They say absence makes the heart more loving, and like many Singaporeans, that’s how I feel about Teo Heng.
The KTV studio, known for its affordable prices, is a place where many kids of the 80s and 90s flock to sing song after song.
Unfortunately, the pandemic gave Teo Heng a hard time and the family business was strive to stay afloat.
In addition, the the pilot program to reopen nightclubs and karaoke bars has been suspended, so singing is unlikely to be allowed in karaoke anytime soon.
Despite these uncertainties, Teo Heng tried to make the most of the situation by renting out their rooms for other uses.
Starting today (March 19), customers will be allowed to book rooms at their Causeway Point and Bedok Point outlets for, as they say, “work, dine and relax”. Their third outlet at JCube is expected to reopen at a later date so the Westies can monitor this.
Curious to see what it will be like, I decided to visit their Bedok Point outlet and work there for a day to see if it was really work-friendly.
I felt like I was back home, but under-equipped
I’ll be honest walking into Teo Heng made me emotional, especially since I thought they would be closed for good.
When I arrived I confirmed my time slot, paid and was shown to my room just like in the good old days.
I got the smallest room available for $ 4 an hour and find that a room this size is good for two, or three people maximum, if you want to give it a try.
The only difference is that the usual table in the middle of the room has been replaced with a larger folding desk. This is supposed to make it more user-friendly for customers who want to work, play board games, or eat.
Unfortunately, the table is not the strongest there is. It’s pretty fragile and as I type this everything is shaking like there’s been a minor earthquake.
However, it is understandable that they may not have enough funds for better quality products, especially since they continue to shell out money to get all their staff paid.
Another problem I had with the room is the lack of charging points. There is a phone charging station with four USB sockets, but other than that I have nowhere to plug my laptop into.
Later the staff shared that if I needed an outlet they could lend me an extension cord.
Also if you are afraid of the cold (like me) I would strongly suggest you bring a jacket as the room is rather cool and you have no control over the temperature as they use a central air conditioning system.
Granted, these issues may dampen your experience, but to be fair to Teo Heng, there wasn’t much they could have done. After all, they were designed to function as a KTV living room.
Food, music and other activities
For those of you who aren’t here for work, but are just looking to have a good time, there are a few ways to use the space.
In the room itself, you can still use the karaoke system to play music, but no microphone is provided. You also cannot bring your own microphone. You can however sing along with the music if you wish. I even heard some of my neighbors screaming at the top of their lungs in the next room.
According to a staff member at Bedok Point, Teo Heng is also open to people bringing their own forms of entertainment, such as game consoles and board games.
They even told me that a guy called to check if he could bring his laptop and connect it to the sound system so he could watch a movie.
Watching a movie in private without a family member stealing the remote control?
You can also enjoy an in-room meal with your friends and family. For the Bedok Point outlet, Teo Heng collaborated with a nearby restaurant called Jianghu Hotpot so that you can easily order at a feast.
Alternatively, you can buy take out or pack your own food to eat in the rooms. The mall itself and its surroundings have a number of dining options, so you’re sure to find something to please.
The refrigerator and shelves near the front desk still sell $ 1 drinks and snacks, just like in the good old days.
Additionally, I was told that the Causeway Point outlet also has a refrigerator stocked with Select Group prepackaged foods if you stay late or too lazy to go out and buy food. A microwave is also at your disposal to heat food!
However, note that you are not allowed to bring alcohol to the premises as they do not have a liquor license.
Need a space for a small birthday or a graduation party? All you have to do is call ahead and let the staff know so they can pre-decorate the space for you. Best part? This decoration service is free.
I’ll be back for everything except work
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with the experience, because I was. Working here for a day was not as doable as I had hoped and the shaking table certainly didn’t help my productivity levels.
However, that does not mean that I will rule out a future visit. I see a lot of potential in space, but not for work.
Personally, I think it’s still a great place for people – especially couples – who struggle to find a private setting to spend time together. The fact that you can bring your own forms of entertainment and food gives you the opportunity to make the space your own during those few hours.
One thing that may put some people off, for now, is the location. The currently open outlets are located at two of the most remote points in Singapore, making them rather inconvenient for people living in other areas.
Teo Heng told us, however, that he is in talks with the owners of his other outlets and hopes to reopen in other locations if all goes well.
For now, it’s as close as you can get to a real KTV experience.
While it might not look the same as the days before Covid, I think it’s good that Teo Heng is thinking outside the box to stay afloat. Hopefully, they will be able to cope with this so that we can finally come back one day destroying our vocal cords in a five hour singing session.
But for now, I’ll probably stick to working from home and visit Teo Heng just for dinner and relax.