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Yishun
Photograph: Fabian Loo

The ultimate guide to Yishun

This misunderstood 'hood has great eats, tranquil spots, and a huge heartland mall – you just need to know where to find them

Fabian Loo
Written by
Fabian Loo
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There’s more to this infamous neighbourhood than the headlines on news. Put aside what you think you know about Yishun – we’re talking about news on cat abuse, robberies, violent incidents – and give this quiet neighbourhood a chance. You’ll see that, like most, this is a heartland filled with hidden gems, delicious spots, and tranquil pockets of green. You just need to know where to find them.

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DO

  • Things to do
  • Simpang

The scenic stretch of Sungei Khatib Bongsu may start unassumingly, around the corner from Yishun Park but if you follow the path, you'll find an idyllic area that attracts many birdwatchers, joggers, cyclists and fishing enthusiasts. Most of Khatib Bongsu is dominated by mangrove forests and mudflats.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Ang Mo Kio

More than just your average green space, the award-winning Yishun Nature Park – designed by Ong and Ong no less – is home to over 800 trees from 73 different species and has a unique collection of rainforest trees called the dipterocarp arboretum. For the little ones, there’s a range of playgrounds and play facilities, a nature trail (with jackfruit, coconut and rambutan trees) and rain gardens that offer educational opportunities.

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  • Things to do
  • Yishun

What can’t you do at ORTO? The former Bottle Tree Park has been revamped into a multi-activity venue: paintballing (complete with a life-sized armour tank), prawning and longkang fishing, a trampoline park, drift karting ($20 per session 10-minute session) and even a space for bird-watching enthusiasts. And we haven’t even talked about the food options here – Mookata is a hot favourite so book if you’re going – and they say there’s nothing to do in Yishun.

  • Museums
  • Yishun

The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is a sanctuary for more than 200 turtles and tortoises of over 60 species, including a host of rare reptiles. Be wowed by the weird and wondrous mata-mata, fearsome alligator snapping turtles, and one 60-year-old Asian pond turtle. There’s even a double-headed, six-legged amphibian that the museum owners claimed to have found in their courtyard and nursed back to health.

EAT

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Yishun

Located near the bus interchange, this small coffee shop sees lines forming all day long for its wallet-friendly bowl of laksa (from $2.80). In business for over two decades, it’s a secret spot for many Yishun residents. Its version of laksa is less lemak and lighter in flavour with a shrimp-heavy chilli paste that gives the gravy a real kick. While it doesn’t serve prawns, you’ll hardly miss it thanks to the inclusion of plump fishcake slices, beancurd puffs, cockles (optional), crabstick, and hard-boiled egg.

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Yishun

Everything is made painstakingly by hand at this wonton noodle stall at Yishun Park Hawker Centre. Every day at 2pm, owner Jim Yeoh makes a fresh batch of egg noodles. He kneads them by hand, mixing flour and eggs until it forms a smooth, elastic dough. The noodles might come topped with wontons and slices of char siew ($4.50) that Jim roasts daily, or braised beef brisket ($5.50) that’s bubbling in a pot in the kitchen. “Everything is nicer when it’s handmade,” Jim says.

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  • Restaurants
  • Malay
  • Yishun

The retro-looking eatery is known for its nasi ambeng which sees customers return from all over the island. At the centre of its impressive-looking dish is a mountain of rice, and portions of meat and vegetable dishes surround it. It might take a while to finish the food – which makes it more enjoyable when you have more friends sharing the platter. Try the set that comes with beef rendang (from $27.90) or prawns with green chilli (from $38.90), but the crowd favourite dish here is the sambal sotong. Eating alone? You can also get a solo nasi ambeng set ($10.80).

  • Restaurants
  • Singaporean
  • Mandai

If you're in the area, this nasi lemak joint is a must-try. Open from 5pm to 7am the next day, it is a popular stop for the dinner and supper crowds. Aromatic rice is served with specially marinated fried chicken wings and its signature sambal. There are many side dishes you can add on – but its spicy stirfried long beans and sambal brinjal seems to be the crowd favourite.

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  • Restaurants
  • Yishun

No neighbourhood is complete without a local ice cream parlour peddling its housemade flavours. For Holy Cow Creamery, it’s kept its customers happy with affordable cones ($3 each) in flavours like Mao Shan Wang, Miss Saigon (Vietnamese drip coffee), Sabai Sabai (Thai green tea) and Instagram-friendly creations like charcoal and melted cheddar cheese waffles.

DRINK

  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Yishun

Beyond aromatic brews, this socially driven coffee bar hopes to inspire social good by hiring people from marginalised communities. Through its training program, the coffee chain hopes to impart valuable life skills of independence via coffee-making. Over at its open-air outlet at Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital, used coffee grounds are also reused as fertiliser for the hospital’s rooftop garden.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs
  • Yishun

Located within ORTO, Quench provides a way for you to enjoy a cold pint while immersing yourself in the park’s peaceful surroundings. The alfresco dining area boasts views of the garden lake, and the bar also stocks a decent range of big-name beer – from Corona to Heineken. Soju by the bottle is also available alongside bar bites and Western plates.

SHOP

  • Shopping
  • Yishun

Northpoint City is the largest mall in northern Singapore and the closest shopping centre to Yishun MRT. It has a diverse range of retail shops – even more after its recent revamp – and features more than 50 eateries plus a specialty food precinct called The Makan Town. Within the expansive space is also the Yishun Public Library, an education cluster, thematic shopping zones, and even a community club that’s located within the mall.

  • Restaurants
  • Hawker
  • Yishun

Nelly's Retro Snacks is a candy and biscuit store for both the young and young at heart. You'll find lines of biscuits, sweet treats, and snacks – stored in nostalgic biscuit tins. Its enterprising owners also frequently conduct Facebook Live sales to reach out to customers that live outside of Yishun. Expect everything from nostalgic bites of iced gem biscuits to addictive tempeh chips to chase away the mid-day munchies.

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  • Shopping
  • Home decor
  • Yishun

Looking for affordable furniture to adorn your space? Born in Colour is a homegrown furniture store that works directly with factories to bring you modern, functional pieces grounded in popular design styles such as Scandinavian, mid-century, contemporary, and minimalist. By cutting out the middle man and distributors, Born in Colour passes the cost savings down to consumers through a lower price tag – so expect affordable pieces that are thoughtfully curated to fit in any space.

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