District 14 – Geylang, Eunos, Sims, Paya Lebar
Predominantly a Malay populated area, District 14 tells of the culturally rich history of Singapore in its red-light district of Geylang and urban areas of Eunos, Paya Lebar and Kembangan.
Geylang, or Geylang Serai as it is commonly known, is located in the east of the Central Area of Singapore. Geylang’s busy shophouses, red-light district, foreign workers’ quarters and numerous karaoke lounges show another side of modern Singapore. Spared from redevelopment, the shophouses at Geylang retains its original looks from the 1970s. A number of famous restaurants have cropped up along the Geyland Road. Known as the red-light district in Singapore, prostitution is legal in this part of the city-state. Hundreds of brothels litter the area, with large house numbers painted bright red as a form of identification. Geylang Road is also a vital road that links Singapore’s CBD to the eastern suburbs.
At Eunos, people often look unhurried and carefree sitting in crowded coffee shops, talking or playing chess. Although there are plenty of HDB flats all around Singapore, there is a certain quaintness and charm in the domestic bustle in this area. Originally known as Kampong Eunos or Kampong Melayu, Eunos was established by Mohammad Eunos Abdullah in the late 1920s. Eunos made an appeal to the British government asking for a plot of land exclusive to the Malays. The exclusivity of the place was removed after independence as part of the policy of multiracial harmony. Eunos was proposed as a site for redevelopment in 1981. Part of the district was cleared to make way for the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE).
Currently undergoing major development, Paya Lebar is usually crowded with residents from neighboring Macpherson, Eunos and Geylang estates. A zone marked with industrial, high technology and historical elements, it bustles with office and factory workers. Paya Lebar currently looks like it is filled with debris and unfinished construction work because it is undergoing urban renewal. The name Paya Lebar means “wide swamp” in Malay. Before the colonial times, Paya Lebar was a squatter area with pig and poultry rearing. Fast forward into the future, it is a commercial area with offices, workshops and small retail outlets.
Like Eunos, Kembangan was an area mainly populated by Malays, although with increased racial integration, the face of traditional ethnic enclaves is quickly being changed. Its name in Malay means “expansion”. Instead of the usual English names of streets and avenues, Kembangan streets are usually named with Malay words like “lorong” and “jalan”. For example, there is Lorong Sarina, Lorong Melayu, Jalan Senyum, Jalan Selamat, etc. The modern Kembangan is a high-end residential area sandwiched between Bedok and Geylang. It comprises many private residential areas and high-rise condominiums.
Eunos is home to an intricately designed mosque, Masjid Darul Aman, built in the form of Malay tiered-roof style architecture. Diagonally across this mosque stands a golden Sri Lankan Buddha statue in the Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple. The Kampong Ubi Community Cetnre conducts Malay art and culture classes. There is a Eunos Market Food Centre that offers a wide selection of food. Niche businesses such as JDM Autocare, General Cars and Singapore Handicrafts Building offer automotive and woodwork services.
Paya Lebar is a commercial area with various kinds of businesses. Singapore Post, the local postal service’s headquarters is located in Paya Lebar. The building is said to look like a spaceship due to its avant-garde architecture. The Singapore Post Centre also houses stores like Barang Barang, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and This Fashion. In Paya Lebar you can also find traditional Malay wear, spices, food and household products. The Tanjong Katong Complex is located in the district. For recreation, there is the Malay Village, a heritage centre at the end of Paya Lebar towards Geylang. Weekly performances of Kuda Kepang (Javanese horse trance) are conducted at the courtyard of the Malay Village. The Hari Raya Bazaar held during the Ramadhan period offers an array of food, curtains, carpets and traditional Malay goods.
Places of worship in Kembangan include Dhammasukha Memorial Hall, Mongkol Dharm Centre, The Buddhist Union, Masjid Mydin, Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah etc. The Taman Kembangan Playground is popular location where kids play and parents take their daily stroll. Kembangan Plaza has a 7-11 store, several medical aesthetics centres and renowned tuition centres like Frankel Tutors.
Aljunied, Kallang and Paya Lebar MRT Stations serve the area. There is also the Geylang Lorong 1 Bus Terminal as well as the Eunos Bus Interchange which is situated right next to the Eunos MRT Station which is inspired by traditional Malay design.