severely affected with the opening of Northpoint Shopping Centre in 1992. To remain competitive, the Chong Pang City Merchants’ and Hawkers’ Association decided to give the area a facelift, and commissioned a pair of Chinese-style gateways that continue to welcome residents and visitors alike.
Fun fact: This entrepreneurial spirit lives on today because the Association partnered with Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore in 2019 to launch thelocalmart.sg, a digital marketplace where retailers from the area were taught to sell their wares – anything from air-cons to durians – online.
Located at: Beside Chong Pang Community Club at 21, Yishun Ring Rd, Singapore 768677 (map)
4. Sree Maha Mariamman Temple
The history of this Hindu temple stretches all the way back to the 1930s, when a timber statue of the eponymous goddess was worshipped by rubber estate workers at the 12th milestone in Sembawang. It has since undergone multiple relocations and upgrades. It moved to the present location in 1996, and initially had a warm, welcoming pink exterior. It was further refurbished in 2010. Today, Sree Maha Mariamman Temple is a striking golden complex, and continues to serve as a key community hub for Hindus living in the northern parts of Singapore.
Fun fact: In the 1960s, statues of several other Hindu deities were added, and the temple was formally registered in 1965.
Located at: 251, Yishun Ave 3, Singapore 769061 (map)
1. Delicious Indonesian fare
The sight of a retro rickshaw from Central Java hanging out on a patch of grass welcomes you to Coba Coba. This is a quaint, halal-certified restaurant that serves up generous portions of traditional Indonesian nasi ambeng and nasi padang. The classic Two-Person Sharing Platter is a delicious pile of beef rendang, ayam kalio, and urap – all covered in sambal and surrounding a dome of white rice. And if you're in a bigger group (or simply feeling very, very hungry), then definitely go for the Deluxe Four-Person Set, which also has udang balado hijau, sambal sotong, and more. Sedap!
Fun fact: Their fare even has the thumbs-up from plenty of politicians, from MP for Nee Soon GRC Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim to Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli.
Located at: 156, Yishun St 11, #01-106, Singapore 760156 (map)
2. Kopi-o for a good cause
Bettr Coffee started out as a small local start-up in 2011, and has since grown into a retail and wholesale supplier, training academy, and a B-Corp certified company offering sustainably and ethically-sourced coffee products. The team is involved in a range of social initiatives to provide opportunities for marginalised communities, while also working to reduce their carbon footprint. Go show them some love at the coffee bar at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
Fun fact: The only thing we love more than a good cup of coffee is a cup of coffee that also does good; you can enjoy your cuppa knowing that the used coffee grounds will then be used as fertiliser in the hospital’s rooftop garden!
Located at: Tower C, Level 2, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, 90, Yishun Central, Singapore 768828 (map)
3. Legendary and famous nasi lemak
We can’t really write a guide on Chong Pang and not mention its star attraction. Established in 1973 at the now-demolished Chong Pang Village Hawker Centre, this famous nasi lemak joint is now located along Sembawang Road, and still considered one of the best in the business. Pick from a wide variety of freshly prepared dishes like sambal brinjal and otak otak, and complete your meal with a generous dollop of their super shiok chilli!
Fun fact: The party here starts when the sun goes down – and so does the queue. Seriously, be prepared to queue.
Located at: 447, Sembawang Rd, Singapore 758404 (map)
4. BBT craze
Calling all bubble tea fanatics! If you’ve already tried all the outlets in town, it’s time to move further out. M.A.D, located near the Yishun Ave 2 entrance of ORTO, is a cosy little hang-out spot with an extensive menu, and seating under strings of fairy light. The tea leaves used here are imported from tea estates in Nantou, Taiwan, and each cup is brewed fresh upon order. A popular choice is the Golden Roasted Oolong Tea, which is served in a huge 700ml cup.
Fun fact: If it's your cheat day, try the Brown Sugar Pearls Fresh Milk with Toasted Marshmallows. It looks - and probably is - sinful AF.
Located at: 1, Lor Chencharu, #01-12 ORTO, Singapore 769198 (map)
5. Chong Pang Food Centre
This food centre has too many good stalls to list. From chai tow kueh to kway chap to boneless braised duck, the full list can be found at Jalanjalan's website.
Fun fact: There are plans to redevelop Chong Pang Market and Food Centre into a community plaza by 2028 - part of the government's plans for a new intergrated development called Chill@Chong Pang comprising swiming pools, fitness studios as well as an upgraded hawker centre. But dun kan cheong, you can still enjoy the goodies from the 56 cooked food stalls here - construction for the new integrated develop only starts in the second half of 2022.
Located at: 105 Yishun Ring Rd, Singapore 760105 (map)
1. Heng ong huat ah
Feeling lucky? Head down to this spot, touted as one of the most auspicious Singapore Pools counters in town. This 7-Eleven has produced nine Group 1 and 28 Group 2 TOTO winners since 2014. The outlet should be easy to spot, as you’ll find snaking queues wrapped around it most days. In the meantime, though, gamble within means and huat ah!
Fun fact: If you're planning a date with Lady Luck, do it soon as the convenience store located at Block 102 will be demolished by the end of 2022 to make way for a new community space called Chill@Chong Pang.
Located at: 102, Yishun Ave 5, #01-137, Singapore 760102 (map)
2. Filipino snack haven
Whether you’re after Filipino snacks, beauty products, or household items, this unassuming but magical little sari sari shop – Tagalog for "variety" – has it all. Get ready to drool at a whole range of potato chips; the store also offers bags of ultra crispy chicharrón (fried pork rinds).
Fun fact: For those of you who are hoping to whip up your own feast of Filipino dishes, Aling Nena’s also sells a selection of imported sauce packets and spice mixes so you can satisfy your cravings or experiment with some new dishes.
Located at: 103, Yishun Ring Rd, #01-75, Singapore 760103 (map)
3. Delectable dried meat
Everyone has their favourite bak kwa shop in Singapore, but tucked away in Chong Pang is a hidden gem – Kim Hock Guan Kiat Kee, which makes fresh batches of bak kwa in an array of flavours each day. Uncle’s cross expression does not stop throngs of bak kwa lovers from descending on the shop – not just during Chinese New Year, but at all times of the year. The chilli bak kwa stands out since it has a nice kick to it and proves to be a popular treat for local residents. Other snacks sold here include chicken floss, pork floss, and pastries like the soft, flakey pong piah and tau sar piah.
Fun fact: Their Facebook page says that the business has been around since 1900 (waseh!). While we can’t vouch for that, this shop certainly is one of the oldest in Chong Pang and looks like something out of a Wong Kar Wai movie, complete with incandescent bulbs ablaze and an intimidatingly stern-looking uncle behind the counter.
Located at: 102, Yishun Ave 5, #01-123, Singapore 760102 (map)
4. Sweet dreams are made of these
Calling all baking enthusiasts – there’s a new Halal-certified baking supplies shop for you to drool over! Technically, N Supplies owned by Nurul Aishah has been around since 2019, but it used to occupy only a warehouse space and mostly delivered goods to customers. A year on, Nurul moved into a retail unit in Chong Pang, and the shop has since been delighting customers with all sorts of sweet ingredients.
Fun fact: You can expect industrial-sized tubs of Nutella and peanut butter, party packs of Lotus Biscoffs and M&Ms, and huge bags of sugar and flour. Other kitchen items, such as glass jars and cupcake moulds, can also be found here.
Located at: 717, Yishun St 71, #01-327, Singapore 760717 (map)
1. Natural spa
Here in Singapore we don't have a wealth of geological features, but we do have one awesome, newly revamped hot spring which just reopened in 2020. First discovered in 1908, Sembawang Hot Spring is the only geological feature of its kind in Singapore.
Over the years, it was variously redeveloped as a water bottling plant, a recreational area for Japanese officers, and a tourist attraction. It underwent a $4.3 million revamp in 2018 and reopened this year as a rustic park, complete with a cafe and education zones. Amble down a beautiful path lined with fruit trees and flowering bushes, and you’ll reach a cascading pool to soak your tired feet in naturally heated 50°C water.
Fun fact: Fancy a snack? Bring along some eggs and a bucket and let them cook under the tap at the new water collection point for around 10 minutes, and you’ll have your very own onsen tamago!
Located at: Along Gambas Ave (map)
2. Fishy business
Longkang (“drain”) fishing is no longer a common pastime for kids these days, but ORTO has recreated that experience by carving out a slice of concrete for little ones to splash around in and catch some new pets. They’ll be armed with a fishing net and a plastic tank, and they can spend as long as they want in the shallow pool to fill it with up to 10 fish.
Fun fact: If you’re prepared to keep the fish, there is an aquarium shop called That Aquarium that is located at 618, Yishun Ring Rd, where you can get supplies. Otherwise, the fish can also be released into the pond next to the Lakehouse at ORTO.
Located at: 81, Lor Chencharu, Singapore 769198 (map)
3. You'll dig this
We grew up playing with an array of toy construction trucks and machinery, but Diggersite has taken this to the next level. Kids – and fun-loving adults – can now hop into mini hydraulic excavators and cranes to dig sand pits or shift building blocks. They’ll even get to put on a neon vest and hard hat to complete the look. Do note that this edutainment centre is currently open only on weekends and public holidays, but it makes for a great place for field trips or small birthday party for little ones!
Fun fact: The founder of Diggersite, Edwin Lim, used to be an engineer himself, so all the equipment here is legit.
Located at: 91, Lor Chencharu, Singapore 769201 (map)
4. Outdoorsy fun
One of the first sights to greet visitors when they turn into Lor Chencharu is a large shed sitting behind a fence that’s lined with quirky contraptions – colourful bird houses, some wooden robots, and a swing. Part of Ground-Up Initiative (a non-profit organisation based in Yishun that aims to rebuild the kampung charm in Singapore), TouchWood is a carpentry workshop unique in the fact that more than 90% of the wood used here is recycled from industrial pallets. Here, visitors can either commission furniture, or sign up for classes to learn all about woodworking.
Fun fact: The space can also host birthday parties, where kids can try their hand at making fun objects like wooden boats.
Located at: 91, Lor Chencharu, Singapore 769201 (map)
For a full list of things to see, eat, shop and do in Chong Pang, check out JalanJalan.me.