For those who have visited Singapore many times and thinking of new places to visit (or like to see how the locals live), there's no better way than to visit the heartlands. Fortunately, all the major housing estates in Singapore are served by the subway, making the commute extremely easy and accessible.
More than 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing; though the concept of public housing outside of Singapore may be viewed negatively, in Singapore - the concept of public housing equates to quality, reliability and liveabilty - so much so that some public housing units have made the local headlines for price tags that are close to S$1 million. In Singapore - buying a government flat is an indirect way of a marriage proposal (as priority are given to newlyweds)!
A typical 3-bedroom flat (we call it a 4-room flat) is about 95sq metres, 3-bedroom + dining (5 -room flat) is about 115 sq metres. For those interested to see how a HDB unit is like (or to view some of the projects), take the subway to Toa Payoh to the HDB sales office. A mock showflat is located at level 2 (or 3 - cant remember), just to have a feel living in a government flat.
The major housing estates are served by hawker centres (many Singaporeans will tell you there are more gems found outside the city region), major amenities such as schools, government clinics, sport facilities, malls (in selected areas), places of worships etc - making many housing estates self-contain in many ways.
Many of the housing estates in Singapore take on a more localised name (compared to English names such as Orchard, Raffles Place etc). In some of the older estates, one can still see shops, coffee shops etc (including. barber, provision shops) where time have stood still (eg. Tiong Bahru, Toa Payoh). Things in the heartlands are generally cheaper as well.
Like in all countries, the heartlands are where opinions / views /impacts about local society in general are more closely expressed and felt - this is where you get to see a real side of Singapore! Experience local festivities (which you will not see in downtown!), such as the interesting Hungry Ghost Festival, experience the colors of a beautiful Malay wedding etc etc - right at the heartlands of Singapore!
Below are my recommended housing estates
- Toa Payoh (where the Housing Development Board office is located - busy town! A mix of old and new flats)
- Ang Mo Kio (pre-dominantly late 1970s' flats)
- Tiong Bahru (a very interesting old estate built since the 1930s in phases, Art-deco inspired low-rise estate with a very famous hawker centre). Very close to the city centre.
- Tampines (a very large and self-sustaining estate built mainly in the 1980s', with its own commercial office / shopping blocks that house major back-offices function such as Citibank). A winner of the UN World Habitat Award in 1992.
- Pasir Ris - IMHO one of Singapore's most beautiful housing estate (largely developed in the 1990s). Close to the Changi Museum / Changi Village. A great laid-back estate.
- Punggol - Singapore's newest housing estate - with a man-made river running through the estate. An exceptional estate in the making.