One of the best ways to understand the way of life in Singapore is to spend half a day in a housing estate. Housing estates are self-contained each with a wet market, minimart, hair salon, coffee shops, a hawker centre, hardware stores, clinics, schools, police post - you name it! You don't have to head too far out to get everything you need in a housing estate - most people just have to take the lift down, cross a road to get to all these facilities or at the most, take a 5 bus-stop ride. That's why you would see some people dressed in just their PJs hanging around in the neighbourhood. :P
Nowadays though, huge supermarkets sprouting up at housing estates. Since the wet markets are only operational in the mornings till early afternoon (they are closed on Mondays too), many people shop for groceries at supermarkets too. Watch us visit a wet market here.
The minimarts are epic. Some have been there for a long time - you can tell from the signage (wooden and engraved with Chinese words) and the flooring in the shop. Some have been around since the 60s. It's actually pretty sad that they are being phased out gradually though because of supermarkets or convenience stores.
You can usually find one or 2 playgrounds in the neighbourhood for kids. They have evolved from sand pit playgrounds with just a single concrete slide to plastic furniture playgrounds with synthetic flooring. Nonetheless kids in the neighbourhood gather to play especially in the evenings (if they are not on their iPads). A sandpit playground from the old days which has been preserved is at Toa Payoh Lorong 6.
Photo source: Today Online
5. Hardware stores
These are the DIY stores where you can get everything from paint to pails to locks. Most have been in the neighbourhood for a long time so the shops are cluttered from ceiling to floor, and the wares flood to take up space outside the shop too. To make things easier for yourself, just tell the shopkeeper what you are looking for and he will tell you where in the shop you can find it. Prices too are much better than in DIY stores in shopping malls.
7. Emergencies and stuff
More often than not, you can find more than 2 clinics in one neighbourhood, a dentist and a police post at some. At larger estates there would be a poly clinic (government subsidised) and public library. For neighbourhoods built around an MRT station, you would find more amenities, like a money changer, a pawn shop, a Chinese medical hall, a dentist and a sports stadium with gym and badminton court facilities. O yes, and a bus terminal and shopping centre too.
Try visiting the following wet markets:
Tiong Bahru Estate (83 Seng Poh Road: Take the MRT and alight at Tiong Bahru station, then walk 400m to Tiong Bahru Market)
Toa Payoh Wet Market (127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh: Take the MRT and alight at Toa Payoh station, then take bus# 141, 231 from the bus interchange and alight 3 stops later)
Marine Parade Central (84 Marine Parade Central: Take the MRT to Paya Lebar MRT station, then take bus# 43, 76, 197, 135 and alight at Parkway Parade shopping centre 6 stops later)
*Tip! Visit in the mornings, have a local breakfast there, and avoid Mondays as the wet markets would be closed. Try visiting on a weekend to soak in the atmosphere.