When I was much younger, I thought that Katong was located waaaaay east of Singapore. I like bus rides and I usually choose the easiest no-need-to-transfer bus routes from one place to another so maybe the journeys on bus 16 or 14 to the East Coast area did not help in this lack of awareness in objective, actual distance. Living in the west accustoms you to tall, dense neighbourhoods of HDB flats built alongside the East-West MRT tracks. As the buses trudged down Nicoll Highway away from the E-W MRT line and into the Old Airport Road area where even the HDB blocks are shorter and spaced generously from one another, past the private houses on Mountbatten and then the rows of shophouses in Katong, the unfamiliarity of the area does make it feel like you’ve travelled a decent distance. It was only after we moved into the east a few years ago that I had the very belated realisation that nope, Katong wasn’t nearly as far as I imagined (aren’t we really a small country or what, tsk).
When we stayed in our first rental, we were walking distance to most of what Katong has to offer. Food-wise, there were laksa (always with cockles), chicken rice, teochew porridge (which has since closed), bak kut teh, wanton mee (this warrants a short drive) and teochew kueh. We took walks in the sweltering heat to gawk at pretty shophouses (we’ll take one, thanks!). At one point, we wanted to do a guide on the area but being newcomers, we didn’t know too much. But we did write about Teong Theng on Joo Chiat Road, where we bought our rattan chair.
A couple of months ago, the kind people from Epigram Books asked if we would like to submit a short quote for a drawing of the rattan shop in their new book. We did and Sarah is on page p.46 of the new We Love Katong book, along with the very lovely illustration by Grace See!
p/s: You can also find Queenstown, Tiong Bahru and Bedok in the Our Neighbourhoods series by Urban Sketches Singapore (published by Epigram Books).
At the rate that our country is a-changing, the sketches in these books may very well be what we have left a few years down the road to remember how our neighbourhoods used to be. Le sigh.