Unknown by many, and struggling to preserve what’s left of the of the past, Balisertier Road is one of Singapore’s primary agricultural hub. The road was named after John Balestier, who was the first US consular in Singapore and contributed significantly to the development of Singapore by fostering trade relations between the US and Singapore.
Balestier was in Singapore between 1834 and 1852 and aided in the establishment of a sugarcane plantation in the “Balestier” region, which was later named after him for his contribution in assisting the trade market. He hired many immigrants to work at his plantation which then settled in the area and built a temple, known as the Go Chp Tua Pek Kong Temple, which still exists today with the last free-standing wayang (shadow puppet stage) in Singapore.
Rows of shop houses were later constructed int eh the 19th century but have unfortunately since been demolished to make way for new age development. The shophouses use to provide various services for those residing in the area. In addition to the shophouses, several bungalows were built for workers to live in. However, only one remains as the Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, tucked way back along Tai Gin Road, signifying the last little piece of this remarkable era. Many of the shophouses have since been demolished to make way for newer commercial buildings, high-rises, shopping malls.
The Balestier Market was the most important agricultural feature of this region. First, serving as a food rationing centre and a trading hub where locals your sell their produce. This local “wet market” is one of the few that have survived through the transformation of Singapore was rebuilt and turned into a hawker centre for locals to grab a cheap meal on their way home from a long day’s work. Today, the Balestier Market is still home to many stallholders who were from markets which were either demolished, undergoing renovation, or relocated. Serving as an educational tool to illustrate the importance of wet markets and hawker centres its struggles daily to preserve what is left of this great agricultural era in Singapore history. Despite the idea of “the changing needs of society” Balestier Market preserves what is left of the hawker heritage. And also provides a home to the “two lion statues previously from the Oasis Restaurant next to the former National Stadium, both of which were demolished in 2010 – a further example of how Balestier Market serve as a repository of cultural elements.”
Although much of traditional aspect of its area has been lost with the changing time, there is still a little-hidden charm as you go down the street and see remaining shophouses. I recommend going down at night if you decide to venture out there to see the streets lit with hanging lanterns and with, and with all the lighting stores it looks kind of cool. The famous Loy Kee- Best chicken rice place is there, which is suppose to be one of the best places to get good ole chicken rice. However, it has been brought to my attention that Boon Gong Her is the place to go for this famous Singaporean dish. A little pricier than your average chicken rice set but most definitely worth it. Boiled chicken is their specialty, but if you’re a fan of bbq go for the whole bbq chicken which is “fantastic” and make sure bring the whole family, since you can’t order and individually set. Some other favorites are their fish and vegetable dishes and if you don’t drink beer or wine make sure to try their popular barley drink to compliment this exquisite meal. Make sure to get there nice and early, around 5 to line up, although the doors don’t technically open until 6 they will let you sit down and order right at 6 before the crowd gets in. Again, a little pricier than average but a great place the bring the whole family and to get a little glimpse of the past in this historic district.
Loy Kee- Best Chicken Rice
342 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329774
Boon Tong Kee
399, 401, &403 Balistier Road, Singapore 329801