About the Joo Chiat Area
In the early 20th century, the whole of the Joo Chiat area was a coconut plantation owned by Mr. Chew Joo Chiat, also known as “The King of Katong”.
In the late 1910s, the Singapore government decided to build infrastructure throughout Singapore in order for the country to develop and progress. One of the roads they planned to build would run straight through the land owned by Mr. Chew Joo Chiat.
The government wanted to buy (and even considered taking) Mr. Chew Joo Chiat’s land to open the planned road, but in the end, Mr. Chew Joo Chiat kept his land, but allowed the government to build the road on his land. This road still is Joo Chiat Road.
Mr. Chew Joo Chiat quickly realised the economic potential of the new road. It was much easier for him to transport his coconuts, but more importantly, he started to sell plots of land along the road for people to build shops and houses.
Today, you can still see these traditional shophouses along Joo Chiat Road and in the surrounding area, and the Betel Box Hostel is housed in two of such shophouses.
Nowadays, the Joo Chiat area is a haven for food lovers and its eateries are famous all over Singapore. This area is also famous for the President of Singapore, His Excellency S.R. Nathan who lives just 5 minutes walk from the hostel; just behind Joo Chiat.
There are a number of famous kopi tiams (local coffee shops), food courts and restaurants on Joo Chiat Road and the surrounding streets.
On Changi Road, near the entrance to Joo Chiat Road, is the famous Geylang Serai Market & Food Centre. This market is one of the liveliest and best markets to visit in Singapore.
There are numerous stalls selling everything from kitchen and household wares, textiles and numerous food stalls, selling vegetables, fish and meat and all sorts of foodstuffs, spices and local delicacies.
The hawker centre (a court with a large number of small food stalls, each selling a different type of food or drink) at the Geylang Serai Market has a large concentration of Muslim food stalls, which are famous for their Malay cuisine. One of the famous stalls is Hajjah Mona Nasia Padang stall; Hajjah Mona has been selling nasi padang for 25 years!
Geylang Serai is one of the early communities of Orang Lauts and Malays (the indigenous people of Singapore). It is here that you will find the Malay Village; a stylised and thematic redition of a traditional kampung. Periodically, the Dedja Timur Dance Troupe which is based in the Malay Village, will perform the Kuda Kepang (a pre-Islamic Javanese mythical horse dance which involves elements of shamanism and spirit possession).
The Joo Chiat area has a strong Peranakan heritage. The Peranakan people are the descendents of early Chinese settlers in Southeast Asia, many of whom married local women (e.g. from Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia). Read More "Who are the Babas" (The Peranakan Association). Check out the Peranakan Museum
The Peranakan people have a very distinct cuisine, which is a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisines. There are a number of famous Peranakan restaurants and eateries along Joo Chiat Road, including Chilli Padi (11 Joo Chiat Place), just opposite the hostel, and Guan Hoe Soon (214 Joo Chiat Road), right next door to the hostel. An interesting fact is that the family who owns Guan Hoe Soon restaurant, are descendents of the chef who used to cook for Mr. Chew Joo Chiat! These restaurants are more expensive than the numerous kopi tiams or food stalls, but are well worth a try.
Another strong presence in our community are the Eurasians. Born of mixed parentage; part European and part Asian, Eurasians have played important roles in nation building and developing the arts and sports. The Eurasian Association of Singapore Community House resides in Joo Chiat on Ceylon Road and facilities include function rooms, restaurant/ bar and a museum.
Further on Ceylon Road is the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar; the second oldest Hindu Temple in Singapore. Founded over 150 years ago, the unique architectural features and the strong support from local Ceylonese Tamil community has led the National Heritage Board awarding the temple as a "Heritage Site" in 2003.
About 20 minutes walk from the hostel is the East Coast Park Beach. The East Coast Beach has a variety facilities available for sports and entertainment. For sporting activities, this include Big Splash (free use of the large water slides from 9am- 6pm), scuba bicycle/ rollerblade rental kiosks, canoe/ windsurfing rentals, mini golf courses, tennis centre and fitness parks spotted along the longest public beach in Singapore. For food and entertainment, try the many restaurants and bars at the East Coast Seafood Centre, Marine Cove and the newly renovated East Coast Park Hawker Centre.
Slightly further away, near Kallang MRT station (2 stops from Paya Lebar MRT station), is Singapore’s largest flea market, which is held every Saturday at Stadium Cove.