One of the most fortunate by-products from my writings and blog articles, is the fact that I have the ears and eyes of both Singaporean locals and foreigners alike (and now through my legacy and OMY star blogs, I’m consistently attracting well in excess of 50,000 unique visits every month). The average ‘mix’ is around 55% Singapore traffic and 45% from literally hundreds of other countries (and translated into more than ten different languages).
So whenever I’m given the opportunity to promote Singapore through this reach, locally and globally, I seize the opportunity with open arms.
One of the funniest things that I contend with every day, is explaining to people that I live in the ‘heartlands’… many foreigners and expats (even ones who have been have resided in Singapore for many years), may reply with things like, “Oh – the heartlands! Is that anywhere near Holland Village?”. While many locals (who don’t know me from around my local area) may say things like, “An ang moh in the heartlands… how?”
In fact, when we attended a shopping spree at ‘Hong Kah Point’ on Saturday just gone by, one of the shopkeepers with whom I engaged in conversation was impressed by the fact that I was there to help promote this ‘Little Chinatown of the West’ and at the same time (in his words) found it ‘hilarious’.
Frankly speaking, I love it!! Where my home is (a flat in Fernvale, Sengkang West), I know many, many people and have personal friendship with nearly every family in my block. This has been accentuated by my community involvement, which now extends into my recent association with Grassroots and the local Anchorvale CCMC.
So this is me! – my family and I have jumped into heartlands living and haven’t looked back. We can now place our hands on our hearts (pardon the pun) and say we belong here.
Now back to the point at hand – Saturday, 15th January, saw my wife and 3-year old son pack our kits for the trek over to the west… for those people that do not know where I am talking about, Hong Kah Point is a bustling local neighbourhood centre with shopping to die for… and an atmosphere that can only be described as uniquely Singaporean. It is located within and bordered by Blocks 501 to 508 in Jurong West Street 51.
We drove, so we parked about one block away from the heart of the action and found the charges (paid by voucher) to be relatively inexpensive.
We were very fortunate to be invited along with eight other lucky bloggers, to experience the local culture first-hand… and experience we did! You see, we never do anything by halves. We were advised before-hand to wear some comfortable walking shoes, and heeding this advice thought it best to leave our 3-month old baby at home.
My fellow 2010 Blog Award winner, Urban Homme buddy and Hong Kong Travel Partner, Darren:
Upon arrival, all of the bloggers were ceremoniously presented with a “hong bao” (red packet) by Mr Kelvin Tan, Secretary of the Hong Shop Proprietors’ Association… in Singapore, the hong bao is often locally referred to as an “ang bao” or “angpow”. Inside was S$150 in cash for us to spend at Hong Kah Point!!
The intent of the $150 shopping spree, was for us not just to enjoy the culture and soak up the atmosphere (which was a buzz in itself), but also to get to know the local shop owners, the establishments and to find what we considered were the best bargains or value for money. Very quickly it became obvious, that some of the items for sale are quite likely not available elsewhere in Singapore – certainly not in the downtown tourist hotspots such as Orchard Road, nor even in Chinatown or Little India.
This is where our luck just grew exponentially (maybe we can attribute it to the upcoming Chinese year of the Rabbit?)… firstly, I’m lucky that my wife is from Shanghai – if you’ve not experienced it before, Shanghainese are generally very adept at bargaining and eking out the most valuable deals and value for money… I could write a book on this phenomenon alone, but I’ve labeled it the ‘Shanghai Wobble’ – it starts with the first discussion on price… “How much?”… this then escalates into more of a whiny voice… “is that the cheapest I can get it?”… following on, the very sad face makes an appearance (sometimes makes me feel like crying). Then once the very best price and deal has been established, the final ‘Shanghai Wobble’ kicks in – a kind of adult temper tantrum that is a last ditch effort to get the price down even a little bit more… my wife has mastered this art, and I know that when the wobble starts, we are finally ready to seal the deal and pay the money!
Getting ready for the Shanghai Wobble?
The other good fortune to accompany us that day, was the fact that we did actually need certain items – all of which we found at Hong Kah Point. Jaime needed new shoes – not only were we able to find a great bargain on his favourite character footwear (Thomas the tank Engine), the tops of the shoes where they do up have built-in lights – now we can know where he is even in the dark
We also needed (among other things) specific foodstuffs and snacks we needed to buy for our extended family for Chinese New Year – all of which we found within the neighbourhood centre.
One of the greatest things about spending time in the heartlands, is the interaction with the people and the celebration of cultural diversity. In fact, I learn so much from the way people talk, walk, sit, eat and go about their business, that my staring at people may very well be described as ‘strange’ or even offensive… “What’s that guy looking at?”… every day is an education day for me!
At Hong Kah Point, I was not disappointed… from the local shop owners and workers, to the hawkers demonstrating their wares, the potential customers looking on, and of course even the general public just enjoying ‘makan’… the diversity and the richness of these images are just so unique – I sometimes forget that Singapore is my home. I just hope that I’ve captured this adequately in the following pictures.
As was expected, everybody was so very warm and welcoming. I engaged in conversation with so many people, I left the shopping spree feeling quite hoarse in the throat.
As is very well known and publicized, in Singapore we love our food! (this is one of the local pastimes to which I had no problem adapting from my first days here – and also one of the reasons that I gained 15kg in just the first four years).
Hong Kah Point is not your usual food court or Hawker Centre. It doesn’t matter what style of food you’re looking for, you’re definitely going to find it. Not only is it some of the most tasty and highest quality food I’ve yet to consume in Singapore, the prices are just downright crazy! Cheap!
I won’t confess how badly I broke my diet on Saturday, but just take a look at a few of the dishes below, and I’ll let you determine which one (or should I say ‘ones’) I buried myself into.
And if you’re feeling like dessert after such mouth watering local delights, why not check out the confectionaries and unique local bakeries? (I certainly did… and of course had to spend another 2 hours in the gym later working off my guilt)!
OK – now down to the serious stuff – and the challenge presented to the bloggers on the $S150 shopping spree.
Although I will discuss and show images of shops where we spent our money (and consider we got the best bargains), I would feel bad if I didn’t give a plug to all of the other stores that didn’t get our business on this one particular day – they are just as worthy!!
It’s easiest to break this section with pictures and some nominal awards that I’m giving out, but I will provide a final photo at the end of this article showing all of the items that we bought (laid out across our dining room table) for our $150!!
Best Bargain: ‘Jaime’s Thomas the Tank Shoes’:
Funniest Shop Owner:
Best Variety of Chinese New Year Items:
Best Toy Shop:
Best Fruit and Veg:
Best Chinese Groceries:
Best ‘Knick Knacks’:
Best ‘Girls Stuff’:
So there you have it!! $150 in around 5 hours of shopping!
Here is the final collection of items (if you think it doesn’t seem like much, remember that some of the goodies (food) for CNY can be around $10 a packet and the Thomas shoes were $35 – we saw almost the same shoes in another large department store for almost twice that price):
Now, dear readers… I’ve taken the time to share this extremely valuable information with you – it’s your turn to return the favour – three things…
- Go to the Facebook page of Myheartland and become a Fan – click here
- Click ‘Like’ on the link to this blog article on the Fan Page
- Get yourself up and out to experience the wonderful diversity, culture and atmosphere that is HONG KAH POINT!!! You might just well find that bargain you’ve been looking for – remember to try out the ‘Shanghai Wobble’!!
Finally – 恭喜发财(Gong Xi Fa Cai)!!! Have a wonderful, joyous and prosperous Chinese New Year!!)