I’m penning this from a sleepy little loft-style shophouse along Pasir Panjang Road, where my husband and I decided to lay down our brick-and-mortar roots in a joint business space. Outside my window is a beautiful modern condo designed in the colonial black-and-white style, and opposite our building is the first of many winding, uphill roads full of historic landed houses of all shapes and sizes – one of which we now call home.
To call the West Coast of Singapore “home” feels very new and very foreign, as I’ve spent my first eight years here slowly moving up the Northeast (Purple) Line of the MRT (first in Little India, then Farrer Park, Boon Keng, Serangoon, and finally Kovan as the years went by).
But given the current (skyrocketing!) rent crisis in Singapore as well as our desire to start a new business together, my husband and I uprooted our cozy little Kovan life to begin a fresh start on the Southwest side of the island.
As a native of the West Coast of the United States (California), I have to admit I was excited to immerse myself in Singapore’s version. When we were renovating our office space, our contractor told us he grew up in this area back when it was all a kampong, and he said, “the air is just better here.”
That really stuck with me, as our entire family has issued a collective exhale amid the large, open green spaces and slower pace of life over this way. Our bedroom window looks out into the full forestry of Kent Ridge Park, and on the other side of the house, much to my kids’ delight, we recently spotted a monkey using our window grids as a stand-in jungle gym.
We also recently discovered that at the end of our street is a “secret” staircase to a nearly-private extension of HortPark containing a children’s playground, picnic area, and fitness corner. These hidden gems are astoundingly spacious, green, and beautiful, and have a very different natural energy than the (still wonderful!) HDB spaces we’d known before.
Moving to a new region of Singapore after so many years has taken some adjustment, to be sure: learning new freeways (prior to this, the CTE and PIE were our lifelines; now we’re regulars on the MCE, AYE, and West Coast Highway), mastering new MRT lines (most of the West Coast is connected by the Circle Line, anchored by megamall VivoCity at the Harbourfront interchange), and figuring out new routines (we are yet to find a prata shop with the ultra-crispy style we’d loved at our local Little India joint, and the closest NTUC FairPrice is a bus ride, not a quick walk, away). A new specialty coffee shop just opened next to our workplace, distracting me from the fact that the nearest Starbucks is a 30-minute walk away, and even the local kopi options are spread a bit further afield than I’m used to in the more crowded Northeast.
It's also interesting to be an expat in this area, where our immediate neighborhood has a far more local vibe. As opposed to the Northeast, where we lived among the French and Australian international schools, Pasir Panjang feels much more like the heartlands. I’m often the only angmoh diving into a plate of nasi lemak at local favorite Fong Seng, and my daughter is the only mixed-race (half-Caucasian, half-Chinese) student in her new preschool. Our quiet hilltop house was built in 1977 and retains much of its original, quaint Singaporean charm (classic crown molding, distinct wet and dry kitchens, and a carport a mile long, to name a few features).
There is a great deal still up and coming in Pasir Panjang, especially since the government has massive plans for the area via its Greater Southern Waterfront project. The project, scheduled for completion within the next five to ten years, includes a new waterfront promenade stretching from West Coast Park to Labrador Nature Reserve, an innovative funicular system connecting to the Mount Faber cable car station, and an entirely redesigned residential precinct on the former Keppel Club site. There is a lot of active construction along the waterfront, meaning it doesn’t quite have the peaceful vibes of, say, East Coast Park, but the existing park connector pathway and West Coast Park amenities are quite ample for our family to hike, bike, and play all over the coastal area.
It will take a while to get used to the new pace of life and routine over here, but one thing is for sure – there’s no adjustment necessary to the natural beauty, green space, and waterfront views here on the West Coast. I can’t wait to keep getting to know this place, one deep breath at a time.