Neighbourhood watch: Geylang Serai
Located within the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) planning area of Paya Lebar Central, residential property prices in Geylang Serai have performed relatively well over the past two quarters.
By Khalil Adis
Every year, Geylang Serai will come alive with its vibrant street bazaar.
This year is no different but with a slight twist.
Following complaints last year that the bazaar has lost its appeal due to the invasion of many hipster food vendors, the organisers have set stricter guidelines in keeping with the spirit of Hari Raya and Malay culture.
This is certainly good news that will keep the unique culture of Geylang Serai alive for generations to come.
Since its establishment in the 1960s, Geylang Serai has become a cultural icon that is synonymous with Malay culture and customs.
Every year, Malay families will congregate here to partake in the festivity leading up to Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
With Hari Raya Aidilfitri just around the corner, we decided to check out the vibrant street bazaar at Geylang Serai to find out what makes this place tick.
Here are the six places that have shaped Geylang Serai to where it is today.
#1: Geylang Serai Bazaar
Stretching from Sims Avenue, Tanjong Katong Road, Geylang Road and parts of Changi Road, this year's bazaar features over 500 stalls which are significantly less than previous years.
This will allow for more open spaces for the public to enjoy when breaking their fast or just for a place for the entire family to sit down after a day of shopping.
If you are looking for delicious Malay kueh and other traditional dishes, you are in for a treat.
This year, the organisers, Wisma Sri Geylang, has put a guideline requiring 60 per cent of food vendors to sell food that will appeal to Muslim visitors while the remaining 40 per cent may offer "contemporary" or "hipster" options.
In addition, these stalls are also required to be either Muslim-owned, certified halal by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) or fulfil halal criteria set by consultants engaged by the bazaar organisers.
From carpets to baju Melayu, the street bazaar is awash in bright neon lightings when night falls.
For the best deals, come during the eve of Hari Raya Aidilfitri where most goods are sold at a deep discount from vendors eager to clear their stocks.
#2: Wisma Geylang Serai
Wisma Geylang Serai is the latest addition to the streetscape here. Launched in January 2019, this community civic and cultural centre is located in the heart of the Geylang Serai precinct housing the Geylang Serai Community Club, the South East Community Development Council, the Geylang Serai Heritage Gallery Family Service and Child Care Centre, Senior Care Centre, and cultural arts group and social/community-related facilities.
The building draws its inspiration from traditional Malay houses with balconies (“serambi”) as well as lemongrass (where Geylang Serai takes its name from) and ketupat. The architecture features a double-pitched roof and columns that look like stilts to give Wisma Geylang Serai its own unique character.
Aside from community care, Wisma Geylang Serai is also home to eight Malay Muslim organisations and agencies to provide one-stop service to the community. They include Association of Muslim Professionals, Creative Malay Arts and Culture, Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud, Muhammadiyah, Pergas, Tabung Amal Aidilfitri, Berita Harian and Persatuan Persuratan Pemuda Pemudi Melayu.
#3: Tanjong Katong Complex
Home to anchor tenants like First Lady and Giant, Tanjong Katong Complex is known for its loud and colourful carpet auction shows located just outside the building that has helped to draw curious tourists and locals alike. Inside, however, there are many stores selling traditional Malay wears, home decor, gold, jewellery and other accessories.
Over the weekend, the shopping complex is a known haunt among Indonesian maids who would often camp outside the venue. Meanwhile, locals tend to congregate outside Giant supermarket in the evening to break their fast. To avoid jostling with the crowd, it is best to come early for your Hari Raya shopping.
#4: Joo Chiat Complex
Known for its wide variety of textiles and garments, Joo Chiat Complex is a treasure trove for those who need to hunt for ready-made traditional Malay wears for both ladies and men. Established in the 1960s, Joo Chiat Complex is still going on strong today and is one of Geylang Serai’s enduring icon.
Aside from textiles, the complex boasts a number of fabric vendors selling curtains and upholstery by the metre. There are also a number of jewellery shops that are popular among Malay ladies who are eager to show off their latest bling collections. Although the shopping complex is a little run down, it is still worth checking out due to the sheer number of shops that can be found here.
#5: Sri Geylang Serai
Sri Geylang Serai is home to the Geylang Serai wet market and hawker centre. Located just opposite Joo Chiat Complex, the wet market is a popular destination among Malay households from all over Singapore as the goods are fresh yet slightly more affordable.
In addition, the hawker centre above houses a number of famous Muslim stalls that have made Sri Geylang Serai popular among those looking for authentic Malay food. Some of the notable hawkers here include Cendol Geylang Serai, Hajjah Mona Nasi Padang and Haji Mohd Yussof Warong Nasi Baryani. Be warned though that you would most likely need to share a seat as the hawker centre is always packed.
#6: City Plaza
City Plaza is the birthplace of Arnold’s which is famed for its fresh, succulent and well-marinated chicken. This fast food restaurant began its humble beginnings from a corner shop located on the second floor here and still continues to maintain its presence there for three decades. Even today, Arnold’s continue to be packed especially during breaking fast time.
Aside from that, there are a number of thrift boutique stores selling sandals, bags and fashionable clothes. City Plaza is also a popular hangout among Indonesian maids over the weekend as there are a number of remittance outlets here.
According to HDB’s first quarter of 2019 data, the median transacted price for 3- and 4-room HDB flats in Geylang was S$265,500 and S$518,000 respectively. In comparison, its fourth quarter of 2018 data showed that they were transacted at S$280,000 and S$480,000 respectively. This represents a price decline of 5.2 per cent for 3-room flats while 4-room flats have strengthened to 7.9 per cent.
Meanwhile, according to the URA’s first quarter of 2019 data, the median transacted price for apartments/condominiums in the area was S$1,157.40 per sq ft. In comparison, its fourth quarter data of 2018 showed that they were transacted at S$1,137.32 per sq ft. This represents an increase of 1.8 per cent.
On the overall, the upcoming rejuvenation of Paya Lebar Central as outlined by the URA has had a positive spillover impact on residential properties here. Some of the completed projects in the area include Paya Lebar Square and Paya Lebar Quarter 1, 2 and 3 which are all connected via link bridges. Upcoming developments that are currently being constructed are Paya Lebar Quarter Mall, Paya Lebar Quarter and Park Place Residences at Paya Lebar Quarter.
An independent analysis from yours truly