Yong Siak Street, Singapore
Written by Karen Martin Illustration by Marion Vitus
Singaporean fashion designer Alicia Ong takes Oryx to the cool and quirky neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru to show us her favourite places in and around Yong Siak Street.
A wave of quirky cafés, indie stores, and edgy galleries have popped up in the once-sleepy district of Tiong Bahru, lending new charm to the bohemian neighbourhood.
Fashionable areas attract fashionable folk, and Alicia Ong likes to while away her rare days off on Yong Siak Street. “Forty Hands serve really good coffee and the best tau sar pau (red bean buns),” she says. “Hands down the best in Singapore; they’re so soft and fluffy and just melt in your mouth! I usually go there for brunch at weekends and just hang out for a bit.
“Just across the street from Forty Hands is a store called Strangelets, which carries all kinds of quirky little things, from little porcelain items to menswear such as bow ties and neck ties, and interesting notebooks, little bits of furniture, handmade soaps… something of everything but it’s all quirky and it’s well made. It’s a great place for gifts,” she adds.
“Next to Strangelets there’s a bookstore called Books Actually. They’re very supportive of the local scene; they carry titles that the big bookshops don’t stock, books by local authors, as well as old-school stationery, journals, tote bags and so on. It’s very quaint; the whole store is filled with shelves and shelves of old and vintage books, new books… it’s a bit overwhelming when you walk in, but I could spend hours in there.
“Further down from Yong Siak Street, on Eng Hoon Street, there’s a little lunch bistro called The Orange Thimble, where I’ll stop for a quick bite. They serve up really good sandwiches and sometimes have events going on.
“There’s also a food market nearby called Tiong Bahru Food Market and Hawker Centre, known for the local delicacies and Chinese street food,” she adds.
You won’t find the usual high street chain stores in Yong Siak Street; shops are eclectic and unusual. “Nana & Bird has women’s clothing and accessories that are mainly one-off pieces that they scour all over the world to find,” says Alicia. “They have a few men’s accessories as well, and a range of leather goods that are handcrafted by local craft workers and can be customised.
“This whole street is made up of little shophouses that are pretty small and kind of old”, says Alicia “but that’s what makes them so charming.”
Alicia Ong is the design director and founder of fashion label AL&ALICIA (www.alandalicia.com). Although trotting the globe for business, Singapore remains her base. While Alicia is a fan of the laid-back boutiques of Tiong Bahru, if you dare to brave the crowds for a bargain at the high street and department stores of Orchard Road and beyond then the Great Singapore Sale runs from May 25 to July 22.