Bukit Merah: A sleeping Giant awakens

Bukit Merah, not everyone has heard of this town, but I’d wanted to write about this place for a long time, and the sense of urgency only caught me when I noticed new signs of life in the neighbourhood recently.


About Bukit Merah

‘Bukit Merah’, meaning ‘Red Hill’ in the Malay language, was one of the earlier estates built in the late 1970’s. It’s Not to be confused with Redhill estate, even though they are almost next to each other. Getting in & out of Bukit Merah is mainly via public buses and it takes just 15 minutes or so to the Outram/Clarke Quay area. Nearest MRT station is Redhill MRT.

In fact, one of the most memorable features about Bukit Merah is its Bus Interchange, which has stayed at the same spot and served the residents silently for over 20 years! Those who have grown up in or around Bukit Merah would be heartened to find that the bus interchange still stands today, of course looking a bit newer to keep up with the times.

bus 2 Bukit Merah Bus Interchange

Bus 1Except for the new buses, the scene hasn’t changed much from 20 years ago

Blast from the Past

Merah 9Right across from the Bus Intechange

The thing about Bukit Merah is that it’s like time-travelling back to the 80’s, even if anyone wishes to step into this neighbourhood today. The HDB Branch office is still housed in a greyish building with unmistakable rectangular tiles, the central with its hawker centre still very much preserved, elderly folks selling newspapers and magazines on a simple square table right outside the supermarket. Personally, I’d love to see it remain this way!

Merah 21View of Bukit Merah HDB Branch office building

Merah 8A multi-storey carpark with unique retro ceiling design!

Merah 10Facade of buildings here still retain the old charm

Merah 11Remember this ancient design of window grilles?

Merah 12Mosiac tiles like that don’t exist in new buildings these days

Merah 16‘Old school’ shops easily visible from Jalan Bukit Merah Road

Merah 13The KFC that is almost a landmark in Bukit Merah – same location since 80’s

Merah 20The wide open space in front of Emporium Department store (now NTUC)

Living in this Neighbourhood

In the immediate vicinity of Bukit Merah Central, 3 majestic Point-Block HDB (Blk 115,116 & 117) known as Merah Heights stand in formation beside the National Library Branch, and all 3 of them are similarly designed with 96 units of 5-room flat each. Note: Point blocks generally refer to HDB flats with the whole block having a squarish design and each unit takes up a corner on 1 level.

Merah 23

You will be needing a lot of patience and some wild luck if you intend to consider a home in this tiny neighbourhood. There have been no transactions in the past 12 months at least, and the only reason I see is that they’re in such a prime location! The bus stops are just along the road, taking residents to multiple places in Singapore, and City/Town is just less than 30 minutes away. (Refer to Alessandrea under Readers’ Homes) Not surprisingly, most of the flat owners here have leased out their spacious HDB at a very very good rate.

Rental rates

As a point of reference, the nearest transaction in the area was one at Blk 88 Redhill Close, where a 4-rm flat sold for $735,000 in September 2013. Whopping figure yes, but it was 111 Sqm, which translates to about 1195 Sqft. Home prices are always dictated by market forces and there must be reason for a 4-rm flat to command a price tag as such. Like it or not, this once dormant neighbourhood with its superb central location in Singapore is now slowly but surely waking up to redevelopment.

Merah HeightsView of neighbourhood from upper floors of Merah Heights

In the foreground of above image, the HDB blocks with low height (Redhill Close) are also stagnant in terms of transactions because this section has already been slated for Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). In a few years, one can expect this once peaceful and serene neighbourhood to be torn down and make way for newer swanky projects.

What you can find around Bukit Merah Central

Merah 2View of National Library Branch beside Caltex petrol station

Merah 6The stunning ‘White Temple’ along Jalan Bukit Merah

Merah 5If you’ve been reading my blog so far, you’d be expecting this:  FOOD!

Merah 4View of Bukit Merah Hawker Centre

Merah 3Lunchtime crowd a daily affair at hawker centre

food 1Ma Po ‘Lor Mee’ at Bukit Merah Hawker Centre

The Emergence of New Life

Remember earlier on I wrote about the sense of urgency? One reason I liked Bukit Merah was the way it stayed untouched throughout the decades, one could still feel the Singapore they knew from the 80’s by coming to this place. But over the past 2 months, I sensed a new lease of life in the neighbourhood, particularly with the entrance of new businesses.

Merah 7Kiroi Cheesecake opposite bus interchange. Freshly baked all day!

While the residential population in this part of Singapore isn’t much, there is a big supply of offices which in turn means a big working crowd on Weekdays. Some of the entrepreneurial minds must have caught on to this opportunity because in a matter of 2 to 3 months, I witnessed 3 new F&B outlets in a sleepy estate like Bukit Merah.

And this could be just the beginning.

Merah 19A new Halal cafe opposite the hawker centre

Merah 25Pan Delights sells Pasta, coffee and other food

bakerychef 3The Bakery Chef cafe at Blk 161 Bukit Merah Central

The Bakery Chef was where my discovery was triggered, so to say, during my visit to Bukit Merah. Perfectly willing to be contented with a coffee at the hawker centre, I was on my way there when this cafe popped right in front of me. Who would set up a cafe in an estate synonymous with elderly citizens? But one look at it changed my mind and I ended up having my caffeine fix inside, and was pleasantly surprised.

I chatted with the folks running the cafe while sipping my long black and found out it was set up around October 2013, they wanted to find a niche spot in Singapore to offer a new experience where people can have their coffee without the hustle & bustle of the malls. They sure found the right spot I dare say.

bakerychef 1A very warm cosy feel to the cafe, especially at this time of the year

bakerychef 2Personally I like the decor of this cafe, and the staff are real friendly from the moment you step in. No loud music blasting through the speakers, just a comforting environment to chill and relax, and perhaps really enjoy your cup of coffee while watching the world go by. Seating is sparse in this cafe though, so if you intend to enjoy your cup of Devil’s Brew you may wish to pop by on a weekday afternoon like me =)

bakerychef 4Pastries are made fresh in the kitchen daily

bakerychef 510% off any 4 selected cakes till 25th Dec 2013

I was told by the friendly folks at The Bakery Cafe that currently they’re having a promotion for pastries, order any 4 cakes and get 10% off! So whether you have a sweet tooth or not, it’s sure worth checking out. They can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thebakerychef

The cafe-hopping trend is certainly strong at the moment, everyday we see someone sharing those viral Facebook lists of ‘Must Go To cafes’ yet, and I’m quite sure soon many more will get to know of The Bakery Chef and drop by. Then again, I hope to see the uniqueness of Bukit Merah conserved as it is now for many more decades to come, so that our future generations may know of this side of Singapore other than skyscrapers and mega malls.

Merah 1Will this give way to something new soon?

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Categories: District 03


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