How the west has won many over

Western part of the island is getting more hip, being touted as a 'mini-Orchard Road'

Things are no longer quiet on the western front.

Western Singapore is shrugging off its image as an industrial heartland and becoming a "mini-Orchard Road", its residents say.

Pointing to the malls that have sprung up in Jurong East in recent years, such as Westgate and JCube, 20-year-old administrator Nur Fatin Nazira Abdul Malek of Choa Chu Kang said: "There's everything that you need here." She also joked that the area's army camps make it "easier to get a boyfriend".

Retired retail supervisor Susan Loh, 64, who has lived in Jurong East more than half her life, said: "When I first moved here, people said this place was ulu (Malay for rural). Now we have a lot of shopping centres and hospitals. I don't have to travel into town so often."

A journey to the west may still feature shipyards and factories, but it is impossible to overlook developments such as one-north's bustling business park in Buona Vista or the greenery at Chinese Garden.

General manager Chong Cheng Watt, 59, fondly recalls taking his two daughters to Jurong Bird Park and the Science Centre when they were little children. "I also love going to Holland Village for food and fishing at Tuas on weekends," said the Jurong West dweller, flashing a picture of a 5kg seabass he caught.

Holland Close housewife Lee Seow Hong, 64, is thrilled that she can take free zumba and hip-hop dance classes at the nearby Star Vista mall. "It makes me happy. There are so many people and the atmosphere is great," she said.

National University of Singapore student Foong Keng Yi, 25, who has called Holland Drive home for the past decade, said: "The west may not be as hip as the east but there's a certain charm here."

He cited favourite haunts such as Ghim Moh hawker centre and Safti Military Institute, where he served his national service.

But such intimacy will soon make way for more progress, as the Jurong Lake District, the country's test-bed for "smart city" technology, is developed. The terminus of a high-speed rail linking Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is slated for Jurong East.

"There's a lot of construction going on here and so much potential," said Mr Foong. "I'm excited to see what happens."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'How the west has won many over'. Print Edition | Subscribe