Katong’s Peranakan Culture

To learn more about this neighborhood I call my home since Feb this year, I  spent some time exploring Katong the last few weeks.

Katong, being the area associated with the first Peranakan community in Singapore, has retained some of its Peranakan heritage. Located on the stretch of Katong Road, are three shophouses with distinct Peranakan architecture; Rumah Bebe, Katong Antique House and Peranakan Inn.

Rumah Bebe Peranankan 1 Peranankan 11

Ornate and intricate patterns lined the walls and floors at the shop. The beautiful architecture of the shop house intrigued me…

Peranankan 3

Until I stepped into the shop.

I was greeted by a scowling-face middle aged lady, whose first words were,”No photography allowed!”, when she saw that I was holding a camera. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for the rest of the time K and I were in the shop. She hovered around us as we browse through her merchandise, her ‘menacing’ presence made me almost afraid to ask her any questions about the $500 Kebaya-s and $300 beaded slippers on display.

I felt pressured enough by the lady in the shop to eventually buy something before leaving; a slice of Kueh Lapis. Which incidentally gave me very bad diarrhoea for the next 4 days. This was one of the worse experience I ever encountered from any retail shop in Singapore. So enter Rumah Bebe at your own risk!

It seems I am not the only one that experienced this from the shop assistant, found these bad reviews about Rumah Bebe from Trip Advisor.

I have learnt never to trust the write-ups from Singapore Tourism Board.

I can’t help but peek into the shop as I walk pass Rumah Bebe almost daily in the early evenings, and I am really not surprised to see the shop without customers every time.

Katong Antique House Peranankan 12

Now, I had a totally different experience from this other location. Which made me wonder if Katong Antique House is ever opened for business, for those times I visited. Maybe I should have called to make an appointment?

Interesting facade and exterior, but my experience ended there. I visited the place thrice but never had an opportunity to venture beyond the hall of the place. So no photo opportunities either. If Peranakan antiques and artifacts interest you, Peranakan Museum will be a better place to view these things.

Just look at these lovely Peranakan tiles then,

Peranankan 13

I wonder though will I be warmly welcomed into these places, if I was of  a native of another country, other than a local Singaporean. Or are these just examples of bad customer service?

Peranankan 14

For a friendly and tastier Peranakan experience, venture next door to Peranakan Inn.

Peranankan 15

So will there be more to discover from the Katong neighborhood? Likely so. But not till this’accidental tourist’ sets aside some time the next few weeks to find out more about this neighbourhood.


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  1. I have lived here for almost my whole life, and haven’t even tried to enter Rumah Bebe hahaha…

    For some authentic Peranakan food and to check out baju, and other knick knacks (to browse or buy), check out Kim Choo which is just beside Rumah Bebe! Love their food, and on the second floor they have a mini Peranakan “display” and the people are nicer.
    San´s last blog post ..Lego Fun!

    Rachel Reply:

    Oh..I haven’t walk into Kim Choo yet! Didn’t know that they had clothes and knick knacks too, I had the impression that the shop only sold peranakan snacks

  2. Rach, katong antique house is always “closed” but they will open (with sour face) if you ring the bell. I went in there with poppy a long time ago and they couldn’t wait to chase me out. And people wonder why singapore’s young don’t know about their culture. How to learn like that!
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    Rachel Reply:

    Exactly! Spore Heritage Board should either take over to run places like that or help the owners to undergo compulsory customer service training, before they can be featured as a worthwhile place to visit from STB site. Feel so cheated by the feature on the tourism board website!