Time-Out in Bishan Toa Payoh

With top tourist attractions, the most happening malls and our public transport system frequently teeming with people, heading out on weekends can be daunting. But who says you can’t have fun if you don’t travel out?

Instead of holing up at home, check out the various attractions that your estate has to offer. Faraway pastures aren’t always greener.

Bishan

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (Bright Hill Temple)

Address: 88 Bright Hill Drive, Singapore 574117
Contact: (+65) 6849 5300
Operating Hours: Typically 8am to 4pm daily, but differs according to different halls and festivals. Visit the website or call for more information.
Website: http://www.kmspks.org/
Admission: Free

Singapore’s largest Buddhist temple is more than a place of worship. Occupying a land space of 10.7 football fields, it consists of 11 sections and eight halls, each adorned with elaborate designs of Chinese and Southeast Asian influences. It is also home to an awe-inspiring 13.8 metres high bronze Giant Buddha statue, which is one of the largest Buddha structures in Asia. Along with other larger than life status of Buddha and Bodhisattva, gardens and greenery and a turtle pond, as well as a serene ambiance, it is the perfect place for a long, leisurely stroll.

As this is a religious place, do visit with appropriate attire covering shoulders and knees. Refrain from wearing shoes that are difficult to remove as shoes have to be off in the halls.

Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (Formerly Bishan Park)
Contact: 1800-471 7300 (Toll-free)
Operating Hours: Lighted hours 7.00pm to 12.00am
Webpage: http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_visitorsguide&task=parks&id=8&Itemid=73
Admission: Free

Since the official opening of the ABC Waters@Kallang River-Bishan Park Project in October 2009, this large recreational park has seen various enhancements. A naturalised river flanked by lush vegetation now flows through the park, occasionally attracting exotic birds from other countries during migratory seasons. This is a bonus for nature lovers who have long admired the generous variety of tropical trees and flowers in the park that provide shade and beautiful photography subjects. The ample space and paths make it a suitable environment for a wide variety of activities like cycling, jogging, dog-walking, taichi, badminton and even street soccer.

Other facilities include gardens, lawns, ponds, spas, children’s playgrounds, fitness stations, food and beverage outlets and toilets. Spend a day there with your family, your friends, your dog or even alone; there’s something for everyone!

Upper Thomson Road Food Strip
Operating Hours: Various

Foodies from all over Singapore revere this stretch of road filled with delicacies raved about by gourmet programmes and food bloggers. The Longhouse food centre claims the crown of fame, but there is much more to this. Upper Thomson Road features eateries with cuisines ranging from local delights to Western to North Indian to Asian… The list is long, with exotic dishes you have probably never heard of. Hardcore foodies would gladly spend the entire day here hunting out the best stores from breakfast to supper. Fortunately, Bishan Park is just nearby for you to work off those calories.

Junction 8

Address: 9 Bishan Place, Singapore 579837
Contact: (65) 6354 2955
Operating Hours: 10 am to 10 pm
Website: http://www.junction8.com.sg

When a shopping mall houses servicing centres of all the telecommunication companies in Singapore, you know it’s no small fry. Perhaps that is why Bishan, despite being such a huge residential area, has only one mall. While it may not enjoy as much fanfare as the malls in town or the mega malls in other parts of Singapore, Junction 8 holds its own with a vast array of shops catering to lifestyle, dining, beauty and wellness, grocery needs and entertainment. Notable tenants include the popular multi-storied departmental store BHG, Food Junction with its large offering of food court fare, and arcade Virtualand where one can easily kill hours and work up a sweat enacting their fantasy worlds as imaginary monster-hunters or F1 drivers. Don’t forget to check out the mall’s website for event updates; there is something happening almost every week!

Toa Payoh

Toa Payoh SAFRA

Address: 293 Lorong 6, Toa Payoh, Singapore 319387
Contact: 6259 4000
Operating Hours: Reception opens from 9am to 9.30pm daily
Website: http://www.safra.sg/toapayoh#.UWdmZFeXv9U
Admission: No admission fee, but some facilities and classes require a fee. There are varying rates for SAFRA members and non-members.

You don’t need to be wealthy to go to a recreational club house. Toa Payoh SAFRA is an affordable one-stop entertainment and learning hub offering everything from sports facilities to beauty services and music lessons! If you’re out of ideas for the weekend or school holidays, just head over there and be spoilt for choices. Food and beverage outlets are ample, some hailing from abroad like the famous Korean Kkongdon Barbeque. The children will be well-entertained at Kidz Amaze, one of the largest indoor playgrounds in Singapore. But not just any ordinary playground, it “consists of visually stunning interactive soft play centres to engage your child’s sense of direction, motion and coordination.” There is also the EnergyOne gym that provides more specialised equipment and fitness programmes than your average gym.

Toa Payoh Town Centre (incorporating Toa Payoh Hub)

Location: Walking distance from Toa Payoh MRT station and Toa Payoh Bus Interchange
Website: http://toapayohshoppingmall.com/

Shopaholics in Toa Payoh are blessed. Whether it’s to get furnishings or engage legal services, Toa Payoh residents don’t have to look far. Not only does Toa Payoh have one of the largest shopping centres in Singapore, the Toa Payoh Hub, it also has a great number of well-maintained vintage shop houses that offer a wide variety of goods and services.

Toa Payoh Hub may fulfil most of your needs and wants, but if you have a fondness for nostalgia, browsing the shop houses for bargains is a fun and meaningful way to spend the day too. In particular, the number of beauty and hair services is staggering. Beauty addicts will have a field day sourcing out one that meets their needs.

Blk 75 Toa Payoh Lorong 5 Food Centre
Operating Hours: Varies. Some stalls only open at night.

Toa Payoh has no lack of eateries and delicacies. However, this food centre has recently been refurbished and reopened in December 2012 and is certainly worth revisiting for its newly enhanced seating arrangement and improved ventilation. You can now enjoy a relaxing tête-à-tête with family and friends over a variety of delicious food without fear of the heat or stuffiness. The increased spaciousness also enables it to sit more customers during peak hours.

Many old favourites have returned since the reopening, as attested by various food bloggers and food review websites. Warmly recommended stalls include Feck Hwan Eating House Porridge Stall, Minced Meat Noodle stall, Fang Yuan Satay, Hainanese Chicken Rice and Song Kee Kway Teow Noodle. Some of these stalls attract long queues, so be prepared to wait in line!

Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery
Location: 184E Jalan Toa Payoh, Singapore 319941
Operating hours: 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Contact: 6259 6924
Website: www.shuanglin.org
Admission: Free

This graceful Buddhist monastery is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Singapore, as well as the only Buddhist monastery to be gazetted as a National Monument. A bridge leads the way towards an intricately decorated gateway, which opens into a courtyard filled with elegantly pruned Penzai.

There are two main halls featuring beautifully carved Buddhas and wall panels carved with scenes from Chinese history. Don’t neglect to observe the ceiling and the wood panels around you to admire the artistic details. The monastery features a blend of architectural styles from various Chinese provinces, which can usually only be found in traditional Chinese architecture. This is probably about the closest one can get to personally experiencing the beauty of ancient Chinese structures without heading to China.

As this is a religious place, do visit with appropriate attire covering shoulders and knees.

– This article first appeared in a lifestyle magazine targetted at residents living in Bishan Toa Payoh.

Eve learns about the real world…

Eve Chuah cuts a likeable figure among the residents in parts of Bishan North. Many treat this young girl like their daughter, for she is there almost daily to look after their welfare. Her fresh face and girl-next-door look has helped her in settling down with the residents.

This is understandable for the older residents as 23-year-old Eve is the one who will assist them when their water tap runs dry, or when their electrical supply is interrupted, or when repairs are required within their block of flats.

She is the friendly Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council Property Officer who takes charge of some 27 blocks of flats in Bishan North ward. When she graduated from the polytechnic, she had the option to do quantity surveying or facilities management. She chose the latter.

“I prefer to go out and tackle challenges rather than be a QS and stay in the office,” said Eve as she flashed a friendly smile. “I enjoy meeting residents and the grassroots leaders on the one hand and supervising and working with the cleansing workers and contractors on the other.

“Facilities management is something that affects our living environment, our daily lives. We will have to learn how the water pump works, how the lift works, and how electricity is supplied into the homes. These are useful things to learn and I pick up quite a bit of the knowledge from the contractors,” she added.

In fact, she finds satisfaction in resolving issues for residents; mediating when there are differences of opinion between neighbours. And two years into her first job, she still finds her work interesting.

One memorable event she recalled when the blocks of flats under her charge had to switch from using conventional light bulbs to energy efficient LED bulbs. Because of this switch, the electrical supply to the affected blocks had to be cut from 9 am to 5 pm on two occasions. Several residents protested despite the advance one-week notice. One said he had to keep his medication refrigerated at a certain temperature. Another was worried that the breast milk for his baby would sour if not kept in the refrigerator. Eve arranged for a special generator to supply electricity to these two families.

“I learnt the theoretical aspects when in polytechnic but the practice requires more than just understanding how things work. You need the human relation and networking to get things done smoothly.

“At times, you need to be able to persuade people and get them to understand why you can’t do things the way they want them done. Sometimes I need to be firm but it is important to strike a good balance especially when dealing with contractors.

“I have a very good team and the work environment is very conducive. The seniors are also very supportive,” said Eve as she went about her block rounds with her familiar straight long black hair, denim jeans and flat shoes.

Her work day starts at 8.30 am and ends at 6 pm; but there are days when she has to work much later attending meetings and walkabouts with the Member of Parliament and the grassroots leaders. On weekends, she is required to work on alternate Saturdays and she gets a day off on another week day instead.

She will run through her computer when she gets to the office to check for any complaints or feedback before she goes on her inspection rounds at the blocks of flats to look at any maintenance issues.

With her at times will be the cleansing supervisor, Madam Tan Geok Lan, aged 73, whom she respectfully addresses as “Aunty”.

During the interview, Madam Tan was seen informing Eve that one of the mechanisms at the bin collection centre was not functioning well and required her attention as they walked together to inspect the bicycle bay at Block 404.

Eve has another natural advantage besides her amiable personality. Apart from Mandarin, she also speaks Teochew and Hokkien which is helpful in communicating with the residents, the cleansing workers and the contractors.

This Jurong girl came to settle in Singapore at the age of five with her parents from Segamat, Johor. Her younger brother is currently serving his national service.

Compared with her contemporaries who are currently still studying for their full-time degrees, she feels she is better off for she has not only picked up on-the-job experience and earns a steady salary, she has also the opportunity to improve herself by studying for her degree. She is almost mid-way through her part-time degree in Bachelor of Applied Science (Building Management) offered by RMIT University at the Singapore Institute of Management.

“The Town Council offers study leave when there are exams so that I can find the time to focus on my studies, and this is very encouraging,” said Eve who at times has to spend four nights a week in the lecture theatre.

– This article first appeared in a Town Council newsletter as part of a recruitment advertorial.