With the opening of the Downtown Line Stage 2, the name “Beauty World” is once again brought into the limelight. Located at the spot where Bukit Timah Road continues into Upper Bukit Timah Road, it seems to have halted at its own crossroads of development. After years of changes, from an amusement park to a market, and finally to a cluster of shopping malls, time seems to have stood still since the 1980s, while the rest of Singapore have since moved on.
Beauty World, just before the completion of the MRT station
The area that we know as Beauty World is bounded by Jalan Anak Bukit on the northeast, and Upper Bukit Timah Road on the southwest. There used to be a roundabout on the two extreme corners of the plot of land – Ewart Circus (which connects the two roads to Hindhede Drive) and Bukit Timah Circus (which connects the two roads to Bukit Timah Road, Dunearn Road and Clementi Road). Like many other roundabouts in Singapore, they have since been replaced with traffic light controlled junctions. Throughout history, this area has been known by many other names. Before WWII, the Chinese referred to the place as “Chin Huat”, after the words found in front of a grand Peranakan house. The house was destroyed during the war. In lieu of the milestone system used in Singapore at that time, locals also referred to the area as the seventh or 7½th milestone Upper Bukit Timah Road. Today, this area is best known as “Beauty World”.
As the name suggests, Beauty World began as an amusement park, established during the Japanese Occupation on a site heavily damaged by bombings. It was then known as tua tong ah (大东亚) in Hokkien, or Greater East Asia Amusement Park in English, referencing the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” propagated by the Japanese invaders at that time. The name “Beauty World” only came about after WWII, when the disused amusement park was converted into a market called Beauty World Market. This sets Beauty World apart from the other “worlds” in Singapore, as the amusement park was never referred to as such during its operational years.
For many years, the market was a popular attraction and a focal point in this area. In view of safety and health issues, the market eventually gave way to modern development. A total of 4 shopping malls were developed in the vicinity, in addition to both private and public housings. However, subsequent redevelopments have been minimal, except the occasional renovations of the malls. With the opening of the new MRT station, how long more will it be able to retain its old-world charm?
Jalan Anak Bukit, with the Anak Bukit Underpass in the middle
Jalan Anak Bukit, which runs almost parallel to the rail corridor today, was a relatively newer addition, compared to Upper Bukit Timah Road and Bukit Timah Road. Before the construction of the Bukit Timah Sevenmile Flyover, it was a one-way road that complemented this particular stretch of Upper Bukit Timah Road (which runs in the other direction till today), much like how Dunearn Road complemented the uni-directional stretch of Bukit Timah Road. Anak bukit literally means “small hill” or “mound” in Malay, although I’m not sure if it is named after a particular mound nearby. Other constructions in the vicinity that share the same name include the Anak Bukit Underpass (located in between the road), the nearby Anak Bukit Flyover for PIE, and the Anak Bukit Resettlement Centre (now the Beauty World Centre).
Constructed: Early 2000s
The Bukit Timah Sevenmile Flyover, connecting Clementi Road to Jalan Anak Bukit, was not named after its length, but after the nearby seventh milestone of Bukit Timah Road (where King Albert Lodge stands today, next to the KTM railway truss bridge). It stretches over the original Bukit Timah Circus, which was converted into a traffic light controlled junction in the late 1970s. However, parts of the original roundabout were retained, allowing vehicles to switch between the various roads in this complex junction. Remnants of the roundabout were finally obliterated in the early 2000s when the flyover was constructed.
Construction of the flyover was done together with the Anak Bukit Underpass, as well as the extension of Jalan Jurong Kechil. Jalan Anak Bukit was also converted to bidirectional traffic, with the flyover and underpass located in between the two directions. Today, the flyover connects directly to the underpass, before combining with Jalan Anak Bukit, allowing vehicles from Clementi Road to transit smoothly to Upper Bukit Timah Road (and vice versa) seamlessly while avoiding two major traffic junctions.
Bukit Timah Plaza; the open space in the foreground was once part of the Bukit Timah Circus
Bukit Timah Plaza was the first shopping mall to be built in this area, and is one of the earliest mixed-used developments to be built outside the city centre. It is integrated with a private residential development known as Sherwood Towers. However, unlike the usual podium-and-tower typology, it also has an adjacent residential tower, connected via a pedestrian footbridge. Its main commercial podium consists of 4 storeys of retail spaces sandwiched between levels of parking at basement 3, and level 3 and above. Located above the podium are facilities for Sherwood Towers, including a swimming pool, gym and playground. The rooftop facilities and multi-storey car park within the podium are connected to the adjacent tower via a pedestrian bridge.
The bridge that connects the residential units to the facilities above the podium
The tower above the shopping podium
Despite (and to some extend, because it is) being surrounded by major traffic arteries, such as PIE (Anak Bukit Flyover) and Jalan Anak Bukit (Bukit Timah Sevenmile Flyover), the location of Bukit Timah Plaza is less than favourable pedestrian-wise. The main entrance along Jalan Anak Bukit can only be accessed either via the major traffic junction under the Sevenmile Flyover or via an overhead bridge behind Sherwood Towers. Residents from the nearby Toh Yi HDB Estate would instead enter through a back entrance located underneath the Anak Bukit Flyover, one that would not be apparent to first-time visitors. As such, business has dwindled over the years, and the regular flow of customers today is largely supported by FairPrice Finest. The supermarket currently occupies two storeys of floor spaces previously occupied by Yaohan. It is unknown if the new MRT station would help bring in more customers, as the plaza is the furthest away from the station.
The Anak Bukit Flyover that separates Bukit Timah Plaza from the rest of Beauty World
The side entrance (and the mall itself) is obscured from view by the Anak Bukit Flyover
The side entrance is only visible from under the flyover
Before Bukit Timah Plaza was built, the plot of land was occupied by Lam Choon Rubber Factory.
The old Bukit Timah CC
From the back entrance of Bukit Timah Plaza, a cluster of 2-storey brick buildings can be seen on the other side of the Anak Bukit Flyover. These buildings were originally the Bukit Timah Community Centre, which was built in 1959. It was described as “Singapore’s best” at the time of completion. In 1986, construction of a newer community centre began at Toh Yi Drive, and the CC moved over in 1988. The old buildings at Bukit Timah Avenue were then occupied by Econ Nursing Home for some years before being vacated.
Remnants of staircases leading to the CC?
Bukit Timah Avenue, the road that served the old Bukit Timah CC building, was originally called Bukit Timah Lane. It was renamed in 1959 when the Rural Board accepted the suggestion of Mr R. S. Boswell.
Bukit Timah Avenue
Remnants of an entrance gate along Bukit Timah Ave; could it be an entrance for the dispensary or the CC?
The rough location of the dispensary along Bukit Timah Ave
A number of buildings once stood at the junction of Bukit Timah Avenue and Upper Bukit Timah Road. The Bukit Timah Dispensary was located at 2 Bukit Timah Avenue, on the same side of the road as the CC. It was subsequently renamed Bukit Timah Clinic, and then Bukit Timah Polyclinic. It closed down in the early 1980s.
The location of the dispensary; the police station and post office were located further down the road
The Bukit Timah Police Station was situated next to the dispensary, across Bukit Timah Ave. Since the introduction of the Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP) system by the Singapore Police Force, it became known as the Bukit Timah NPP. In 1989, it shifted to its current location at Blk 1 Toh Yi Drive.
Demolished: Late 1990s
Standing next to the police station was the post office building. It was opened in 1953 to “cater for a district, where business development was taking place rapidly in the shape of large factories and warehouses”. The post office building was demolished at the turn of the millennium to give way to the extension of Jalan Jurong Kechil.
Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre
On the other side of Upper Bukit Timah Road, the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre continues to serve the residents of Bukit Timah and the rest of Singapore. A number of stalls in the food centre have gained popularity over the years, and were passed down from the first generation hawkers. The market is located on the ground floor while the food centre is on the second storey.
A mural located outside the market
The two-storey building replaced the original Bukit Timah Village, situated along Jalan Jurong Kechil and Upper Bukit Timah Road (around exit C of the MRT station and the adjacent petrol station).
Goh & Goh Building
The Goh & Goh Building is a 4-storey building located at the junction of Upper Bukit Timah Road and Jalan Jurong Kechil. Despite its relatively more prominent location, it never received as much attention as the surrounding megacomplexes. It used to have a small open-air car park in front of it, but it has since been removed due to the construction of the MRT station.
Beauty World Plaza, with the MRT station construction in front
On the other side of Bukit Timah Link stands Beauty World Plaza, a mixed-used development consisting of a 3-storey commercial podium and a 5-storey private residential tower. It was one of the many developments under real estate tycoon Ng Teng Fong’s Far East Organisation in the 1980s. Its most distinguishable feature is its triangular-shaped podium – an oddity in the area. Like Goh & Goh Building, it is often overlooked amidst the surrounding developments. However, it now has a direct sheltered link from the MRT station exit located right in front of it. It remains to be seen if this will help revitalise this sleepy commercial development.
The residential tower, as seen from Beauty World Centre
The sheltered linkway that connects the plaza to the MRT station can be seen on the right
Bukit Timah Link was initially constructed to connect Upper Bukit Timah Road to Jalan Anak Bukit and the connecting PIE exit (today’s Exit 26A). However, after the extension of Jalan Jurong Kechil to meet latter two, Bukit Timah Link was disconnected from the junction. Since then, it has been a dead-end road serving Bukit View and the open-air car park behind Goh & Goh Building.
The empty plot of land between Jalan Seh Chuan and Upper Bukit Timah Road was once occupied by the Beauty World Market. It was opened in 1947, and sold a wide variety of items, including textiles, books and fresh produce. Beauty World Town (美世界市场) was added to the market in 1962, further increasing the range of items found there. However, the market was eventually deemed unsafe after a series of fire incidents. Most of stalls were eventually resettled in the newly-completed Beauty World Centre by the end of 1983, while some relocated to Clementi. Today, the only amenities found on this plot are a car park and an exit for the MRT station.
Cheong Chin Nam Road
Cheong Chin Nam Road is a road that runs parallel to Upper Bukit Timah Road. It boasts a row of shophouses housing famous eateries such as Al-Ameen Eating House. These eateries have since become synonymous to the dining scene of Beauty World.
The sheltered connection from the MRT station to the shophouses along Chun Tin Road and Cheong Chin Nam Road
The road is named after Cheong Chin Nam (张振南), a dentist, merchant and landowner. His father was Cheong Chun Tin (张春田), Singapore’s first qualified Chinese dentist. Cheong Chin Nam and his brother, Cheong Chin Heng (张振衡), ran a dental practice known as Cheong Brothers. Cheong Chin Nam subsequently went into the rubber plantation business, eventually owning lots of land located around Bukit Timah and Beauty World. In addition to Cheong Chin Nam Road, a few other roads located within land owned by him were named after members of his family. These roads are namely Chun Tin Road, Yuk Tong Ave and Tham Soong Ave, named after his father and two wives (郑玉棠 and谭顺) respectively. Cheong Chin Nam developed a number of houses along Chun Tin Road and Cheong Chin Nam Road, as well as a row of now-conserved shophouses (built in 1923) along Jalan Jurong Kechil.
Ever since the construction of the MRT station began, the businesses of the eateries along Cheong Chin Nam Road have been affected greatly. With the opening of the station and back-to-normal businesses, there have been discussions recently on the possibility of pedestrianizing Cheong Chin Nam Road on weekends, providing greater accessibility for patrons coming in from the MRT station.
Designed by URA
Beauty World Centre
The Beauty World Centre was constructed to house the relocated occupants of Beauty World Market / Town. It consists of a 5-storey commercial podium connected to the car park podium of a residential development known as Bukit View. 20 storeys of housing units are located in a tower above the car park podium. It was developed and designed by URA as the Anak Bukit Resettlement Centre, and subsequently sold to Pidemco Land in 1989. In 1998, Pidemco sold the mall to 194 individual shopowners, making it strata-titled, similar to Bukit Timah Plaza.
The rooftop deck where the food centre is located
View from the rooftop food centre
One unique feature of Beauty World Centre is the food centre located at the top of the commercial podium, offering panoramic views of the surroundings. It is designed and functions more like a hawker centre than the usual food courts found in other shopping malls. With the food centre and the adjacent provision shops and eateries, the area feels more like a neighbourhood centre rather than the rooftop of a shopping mall. An overhead bridge across Jalan Anak Bukit connects directly to this rooftop level.
The old signage of the shopping centre, with a different typeface for the English name and a larger Mandarin name
The Mandarin name of the centre was once also displayed on the external stair core. Advertisement boards are now displayed on that wall instead
Despite its close proximity to the new MRT station, the covered linkway from Exit A stops short of connecting directly to the shopping centre, making access slightly more difficult during rainy weather.
The UOB Centre, located in between Beauty World Centre and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, has an extremely small building footprint compared to its neighbours. This was the original site of the Bukit Timah branch of Chung Khiaw Bank (崇侨银行), which was set up by philanthropist Aw Boon Haw in 1947. The Bukit Timah branch building was opened in 1963. Chung Khiaw Bank was acquired by United Overseas Bank (UOB) in the 1970s, and the Chung Khiaw brand was merged into UOB in 1999. The current UOB Centre building is much taller than the original building, thus maximising the gross floor area within the plot.
Bukit Timah Shopping Centre
Bukit Timah Shopping Centre is another mixed-used development at Beauty World that has fallen behind the pace of Singapore’s development. It consists of a shopping and car park podium topped by a tower. Unlike the huge atrium spaces of Beauty World Centre and Bukit Timah Plaza, the atrium space of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre is a lot smaller. The corridors are also a lot narrower.
The residential tower and car park podium, as seen from Jalan Anak Bukit
One of the more notable tenants in the early years of the shopping centre was Gala Theatre (嘉宾) operated by Eng Wah, which showed mainly Tamil and Chinese films. The theatre closed down in the mid 1990s. Today, the mall is populated by maid agencies and interior design firms.
Bukit Timah Shopping Centre
The shopping centre is connected directly to an overhead bridge across Upper Bukit Timah Road, which is turn is connected to the shophouses along Cheong Chin Nam Road, and Exit B of the MRT station.
The overhead bridge was temporarily removed during the construction of the MRT station
Church of Singapore (Bukit Timah)
The Church of Singapore (Bukit Timah) is located at the junction of Upper Bukit Timah Road, Hindhede Road and Jalan Anak Bukit, opposite Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. It began as a branch church of the Church of Singapore (Marine Parade) in the 1980s, before gaining independence in 1988. Since then, services were held in the Jurong Town Hall auditorium and Anglo Chinese School, before acquiring this current plot of land in 1996.
Constructed: 1971 to 1974
Kar Yeng Five Districts General Association Building
The Kar Yeng Five Districts General Association was established in 1957 to serve the communities originating from Meixian (梅县), Jiaoling (蕉岭), Wuhua (五华), Xingning (兴宁) and Pingyuan (平远) of Meizhou City (梅州市), Guangdong province, China. Meizhou City was historically known as Kaying (嘉应). Initially, the association was housed in an attap house. The current building was constructed from 1971 to 1974, at a time when membership reached a peak of 700.
From 2001 to 2007, Thekchen Choling occupied one of the units of the association building, before moving to its current premise at Beatty Lane.
In December 2015, the Beauty World MRT Station was opened, along with 11 other stations along Downtown Line Stage 2. This marks the beginning of a new era for Beauty World, bringing much greater convenience for residents and visitors alike. Will this bring about greater transformations, physical or otherwise? Only time will tell.
File Last Updated: January 27, 2016