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Bishan more atas than Toa Payoh? Ng Eng Hen remembers ‘Chicago of the East’ fondly

The Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC has evolved over decades — and Dr Ng Eng Hen knows it well.

In a Facebook Live session on Tuesday night (June 30), Dr Ng, who has been MP for the constituency since 2001, shared why the place has been close to his heart for much longer.

“I’m from the Merdeka Generation. My visual memory of Toa Payoh is slightly more dated than my colleagues’,” the 61-year-old chuckled.

He recounted the time when he visited friends living in the town when he was in his teens.

“I took the bus here, there was no MRT, and there was no Bishan.

“Toa Payoh of the 70s and 80s, many of you would know that Toa Payoh was called the ‘Chicago of the East’ for good reason,” he said.

The nickname came from the town’s association with secret societies and gang clashes, which remained for some time after its development in the 60s.

And when Bishan was built in the 1980s, “it was seen as a bit more atas (higher class) than Toa Payoh.”

However, both towns have their own charms, Dr Ng said.

Over the years, Toa Payoh has been transformed. It might have previously got into the news because of its underworld links, but nowadays, the town is making headlines when HDB flats are sold, sometimes for over $1 million.

Meanwhile, Dr Ng called Bishan “geographically blessed” with great schools, transportation and amenities.

Good property prices and infrastructure aside, the defence minister is also a patron of the ‘cheap and good’ Bugs Bunny Barber which has been in Toa Payoh Lorong 4 since 1971.

He didn’t forget to mention the yummy food in the estates, saying that his team has always tucked into a meal after they’re done with their walkabouts.

“I’d say Toa Payoh and Bishan are very close to me, they’re my second home and will continue to be.”

Dr Ng is running for his fifth term in the four-member Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, along with fellow People’s Action Party members Chee Hong Tat, Chong Kee Hiong and Saktiandi Supaat. They will be up against the Singapore People’s Party for the third time.

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