02 Nov 2017
Tucked away in the east is the quiet Bedok district. Previously bordered by the beach, this neighbourhood is known for its scrumptious seafood and supper spots. Majority of its transformation occurred in the 1960s when the area was part of Singapore’s East Coast Reclamation Scheme, and thus, Bedok New Town was developed. Many new exciting developments await in the area as we uncover the origins of Bedok and revisit the vibrant town it is today.
(Image Source: http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/press-releases/hdbs-remaking-our-heartland-rejuvenation-of-east-coast-area).
An idyllic coastal town
It may come as a surprise but this sprawling estate covering 2,169 hectares was once a sleepy fishing village, and has a long history dating back to even before Sir Stamford Raffles’ time (Source).
Among the early inhabitants of Kampong Siglap, Kampong Bedok and other villages along the East Coast were the Orang Laut (“sea people” in Malay). After Singapore was colonised by the British in 1819, Simpang Bedok Village became an ethnically mixed community consisting of Chinese and Malay people (Source).
Long Beach Seafood operated at Bedok Resthouse from as early as 1946, and was a popular venue for wedding dinners in the fifties and sixties. It was a simple two-storey colonial building that stood until the 1990s, witnessing the dramatic changes of the landscape around it. (Image Source:https://remembersingapore.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/mansions-and-villas-of-the-past-bedok-resthouse.jpg?w=640&h=408)
By the 1970s, kampongs (“villages” in Malay) began to make way for modern flats and industrial parks, and villagers were offered new flats in surrounding areas.
Today, Bedok, or “Bodo”, as it was once called, is home to over 290,000 residents (Source), making it the town with the largest population in Singapore. It is divided into eight subzones – Kaki Bukit, Bedok Reservoir, Kembangan, Bedok North, Frankel, Bedok South, Siglap and Bayshore – where a mishmash of old and new HDB flats, condominiums and landed properties co-exist.
Not your average estate
Back in the day, when cinemas were not widespread in Singapore, Bedok housed four cinemas within minutes from each other.
The iconic Princess Theatre once stood in the heart of Bedok and screened films in the 1980s and 1990s before closing its doors in the early 2000s.
Princess Theatre was a hotspot for movie enthusiasts and gamers during its heyday in the 90s. McDonalds, which operated in the same building remained a popular hangout spot after the closure of the cinema (Image Source: https://i0.wp.com/popspoken.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Princess5.jpg?resize=600%2C400).
A changing landscape
In 2010, the Singapore government announced that Bedok Town Centre (Source) would receive a complete facelift by 2014, with the introduction of a new integrated public transport hub and private homes.
Frasers Centrepoint Singapore opened Bedok Point, a redevelopment of both the former Bedok and Changi Theaters in 2010.
The four-storey (with two basements) mall drew many shoppers during its opening period as it was the first mall in the 37-year-old estate. Its main retail levels accommodate a diverse mix of restaurants, food specialty outlets such as halal Japanese restaurant Hei Sushi and Korean barbecue restaurant SsikSin, a food court, specialty retail stores, and entertainment outlets.
There isn’t much you can buy with $1 in Singapore, but it can buy you a hearty bowl of noodles at the Thai Boat Noodles located at Bedok Point. The heartland mall is also family-friendly, housing educational tenants such as PSLEMath Learning Centre and Cristofori Music School.
Aside to a crop of cheery cafes popping up in the area, Bedok has always been home to well-loved hawker food. The recently revamped Bedok Marketplace (previously known as Simpang Bedok Food Centre located at Bedok Road) opened in 2016 and has received much attention from the community. The unique hawker centre features a vintage outlook resembling kopitiams (“coffee shops” in Hokkien) of the 1960s, with photogenic decor and fusion food options. It is now a hit among hipsters and families on the weekends.
Not quite your average eating spot, the Bedok Marketplace is one of the trendiest finds offering modern food concepts in Singapore (Image Source: http://d22ir9aoo7cbf6.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/06/P6162944.jpg).
Despite these developments, the abundance of hawker centres and street level shops in the area serves as common spaces for residents to meet and mingle. This keeps the kampong spirit very much alive in Bedok.
The culture of hawker food dining also remains strong despite new and trendy food stalls cropping up with other existing hawker centres in the area.
Present day Bedok is a mini town with a heartbeat of its own, bustling with activity and life. A heritage trail highlighting the stories of Bedok, was launched in 2017 for Singaporeans to learn more about the history and landmarks of the estate (Source). So make sure you explore them the next time you make a trip down to the charming district!