Friday, 5 June 2015

Tanjong Pagar Rd Shophouses and Korean Town

3 things that are popped into Singaporean's head when Tanjong Pagar Road is mentioned. Well, at least 2, but I try to spread the rumour on the 3rd. OK, it's more than a rumour. More about that later.

Street sign, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore

Tg Pagar Rd is divided into 2 sections: the pedestrian - as in dull, not foot-traffic - southern half, and the more interesting and colourful northern half. The northern half with more character is demarcated by Graig and Maxwell Roads.

The intersection of Graig Rd and Tg Pagar Rd marks the beginning or bottom of the top section (depending on your view). The following landmark helps to mark this junction.

Vanda "Miss Joaquim" Sculpture, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Vanda "Miss Joaquim" Sculpture, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Vanda "Miss Joaquim" sculpture

This sculpture marks the old resident - no longer exists - of Agnes Joaquim, who brought the attention of the Singapore national flower to the world. The orchid was named Vanda 'Miss Joaquim' after her.

Here are the 3 notable things in the northern/top half Tg Pagar.

{*  1. Bridal Boutiques and Wedding Shops  *}
There're probably more bridal businesses than you can poke a stick at within the 200m section of this road than anywhere in Singapore. At least, ladies and gentlemen, the biggest and the best known ones are all gather here blissfully to witness the joyful union of bridal merchandising and services.

Bridal shops, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore

Bridal shops, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry, sorry, Bridal Boutique and Wedding Shop !
Bliss, you may kiss the Aisle're now married in wedding business.

{*  2. Shophouses  *}
When I first laid my eyes on this stretch of the road, I was so taken by the shophouses that I was blind to the bridal shops. Whenever I hear the name Tanjong Pagar, I conjure up images of shophouses. The kind of close associations like NYC and Statue of Liberty, or 2001: Space Odyssey and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, or Winston Churchill and cigar. I can't separate the 2. Till death do they part (in my brain, that is).

Now that the heat of the moment for the shophouses have subsided, my sight was restored. Now I could see both with a perfect 20/20 hindsight vision. My vision gets better as I age (of course, I also need more and more severe corrective lenses).

The terrace of shophouses are predominantly in Early and Transitional styles. Perhaps this uniformity reinforces its unity, and gives rise to pleasing order and symmetry.

Shophouses in Transitional Style, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Shophouses in Transitional Style

Shophouses in Transitional Style, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore

Shophouses in Early Style, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Shophouse in a nice, simple Early Style

Shophouses in Art-decoand Early Style, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Art-deco style that blends next to Early style in harmony

{*  3. Korean Town  *}
You don't agree with the name? How about Little Korea? Small Seoul? I like the last one. From my last count, there're more Korean restaurants here than there're bridal business.

Let me produce some photographic evidence to back up my claim (let's call it exhibit 'A').

Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, SingaporeKorean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore

Korean restaurant, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore
This Korean restaurant isn't located on Tg Pagar Rd, but less than 30m from
the rest of the above restaurants. And who hasn't heard of the Gangnam style?

I like to turn "Korean Town" (or "Small Seoul", it's up to you guys) from rumour into an established name.

It's true that Singapore (like Hong Kong) is in the grip of K-Wave, which includes K-Pop, K-Drama, and K-Food should also be a part of it. OK?

I have little doubt about the K-Wave sweeping through Singapore (and the identical twin who separates from birth of HK) at the moment. I don't think it's a coincidence that this article about Kcuts happens to receive the most pageviews in my blog since it was published.

Young Singaporeans and housewives (afflicted with K-drama-holism) wouldn't need me to convince them, but those who are over 55 years would likely either remain quite clueless or couldn't come to grasp with this social phenomenon. Generation gap is made of this.

Because of this ongoing Korean Fever, it's unsurprising that Korean restaurant scene is thriving. It's quite rare to have any single foreign cuisine being so concentrated in one eat street or food district. I'm talking about organic growth, not eat street that being developed with a specific theme like the Japanese Street in Jurong Point, for example.

Think about Holland Village, Dempsy Hill, or any such area, there's no one foreign cuisine that's so dominant in one area. This suggests Korean Fever is running at a high temperature at the moment. Any higher temperature, the victims would have to be hospitalised.

Could this place be qualified to be called Korean Town (or my preference Small Seoul)? The short answer is "yes". The long answer is still "yes". Let me elaborate on the long answer.

One might argue that it takes more than Korean restaurants to call this place Small Seoul. I agree. After all, you need a sizable Korean community in Singapore to call this Korean Town, and there's no big Korean community in Singapore (I hear as much French spoken in the streets of Singapore as there're Korean, if not more). There's no French Town (or Petite Paris), and there're only few French restaurants scattered around Singapore. The Fremch is working hard to get Singapore to embrace their culture via the Alliance Française de Singapour, who acts as usher to open the door of the French culture. Singaporean are embracing French lady handbags with both hands. I think they're also embracing French arts recently with gusto. Korean had it easy, they didn't need to establish an organisation like Alliance Coréen in the Little Red Dot. They had hit the right formula/struck the right chord with the perfect finely balanced blend of East and West where the socio-cultures of these 2 city-state islands were grown up in.

I like to add 2 more things (long answer) to make this place Korean Town rather than just a place with ridiculous number of Korean restaurants (if the trend continues, there will be more).

First, many of the Korean restaurants are actually run by Korean as supposed to many restaurants that serve foreign cuisines, say French, are run by locals. Very common practice in Singapore (or Hong Kong) as these 2 city-states aren't immigration nations (although Singapore is increasingly more of an immigration nation than HK in order to combat the worldwide trend that suffered by developed economies of the graying of population).

Second, it isn't just locals who suffered from Korean Fever who comes here to eat. Even Korean tourists come here in their bus loads. The Korean tourists are made up for the Korean expats.

Third (I say 2 reasons, but this one is a bonus for my readers), Korean Association in Singapore is also located here. This is a place that's catered as much for Korean as locals. And then there's the Korean shop. Well, because of the K-Wave, there're Korean shops elsewhere, but this one is catered more for Korean than locals.

Here's exhibit 'B'.

Korean Association, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore Korean Shop poster, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore Korean Association, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore

Tg Pagar is an interesting and constantly evolving area. One such most recent evolution are the wedding shops, and then came the Koreanisation of the area. What's next, who knows?

Property development, Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore
Quite a bit of property development is happening in this area

1 comment:

  1. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.