One of my most popular blog posts has been the one I did about choosing the right family neighborhood. It’s interesting how my choices have changed since I first did that post. We are now on our third great family neighborhood in Singapore, and we are more seasoned expats. We have lived in both Siglap on the East Coast and now we are in the Kovan/Hougang area.
Our perspective changed after living in the expat centric areas for a couple of years. We realized we were paying a premium to live there, not just in our rent, but also in our daily living expenses. The grocery stores were more expensive in Holland Village. The trip to school was more expensive in a taxi and timewise on the MRT. This time we didn’t have a housing allowance, we’re on a local package, so cost definitely was a factor in our decision making process.
When we moved back, we first lived in Siglap, on the East Coast. This is a great neighborhood. We loved being so close to East Coast Park, and we jogged and rode our bikes there all the time. When we lived in Holland Village, we felt we were lacking in places to ride a bike. There are great restaurants in the area, and we enjoyed the low rise neighborhood feel we had there. After about a year, though, I couldn’t take it any more. We were living along Marine Parade Road, and the MRT construction began. They cut down all of the trees on our block. Every time I walked the dog it was sweltering hot. It completely changed the character of the area. What used to be peaceful and relaxing became noisy and difficult. The MRT construction carried on ALL NIGHT LONG on some nights. My daughters couldn’t sleep. The bright lights shining in the windows and the noise and dust were really getting to me. We were living in Elliot at the East Coast, and while I loved the condo grounds and the beautiful pool, the condo itself was really getting to me too. It was too small and crowded, and the wet kitchen was exposed to the outside. This made the dust and noise (not to mention the haze) from the construction in my kitchen inescapable.
Additionally, the commute was expensive for me and my husband, as well as the bus for the kids to go to school. We realized that if we moved closer to work and school, where everyone could commute on the MRT, we’d save at least $1000 a month. Even better, if we put that money towards rent instead of commuting, we could have a much better and bigger place to live. Finally, any time the kids had a play date in the central area, it was a $30 taxi ride to see their friends each way. Since they are old enough to drop off but not necessarily old enough to navigate a taxi on their own, it would be $30 to take them, and $30 back. Then I would either go pick them up again or they would ride on their own. Saturdays were so expensive! Unfortunately, only a few friends lived on the East Coast, so it was a real issue.
We started searching, and found many great choices in the area near Stamford. We eventually settled on the Kovan area. After looking at about 15 options, we narrowed our list down to a few cluster houses that we really liked. We bid on one, but lost. Then we found the place we finally secured and we really love it. It is in the Charlton neighborhood, near Kovan MRT, and we have found a mini slice of heaven within an easy commute for our kids and family. We doubled our square footage for essentially the same cost once you factor in transportation. Our new neighborhood is filled with single family homes, townhouses, cluster houses and a lot of low rise condos, so it feels quiet and inviting.
One of the best things about this neighborhood is the number of parks nearby. A nearby park connector provides a great place to ride bikes and walk the dog. The shady playgrounds nearby are really quite good. We chose a place that has a pool out the back door, and to my surprise, I find I now use the pool a lot more than we did in the condo. We are walking distance to Nex, and walking distance to Heartland Mall. Heartland Mall is nothing to write home about, but it does have a Pet Lovers, a Cold Storage and two pharmacies. The hawker center nearby is also really good and wow, can you get a cheap meal there! I happen to love chicken rice, and the chicken rice stand there is good and only $3.50. What a bargain! Nex, of course, has almost every thing you need. We found a good bakery for bread, The Bread Table, but we are still looking for a butcher.
Overall, I am very happy with our new neighborhood. I like that it is convenient to the MRT, taxis are always available, and the shopping is decent. I like the parks and the neighborhood feel. It is also easy for the kids to commute to school. They take a public bus for 76 cents! Yay! There is a stop only 5 minutes from our door. Play dates are easy now, and we can commute to dance class on the MRT. If you are looking for a great neighborhood close to Stamford, the Australian school, or the French school, definitely look here.