Toa Payoh

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Toa Payoh
Name transcription(s)
 • Chinese 大巴窑
 • Pinyin Dàbāyáo
 • Malay Toa Payoh
 • Tamil தோ பயோ
Toa Payoh Stadium and Sports Hall.
Toa Payoh Stadium and Sports Hall.
Toa Payoh Planning Area locator map.png
Country  Singapore
 • Ruling parties People's Action Party
 • Total 8.17 km2 (3.15 sq mi)
 • Residential 2.48 km2 (0.96 sq mi)
 • Total 124,940 [1]
Dwelling Units 36,616 [2]
Projected ultimate 61,000

Toa Payoh (simplified Chinese: 大巴窑; traditional Chinese: 大巴窯) is an urban planning area and residential district located in the northern part of the Central Region of Singapore.[3][4] It is bounded by Braddell Road and Bartley Road to the north, Upper Paya Lebar Road to the east, MacPherson Road and Jalan Toa Payoh to the south and Thomson Road to the west.

The planning area is also home to Toa Payoh New Town, the second satellite town to be built in Singapore. It is located towards the Western end of the planning area. The New Town is a cluster of sub-zones, consisting of Toa Payoh Central, Toa Payoh West, Balestier, Lorong 8 Toa Payoh, Kim Keat, Braddell, Boon Teck and Pei Chun. The New Town, which was the result of a Housing and Development Board project in 1968, serves as the main hub of the Toa Payoh district.

Towards the East are the sub-zones of Potong Pasir, Bidadari, Woodleigh, Sennett and Joo Seng. Despite sitting within the bounds of the planning area, these districts are not considered to be part of the New Town itself.[5] The constituency of Potong Pasir is managed under the Jalan Besar Town Council,[6] separating it from the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council, which manages Toa Payoh New Town. Bidadari Estate is still relatively new and is currently in its early stages of development.[7]


Toa Payoh, in the Hokkien dialect, translates as "big swamp" (with "Toa" meaning "big" and "Payoh" meaning "swamp"). The Malay word for swamp is paya. The reference indicates the large swampy area that preceded the later development of Chinese market gardens in this area.

It is the Chinese equivalent of Paya Lebar, which translates to, big swamp land. To older generation Chinese, Toa Payoh is known as ang chiang san (or anxiangshan) or "burial hill" because of the cemetery located in the area.

J.T. Thomson, a government surveyor, refers to Toa Payoh in his 1849 agricultural report as Toah Pyoh Lye and Toah Pyoh. Whampoa or Hoo Ah Kay had an orange garden here that Johnson visited. The neglected garden which Whampoa had bought was converted into a tasteful "bel-retiro" with its avenues, front-orchard, hanging gardens, Dutch walls, bamboos and orange trees, shrubs, stags and peafowls, its aviary and menagerie and artificial curiosities of horticulture.


Toa Payoh was once an extensive and notorious squatter district. Most squatters were engaged in farming and rearing pigs. The others were hawkers, factory workers, mechanics or domestic helpers.

The squatters started moving out in 1962 as a result of increased compensation rates and other practical inducements offered by the Government. Clearance work was able to commence and the redevelopment started in early 1964.

Queen Elizabeth II visited the area in the years 1972 and 2006.

Toa Payoh New Town[edit]

An apartment block in Toa Payoh New Town at Toa Payoh Lorong 6. The HDB Hub and point blocks at Toa Payoh Town Centre can be seen in the background.
Toa Payoh Town Centre

The Toa Payoh New Town, HDB's second satellite town, was built in 1968. The layout of the new town follows urban planning principles of the time. The housing estate is self-contained and has a town centre acting as a focal point for the shopping and entertainment needs of the residents.

Industrial developments were also built within the town to provide residents with job opportunities close to home while schools were built within the neighbourhoods.

Toa Payoh Town Centre[edit]

The town centre was the first prototype in Singapore. It is surrounded by separated neighbourhoods, each with its own shopping amenities and community centres, well served by a network of vehicular roads and generous open space separating them. The result, as in the English new towns of the 1950s, is that residents tend less to travel to the main town centre but rather to shop within their neighbourhood; if they travel, they go to Orchard Road or the town area via the MRT system, at the Toa Payoh MRT Station and the Braddell MRT Station, or public bus services at Toa Payoh Bus Interchange.

Nevertheless, with time, the Toa Payoh Town Centre has become increasingly popular. It has a busy atmosphere because, as with many shopping malls of the time, all commercial activities are concentrated along a single mall with high point blocks on either side and major department stores at each end. The shopping mall is actually L-shaped and there are two plazas, one with a branch library and cinema, the other with an area office and a post office. Each plaza has a department store at either end.

The commercial development, HDB Hub, located at the Toa Payoh Town Centre was completed in 2002. The Housing and Development Board relocated its headquarters from its premises at Bukit Merah to the HDB Hub on 10 June 2002. The HDB Hub comprises two wings, an atrium, four commercial building blocks, a leisure and learning centre and a three-storey basement parking lot. The building also accommodates Singapore's first fully air-conditioned Toa Payoh Bus Interchange and integrates it with the existing Toa Payoh MRT Station.

Another landmark of Toa Payoh is the facility of Royal Philips Electronics (the Dutch multinational making medical and electronics equipment). Philips established an extensive facility, parts of which are now owned by Jabil and NXP. The facility has been used by Philips for developing, amongst others, televisions and DVD players for years.

Toa Payoh Town Park[edit]

The distinctive viewing tower at Toa Payoh Town Park to the right, with the tower block of HDB Hub in the background.

The Housing and Development Board decided to allocate a large area of the Toa Payoh New Town for a garden-landscaped park, the Toa Payoh Town Garden, despite the pressure on land here for housing.

The town garden used to be popular with visitors who came from near and far to enjoy the display of willows, bamboos and the brilliant reds and yellows of the Delonix regia trees. At the heart of the garden is a 0.8 ha carp pond which contains a waterfall and a cluster of islands linked by bridges. The islands are arranged to provide a sequence of delightful walking experiences not only by day but also by night when the garden is lit. The garden is buffered from the noise and night-time glare of passing traffic along Jalan Toa Payoh by an elevated slope planted with thick rows of Angsanas. There are also a children's playground, seating areas and outdoor chessboard, a tea kiosk and a 27-metre high viewing tower.

Toa Payoh Town Garden was partially closed in 1999 to make way for a temporary bus interchange. After the new Toa Payoh Bus Interchange at the HDB Hub was completed in June 2002, the temporary bus interchange was converted to a landscaped park. Toa Payoh Town Garden was subsequently renamed as Toa Payoh Town Park.

Sports and recreation[edit]

The sporting facilities are based in the southern central part of Toa Payoh, which is located near the town centre. It consists of 3500 seater Toa Payoh Stadium, where S.League club Balestier Khalsa FC plays its home games. Toa Payoh Sports Hall is located besides the stadium, as well as the Singapore Table Tennis Association Academy. Meanwhile, there is also Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, where national swimmers train at the complex.

Besides these facilities located in the centre of the town, there are also street football courts, gym facilities and basketball courts available at various neighbourhoods of Toa Payoh. Meanwhile, SAFRA clubhouse is located besides Toa Payoh Stadium.


Night view from block 79, facing north

The majority areas of Toa Payoh is located within the Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency, except a portion of Lorong 8 Toa Payoh which is in the Potong Pasir Single Member Constituency. The section which is part of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC is divided into three divisions, mainly Toa Payoh Central, Toa Payoh East-Novena and Toa Payoh West-Balestier. The members of parliament are Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Saktiandi Supaat and Chee Hong Tat of the People's Action Party, the ruling party of Singapore. The Member of Parliament for Potong Pasir SMC is Sitoh Yih Pin of the People's Action Party.


The Schools that are located within Toa Payoh estate include:

Famous residents[edit]

  • Bonny Hicks, model and author.
  • Neil Humphreys, an author of three books about Singapore and columnist with local newspaper Today, used to live in Toa Payoh but has since migrated to Australia.

In popular culture[edit]

TV shows


  • Toa Payoh: Our Kind Of Neighbourhood by Koh, Buck Song, a coffeetable corporate history of the Housing and Development Board and of 40 years of public housing, told through the stories of five families in Toa Payoh. Times Editions, Singapore, 2000. ISBN 981-232-124-1.


  • "A Brief History of Toa Payoh" by Koh, Buck Song, published in the verse anthology "A Brief History of Toa Payoh And Other Poems", Imperial Publishing House, Singapore, 1992, and on the website of Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council at
  • "Toa Payoh Reborn" by Koh, Buck Song, in the Cultural Medallion project coffeetable book Heartlands: Home And Nation In The Art Of Ong Kim Seng, Singapore 2008.


  • Victor R Savage, Brenda S A Yeoh (2003), Toponymics – A Study of Singapore Street Names, Eastern Universities Press, ISBN 981-210-205-1
  • Norman Edwards, Peter Keys (1996), Singapore – A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, Times Books International, ISBN 9971-65-231-5

External links[edit]