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Katong Dreaming review: What to expect from this musical walking tour

Singapore’s Katong district is most famous for its Peranakan culture and a walking tour is a nice way to learn more about the area, but why settle for a standard walking tour when you can learn about Katong with a little song and dance? I recently checked out Katong Dreaming, a musical tour that explores the Katong neighbourhood. Here’s my Katong Dreaming Review (without too many spoilers of course!) if you are planning to check it out for yourself.

I was invited as media to check out Katong Dreaming season 2, but all thoughts expressed here are based purely on my experience.

Where is Katong in Singapore?

Katong is in the southeastern part of Singapore and is best known as an area with a distinct Peranakan heritage. This mixed group which largely consists of Straits Chinese intermarrying with the local Malay people had strong presence in this area, and many businesses and restaurants here today now showcase that unique Peranakan flavour.

I stayed at Village Hotel Katong which is around here, as well as visited the Intan for a Peranakan tea experience.

Joo Chiat Koon Seng Road Shophouses
Koon Seng Road’s shophouses are one of the iconic sights in Katong

I didn’t grow up here and never really visited this area much until I started working in a nearby area some years back, and would occasionally make the quick jaunt down East Coast Road for some good eats. I did spend a lot more time here in recent years looking for murals and street art and giving virtual tours in recent years. Also, it feels like the tourism industry has also started pushing more focus onto Peranakan culture and the Katong-Joo Chiat area as a result.

Katong is not on the MRT line so it isn’t the most accessible location, but that will change in future when Phase 3 of the Thomson-East Coast Line comes up. Most people either take a bus or drive here.

The Phoenix by Boon (2022)
Street art in Joo Chiat – this mural showcases very typical Peranakan style art found on crockery

About Katong Dreaming

Katong Dreaming launched in Feb/Mar 2022 post-pandemic as a performance arts walking tour. Quite simply, instead of a typical walking tour with a tour guide sharing stories and facts about the place, this musical tour has artists sharing specially created music, poetry and dance inspired by the area’s history as you walk around the area over the two hours.

Some bits are recorded, like the background music that you listen to on headphones to provide some atmosphere as you walk along, but most of the performance happens live as the artists follow along the route and can be influenced by the surroundings and circumstances of the day.

Katong Dreaming is a tour by Betel Box Tours – some might have heard of Betel Box Hostel, one of the longer running backpacker hostels in Singapore that has been around since 2003. Their food tour is also pretty famous.

My Katong Dreaming Review in detail

Katong Dreaming has a late afternoon matinee timing from 4-6pm and in the evening 730-930pm. I did the evening show on a Saturday, which is a fairly busy time for the district with weekend dinner crowds, but is also a bit cooler for walking without the sunshine. Evening does feel a bit more atmospheric, but if you want nicer photos with bright colours, consider the matinee slots instead.

The show started off at the Singapore Visitor Centre located at Kim Choo Kueh Chang [Google maps location]. You can buy souvenirs here while waiting around – usually I buy a couple of Nyonya and Ba Changs (sticky rice dumplings) back for the family when I pass through here.

Katong Dreaming Kim Choo Start Me Headphones
All geared up with our headsets at Kim Choo Kueh Chang and ready to set off! Shoutout to my friend Y for accompanying me on this tour

We were welcomed by Tony, also the boss of Betel Box Hostel, administrator and traffic warden for the night. He set us up with the headsets which are an essential part of the tour – because we’re walking outdoors with the crowds, the headsets allow you to hear all the commentary, singing and background music without too much interference.

I think random people walking by our group were definitely curious about what exactly we were listening to – it’s like watching a silent disco especially when the performers are doing their thing and all the music/context is only happening over the headphones so onlookers have no idea what they are moving to.

My only issue was that the headphones are pretty warm to wear the whole time so I had to air one ear at a time, but the bright blue lights on the earpieces were also useful in identifying the group easily as we walked around.

Katong Dreaming Audience Walking
Walking along the back alleys with our fancy blue headsets

The main host and narrator of the show is Mark Tan. I knew him before this as a musician and singer but in true Singaporean artist form, the man has many other talents including being a licensed tour guide. He composed the tunes and sang live throughout the tour, recited poetry, historical facts and personal anecdotes alike and was basically responsible for carrying the show, big kudos to him!

Katong Dreaming Kim Choo Katong Map
Mark showing an overview of Katong – this map is located on the 2nd floor of Kim Choo Kueh Chang

Besides Mark, another key performer on this tour is the dancer – there are different dancers on each day, ours was Nicole. Clad in a pink multi-purpose Peranakan-style sarong, she didn’t really follow the group around, but popped up at key points to help tell the story.

Katong Dreaming Houses Performers
Mark and Nicole in a back alley

The itinerary itself isn’t really a secret – you can see it in the tour description, but I like that it doesn’t just cover the tourist highlights like Koon Seng Road and East Coast Road, but also brings you through the residential areas and other less well known local gems like Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple and Roxy Square. We even visited an unexpected spot in a carpark – I won’t spoil it any further, but that was a fun insight into local culture.

Even as someone who spent most of my life growing up in Singapore and has done a fair amount of local research for travel writing, some of the stories about these places in Katong were new to me.

As a part of the tour, you are also invited to join a whatsapp group and relevant links will be sent to you so you can do a little more reading afterwards, and they also give some context notes which are useful for the foreigners who might not know about the local stereotypes or perceptions of certain places/people.

Also here’s my big tip for you – they will offer you stools at the start of the tour that you can tote along and sit on during the walk. TAKE THEM. The tour lasts about 2 hours and there aren’t really any places to lean against or sit on in the public spaces. I definitely did not regret being able to rest my legs at all.

Katong Dreaming Koon Seng Houses Chairs
Here we are sitting on stools like pros while Mark is singing across the street.

Should you watch Katong Dreaming?

Yes, Katong Dreaming was a great way to spend my Saturday evening!

Katong Dreaming was an enjoyable walking tour with a difference that presents the Katong neighbourhood in a fresh way with music and performance. If you’re like me and forget all the historical dates and details as soon as the tour guide shares them, you might appreciate learning about this unique Singaporean neighbourhood through songs, poetry and movement instead.

Katong Dreaming a tour that both local Singaporeans and foreign tourists can enjoy. I daresay the local might find it more meaningful because they can better understand some of the references and culture, but for tourists who are looking to go beyond the usual big bang attractions and dig into what makes Singapore Singapore, they would enjoy this tour as well.

For those thinking about bringing their families along, I’d recommend this tour for adults or if you have older kids who can appreciate a bit of history. Those with younger toddlers might find it challenging to keep them entertained and not disrupt the atmosphere while trying to appreciate the stories being told.

Katong Dreaming BetelBox End
Ending the night at Betel Box Hostel

Thanks again to the Katong Dreaming Team for inviting me to check out this walking tour with a difference. Season 2 currently runs till end Nov 2023 and there’s no knowing what the future holds, so don’t miss out on this chance to check out the show before the run ends!

How to book Katong Dreaming Tickets

This listed info is for the Season 2 run in 2023 and may be updated accordingly in future.

Book Katong Dreaming: A Musical Tour tickets at A ticket costs S$68.

You can find out more info from Betel Box Tours, Katong Dreaming Peatix or Katong Dreaming Instagram.

Tickets are available on weekends:

  • Friday evening 730-930pm
  • Saturday matinee 4pm-6pm
  • Saturday evening 730-930pm
  • Sunday matinee 4pm-6pm

This is a group tour and the maximum capacity is 36pax. If you have your own group or are looking for private tours, drop them a note directly.

There is a fair amount of walking involved so wear good shoes and bring a small umbrellas just in case of the weather. The tour offers light stools that you can borrow and tote around with you and sit on where needed.

Headphones are provided so you don’t have to bring your own earphones.

The tour starts from Kim Choo Kueh Chang along East Coast Road (Opposite I12 shopping mall) and ends at Betel Box Hostel.

Interested in more tours of Singapore neighbourhoods? Check out New World in Jalan Besar, or see more offbeat things to do in Singapore here: