Paya Lebar is a neighborhood in the Eastern region of Singapore. Once a large swampy piece of land close to the Kallang River, the area’s name was derived from the Malay words “Paya” meaning “swamp”, and “Lebar” meaning “wide”. It was once known to be a notorious squatter district and many of its inhabitants worked as pig and poultry farmers. In 1955, the construction of Paya Lebar Airport (now known as Paya Lebar Air Base) led it to become the chief landmark in the area and it served as a civilian airport for 26 years until Changi International Airport was established in 1981.
These days Paya Lebar is a small-town community that exudes local charm and nostalgia. Old heritage buildings built in the 70s and 80s such as Tanjong Katong Complex have been left untouched, providing a window into days gone by. While its worn façades might look rather unforgiving in the day, there is a certain pride and pleasure in being strikingly different from the new malls and complexes that have been developed over the recent years (such as Paya Lebar Square and One KM) and adorn the neighborhood with small pockets of modern fancy glitter.
Haig Road Market & Food Centre is a great local spot to begin your exploration of local cuisine. A popular eating haunt for many locals and residents, the food centre is divided into two halves, with the first selling Chinese food and the other half selling Malay and Indian cuisines. Food is cheap here with most people filling up on their favorite dish for just $2.50.
For an alternative shopping experience, City Plaza on Geylang Road is great for some satisfying (and easy-on-the-wallet) retail therapy. You’ll find many stores selling a range of fashion styles, so be sure to take your time wandering through the maze to find what you like. With all that being said, expats living in the area are not without familiar creature comforts. Close by in the Tanjong Katong area lie a variety of Western pubs, restaurants, and cafes that will serve you well when you’re missing a bit of home.
Stripped of the pretentiousness and bling of other fancier 'hoods, Paya Lebar reveals the real local flavors of living in a Singaporean community and is perfect for those wanting to experience life in a "real" community. The neighborhood is conveniently serviced by public bus routes and Paya Lebar MRT.
Supermarkets such as NTUC, Giant, and Cold Storage can be found dotted around the area, with the highest concentration being around the Paya Lebar MRT station. There is a lack of choices for schools in the neighborhood itself, but with convenient school bus shuttle services operating nearby schools many families still choose to live here. And given some older HDB estates there are quite a number of senior residents living in the area. Paya Lebar also draws singles, couples, and professionals to the area thanks to the great transit and relatively cheaper housing options.
CBD: 7.8 km / 15-35 minutes by car / 30-40 minutes by transit
Changi Business Park: 11.2 km / 15-30 minutes by car / 50 minutes by transit
Jurong International Business Park: 20.5 km / 20-45 minutes by car / 55-60 minutes by transit
One North Buona Vista: 16.1 km / 20-40 minutes by car / 40 minutes by transit
Tuas: 39.3 km / 40-75 minutes by car / 120 minutes by transit
A mere 5-10 minute walk (depending on how long your legs are) from Paya Lebar MRT station, City Plaza is a hidden shopping gem. Filled with a never-ending maze of fashion retail outlets for cheap prices, shopping till you drop here will be a little less painful on your wallet too.
A familiar landmark walking out of Paya Lebar MRT station, the Lifelong Learning Institute is a large building with steely glass facades by the intersection of Paya Lebar Rd and Eunos Ave 5. The institute promotes adult-learning and offers skills training as well as professional upgrading programs.
Sitting right above the Paya Lebar MRT Interchange, Paya Lebar Square is a commercial office building with a shopping complex located in its basement and first two stories of the building. With retail and dining options, banks and services, pharmacies, supermarkets, and even language and music schools, Paya Lebar Square is a convenient shopping hub in the neighborhood.
A four story shopping mall located within a 5-minute walk from Paya Lebar MRT, One KM serves residents in the Paya Lebar and even Geylang neighborhoods. Stores here range from fashion to electronics to furniture to medical clinics and supermarkets. A variety of restaurants, cafes and food courts are also available. There are a number of children’s enrichment centers in the mall – great for keeping the kids busy while parents do their shopping!
Located just on the cusp of adjacent neighborhood Geylang, Haig Road Market & Food Centre is a popular spot for residents and locals to head to for a wide variety of favorite local fares. The food center is uniquely separated into two sections, with one half occupied by Chinese stalls selling Chinese food, and the other half tended by Indian and Malay stall owners selling their local cuisines. Here, you can find a decent meal to fill your tummy at just $2.50. Score!
Built in 1983, Tanjong Katong Complex is a stark contrast from the shiny new buildings that have sprung up in the area over the past few years. Priding themselves for preserving a piece of Singapore’s history, the complex serves as an iconic landmark in the area that signifies the “growing-up” years of Singapore. The interior and exterior façade of the complex has been left untouched, giving you a real nostalgic feel of days gone by. Inside, you’ll find an array of stores selling clothes, furniture, flowers, handicrafts, books, and musical instruments.
Photo Credits: Thanks to @shamnsw_, @lys_ine, @snapsbykwang, @reisen_veredelt_den_geist, @y0ud0ntneedt0kn0w, @putrielopelope, @honeylicious_diary, @jaderossi_, @vikki1702, @shophouseco, @kkkevin, @rifa_chubby, @jiaaaxinnnnn, @sejiuwunai, @smrtsingapore, @vitquaybackinh, @chillpanzee.sg, @lucidsnaps, @noemieafatsawo for your great photos of this neighborhood!