Jalan Bukit Merah | Home Tourist Photo Essay 15

Jalan Bukit Merah, Singapore
Jalan Bukit Merah, Singapore

Late afternoon Saturday walk along Jalan Bukit Merah, with stops at Kai San Temple and Wat Ananda Metyarama.

I’ve been wanting to do this walk for a while now, reasons being:

  • I’ve never actually explored this part of Southern Singapore before, despite passing by it so many times over the years.
  • It’s been 20 years since I visited Wat Ananda Metyarama, Singapore’s oldest Theravada Buddhist temple.
  • The end stretch of Jalan Bukit Merah i.e. Kampong Bahru Road was part of my jogging route when I was staying in Chinatown 15 years ago.

Yup, the whole walk, which lasted 2 hours, was a mix of nostalgia, exploration, and spiritual photography for me.

Before I share my pictures, let me just say too, oh wow, I finally discovered why the word Bukit i.e. hill is in the area name. (Inane)

It’s a flat drive along the actual Jalan Bukit Merah. But once off it, it’s hilly, with lots of steps and slopes. In other words, the whole two hours was a sweaty experience.

Walk From Tiong Bahru MRT Station

As I was using public transportation, I alighted at Tiong Bahru MRT Station and started my walk from there. In all, it took me around ten minutes before I reached Jalan Bukit Merah.

Tiong Bahru Road, Lower Delta Road Junction
Nothing very much to see along the way, to be honest, except newer HDB flats.

Tiong Bahru Orchid

While there, my assumption was that Tiong Bahru Orchid was built in the 1970s, because many of the blocks have distinctive ground-floor units. In truth, the estate was built in 1967, according to property websites.

Which makes the estate one of the oldest in Singapore. Older than me. (Hmm…)

Have to say it, for a public housing estate that’s over half a century old, the blocks look remarkably well-maintained. I don’t know about the inside, but the exteriors are cheerful and clean.

Tiong Bahru Orchid,
The blocks look recently repainted. In the lower picture are also the ground-floor units that I mentioned.
Singapore Public Housing Blocks
Quite a mesmerising sight to look at, isn’t it? Or to photograph.
Food Pantry 2.0 Machine
A Food Pantry 2.0 machine at one of the void decks. TBH, I’m not familiar with the VWO behind this concept. According to their website, though, the machine provides beneficiaries with easy access to nutritious food.
Towering, much newer HDB blocks across Jalan Bukit Merah
Ka Heng Tea and Coffee Merchant
Before Starbucks and a Fairprice Supermarket at every neighbourhood centre, we 70s/80s people buy coffee powder from such shops! There used to be two such shops right next to my block when I was living in Ang Mo Kio in the 80s.

Kai San Temple (开山寺)

Enough of HDB sights. On to the temples of Jalan Bukit Merah.


Like Wat Ananda (see below), Kai San Temple was one of my main destinations for this walk. The short of it, I’ve passed by this compact Taoist temple numerous times over the years but have never, ever stepped inside. (I don’t even know who’s the main deity worshipped) Also, I’ve long been fascinated by the imposing statue at the entrance, the mythology fan I am.

Xuan Tian Shangdi (玄天上帝)
Xuan Tian Shangdi (玄天上帝) at the gates. More famously known as Zhenwu Dadi (真武大帝), he’s the Taoist God of Mount Wudang and the patron god of Zhang Sanfeng in Wuxia stories.
Kai San Temple (开山寺)
The main complex, with the chief deity in worship being Kaishan Shenghou (开山圣侯).

FYI, Kaishan Shenghou is the deified form of Jie Zitui (介子推), a Spring and Autumn Period aristocrat famous for his loyalty.  

Tua Pek Kong Altar
Large altar to Tua Pek Gong, the God of Prosperity. According to beokeng.com, there used to be a garden here. However, an altar to Tua Pei Gong was expanded to cover the whole area after lightning strikes destroyed the garden.
Like many Taoist temples in Singapore, Kan San Temple has a chamber dedicated to Buddhas too.

Wat Ananda Metyarama

Next on my itinerary, Wat Ananda Metyarama. A short walk away from Kai San Temple.

Founded by the Venerable Luang Phor Hong in 1918, Wat Anada Metyarama is Singapore’s oldest Theravada Buddhist temple and monastery. Extensively renovated in recent years, and with a futuristic extension added, the temple is also a spectacular depository of Thai Buddhist art.

Having not read up about the renovations before visiting, I was absolutely blown away by the stunning murals surrounding the main altar. Staring at those religious masterpieces was hands-down the high point of my Jalan Bukit Merah walk.

Jalan Bukit Merah Thai Temple.
As I’ve always lived in flat parts of Singapore, anything on a hilltop equates adventure for (juvenile) me.
Wat Ananda Metyarama
The gorgeous main altar with its surrounding murals. Sounds rather wrong to say it, but I was briefly reminded of Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel.
Wat Ananda Metyarama Murals
More of those awesome murals. They tell the story of Shakyamuni Buddha, of course.
Wat Ananda Metyarama Guanyin
There is also a stunning annex devoted to Guanyin, the (Chinese) Bodhisattva of Mercy.
Thai Buddhist Temple in Singapore.
Samaneras seeking alms/prayers for each day of the week.
Wat Ananda Metyarama Extension
Last but not least, the futuristic new extension. This houses a variety of facilities including a mediation hall, a cultural centre, and accommodation for monks.

Tai Yeong Kon (太阳宫)

Located behind Wat Ananda, and with very eye-catching yellow walls, Tai Yeong Kon is, per its name, dedicated to the Taoist God of the Sun. (Taiyang Xingjun 太阳星君).

Unfortunately, while I could enter the grounds, the main hall was closed. I thus have to settle for just a peep into the main courtyard.

Tai Yeong Kon (太阳宫)
There’s a strong, older Singapore feeling at Tai Yeong Kon. (The wall colours reminded me of Jiangnan temples too) I must return for a proper visit some other day.
Tai Yeong Kon Temple Main Hall
Update Apr 2023: Finally had the time to return to the area. Here’s how Tai Yeong Kon’s main hall looks like. (At the left side is a glass cabinet with beautiful Arhat statues)

A Yummy and Sticky Break!

Moving on in the direction of Outram, I passed by the following shop.

Bukit Merah Ang Ku Kueh
(Block )146 Famous Bukit Merah Ang Ku Kueh!

Ang Ku Kueh! Red tortoise pastry. How could I not have one given I was in Bukit Merah i.e. red hill?

This is unsightly. (Lol). But the kueh was really very good as the filling wasn’t too sweet, and the “skin” was just the right amount of chewiness. As you can see from the above picture, there are also many other fillings available.

End of Jalan Bukit Merah. Onto Kampong Bahru Road

‘Right. This post has gone on for a little too long, so I’ll wrap up with these two pictures.

Kampung Bahru Road, Singapore
Older and newer apartment blocks at Kampong Bahru Road. This was part of my jogging route all those years ago, and I always felt uplifted when passing by here. (Can’t explain why, I just like tall buildings)
Kampung Bahru Road Shophouses
The shophouses right before New Bridge Road. There’s a couple of great Indian Muslim eateries here and I used to “ta pao” Mee Goreng or Briyani back after my jogs. (I dutifully put back what I burned off, in other words)

All pics taken with my Samsung S20+

Read my other Home Tourist photo essays.

Jalan Bukit Merah | Home Tourist Photo Essay 15
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Jalan Bukit Merah | Home Tourist Photo Essay 15
A sweaty, late afternoon Saturday stroll along Jalan Bukit Merah. All the way from Tiong Bahru Orchid to Kampong Bahru Road.

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