The world of vintage or retro fashion isn’t a stranger to Singapore; we’ve had boutiques and hipster cafés with furniture of eccentric prints mushrooming all over the island in the past decade.

However, accompanying these places are electronically powered cash registers and 30-inch desktop computer screens — telltale signs that you still live in the 21st century — and in these places time does seem just as equally fleeting as it does in the financial buildings of Marina Bay.

So here’s what we did; while in the process of longing for authentic retro vibes originating from the times of The Beatles and Beach Boys, we crafted an entire day-tour itinerary in travel agency style. But instead of bringing you to new places, we’re going to bring you into the old century.


8:30 am: Chin Mee Chin Confectionery

204 East Coast Road

Start your day in Chin Mee Chin, a sparsely decorated kopitiam [Hokkien word for coffee shop] with tessellated off-white and grey tiles and steel cake displays.

Order their handmade kaya [coconut-based spread] toast; the butter melts perfectly, immersing all of the kaya and sealing the flavour into fluffy buns. The butter’s saltiness combined with the kaya’s sweetness is an amazing, balanced explosion of flavours that will get you even more immersed in this coffee shop’s ambience.

Take away some of their pastries too as the sugee cakes go at an affordable price of 80 cents apiece.


9:30 am: Carnival Beauty Salon

6 Ceylon Road

A mere 5-minute walk away from Chin Mee Chin Confectionery, this salon seems almost defunct from the outside, its only signs of life evident in display windows that are dust free.

Step inside and you will feel like you have been transported back in time; the curtains are drawn inside, as if keeping the time of the place from escaping, and tacky carmine leather covered chairs, together with aged posters, decorate the shop.

The salon has operated for close to 50 years, but book an appointment soon if you’d like to experience what it was like to have your hair done in the ‘60s, because the owner has no plans of keeping the business alive for much longer. A dye job by practiced hairstylists will set you back just about $50.


12 pm: Yet Con Chicken Rice

25 Purvis Street

Make your way down to Purvis Street after that rad hairdo, and spot an unassuming, monotonous restaurant whose queue seems to never dwindle.

The inception of Yet Con Chicken Rice was in 1940, and the establishment still stands strong today, attracting throngs of crowds on an hourly basis.

The people manning the restaurant are in a constant flurry of movement, a contrast from its furniture, seemingly never changing, and the condiments served in communal blurry glass jars are just simply charming. While the chicken’s texture may come off as a tad too dry, the rice is perfect — not too oily or soggy at all.


2 pm: Kampong Lorong Buangkok

The one and only kampong left in Singapore is masked beneath HDB flats [public housing by Singapore’s Housing Development Board] and a Shell petrol kiosk, and the flamboyantly coloured houses give shelter to families of all races, as well as foreign workers.

You will find your senses being overwhelmed by all things unfamiliar; if you go early enough the chickens will still crow, and occasionally you can even catch whiffs of sambal belachan [spicy paste made of shrimp, garlic and chili peppers] being made by the households, or the distinct smell of burning joss sticks in the air.

Talk to the residents if you see them lounging by their porches, and soak yourselves in their memories. We have heard so many people from all sorts of backgrounds living there, but the one thing they share in common is their love for the idyllic, unrushed nature of the place.

Rumours of the kampong making way for new highways are still around, so make sure to visit Kampong Lorong Buangkok before it truly disappears.


4 pm: Pek Sin Choon PTE LTD

36 Mosque Street

The very first ever tea merchant in Singapore resides in the heart of Chinatown, and its employees have been packaging tea with their own hands for at least half a century.

Pek Sin Choon set up its shop in 1925, but long before that, Mr Kenry Peh’s great grandparents were already going door-to-door selling blends of oolong tea.

Eventually, these blends made their way into bak kut teh houses in Singapore, and now Pek Sin Choon supplies close to 80 per cent of them.

These exquisite, delicate tea concoctions are available from $10.50 for 150gms, and packed painstakingly with two layers of paper — the same way it was done since pre-war Singapore.


5 pm: The Heritage Shop

93 Sultan Road

What good would a tour be without souvenirs? The last stop on our list belongs to Mr Patrick Phoa, and The Heritage Shop is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

Mr Phoa started collecting stamps at age 11, and by then he had already developed a healthy interest in all things old. His collection eventually grew to what it is today, and this tiny shop is simply stunning. High-profile establishments, like MINT Museum of Toys, also source their artifacts or props from The Heritage Shop.

Antiques are piled from the ground right into every single nook and cranny of the shop, and all sorts of things from all over the world inhabit this place, including vintage bottles of perfumes, old books, toy watches, the most classic of typewriters and film cameras.

Go home with a new collection of tea and typewriter ribbons, but if your insatiable nostalgia still burns within, we’d suggest getting on’s vintage section for a complete wardrobe and home makeover. The site has multiple users selling their second-hand threads from all over the world, as well as thousands of DIY goodies waiting to be found.