Monday, November 01, 2004

Ubin On-line Resources: Reviewed

  • In response to Dr Chua Ee Kiam's feedback about the erroneous link listed on the website (the link reportedly is about Christmas Island rather than Pulau Ubin), I hereby offer the solution.

    It appears that the Naturewatch link listed on this site consist of a design that requires visitors to access the Pulau Ubin articles through an index page where a story of Christmas Island is on the immediate first page. It is rather misleading.

    To make things easier for people wanting specifically Ubin stories, I am hereby creating an easy index to the Naturewatch articles on Pulau Ubin.

    Vol3 No.3 Jul-Sep 95 (Pulau Ubin Special)
    The Last Wild Frontier
    Pulau Batu Ubin
    Spirited Pioneers
    Flora and Fauna of Ubin
    Nature Lesson
    Whither Ubin?

  • A group of ubin enthusiasts has started a group known as Focus Ubin. According to the focus ubin website (, "we hope focus ubin can be a platform for anyone passionate about Ubin. The focus ubin website hopes to be a one-stop location for any aspect of Ubin."

    Personally, the most exciting feature of the website is the Ubin Forum where people can "discuss ubin and share stories". For example, already there is a report of sighting of civet cats on the island!
  • Sunday, October 31, 2004

    URA's Park and Waterbodies Plan

    During a visit to URA, Pulau Ubin was spotted on the giantic map display of URA's Park and Waterbodies Plan & Identity Plan.

    The Park and Waterbodies Plan is part of the Master Plan 2003.

    URA Master Plan 2003 website states that "For the first time, two new island-wide plans were introduced to guide the planning of greenery and identity for the Master Plan 2003 - the Parks and Waterbodies Plan and the Identity Plan. The two plans presented ideas on how to enhance greenery and identity as to improve the living environment. They were drawn up arising from earlier public feedback from the Concept Plan 2001 that the public valued identity and greenery."

    According to the URA website on the planning strategies of Master Plan 2003:

    Pulau Ubin
  • Soak in the laid-back rustic feel of Pulau Ubin as a large part of the island has been safeguarded as a nature area.

  • Gain insights into the unique local natural habitat at No.1 Pulau Ubin. An English-style cottage built in the 1930s located at the south-eastern tip of the island, it will be restored and converted into a visitor centre. It will also serve as a base from which nature trails and tours can be conducted.

  • Pulau Ubin was spotted on the model map of Singapore at URA

    It seems like there are plans to keep "a large part of" Ubin as it is, for now. Hopefully it would not be taken for granted that a standstill would suddenly occur on the island. It still remains to be seen how much of changes might occur on the island.

    Even so, URA's recognition and attempt at preserving Ubin is absolutely commendable. We can only hope that this could continue for a long time to come.

  • URA's Master Plan 2003
  • URA's Park and Waterbodies Plan
  • URA's Master Plan 2003 Northeast Region planning strategies
  • Conservation plans for No. 1 Pulau Ubin English Cottage
  • Monday, October 11, 2004

    A visit at the Coconut Stall

    You may recall this photo I posted previously of a feast of Ubin coconuts in a mangrove setting.

    This was taken at the coconut stall beside Jelutong Bridge and Jelutong River. It is a drink stall that Pedal Ubin guide likes to take a break after a long morning's ride. I have always visited there every time I visited Ubin but never spoke with the lady owner of the stall.

    Last Saturday, I decided to be brave and chat the auntie up! Turns out that Mrs Zhu only runs the stall on weekends and on weekdays, she maintain her own vegetable garden at her home just a stone throw from the stall. She also grows some durian and rambutan which she sells for extra income. She lives alone on Ubin and her grandchildren all lives on mainland singapore and visits her on weekends.

    I never knew that there were even residential houses near this stretch of road and she explained that there are no proper roads that leads to her home - only a dirt track. She has been running the coconut stall for over 10 years and her skills at cutting the coconut is amazing. I recorded a video of it. I will post it up once I converted it to a more manageable size.

    When speaking of the prawn ponds that my family used to run on the other side of the island, Mrs Zhu excitedly told me that the prawn pond that used to be on this stretch of the Jelutong River used to be ran by her family. So if you notice the sluice gates at the Jelutong Bridge - that's remnants of Mrs Zhu's family prawn pond.

    Do drop by Mrs Zhu's drink stall when you're in the vicinity. She and her 3 friendly dogs will serve up some delicious coconuts!

    Sunday, October 10, 2004

    A survey about Pulau Ubin and You!

    I am currently conducting a survey about Pulau Ubin's History, Heritage and You.

    This survey is conducted for a project on Ubin's colonial history, its preservation and management assessment. The objectives of the project is to find solutions to increase awareness of the public on the stories and history of Ubin. This project is an assignment I am doing for my Cultural Resource Management class at NUS.

    I hope very much for a diversity in my respondents so please spread the word and tell your friends and family about the survey.

    Thank you!

    Saturday, October 09, 2004

    Ubin Stories Gallery Updated

    The photos from my group ride today at Ubin are now uploaded. I have also created an index page for all the previous galleries for easy reference and perusal.

  • Pulau Ubin Stories Photo Gallery - Content Page
  • Pedal Ubin with Olympus Technologies on 9 Oct 2004 - Photo Gallery
  • Ubin ride on Saturday 9 Oct 04

    I will be leading a group of about 10-15 people, along with the "Mother Hen" of the Pedal Ubin Guides (aka Kampong Ayams), on a ride around Pulau Ubin on Saturday 9 Oct 2004. We will be heading to the north towards Mamam beach and then to the west, ending the day with our not-to-be-missed stop at the coconut drink stall by Jelutong River. It has already become a habit of our guides to end off our mornings at Ubin with a delicious local coconut, fresh off the coconut tree on Ubin!

    Although the ride tomorrow is closed for public participation but if you are interested, feel free to sign up for the next Pedal Ubin ride at our website.

    The next Pedal Ubin ride will be on 24 October 2004 Sunday at 8.30am. If the ride is full already, worry not because Pedal Ubin is offered to the public every 2 month. Everything is, of course, free of charge, as it is offered by our wonderful toddycats - the volunteers from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research.

    "feasting on locally produced coconuts in a mangrove setting!"

  • Read more about Pedal Ubin and its activities
  • CNA Report of Pedal Ubin "New nature-cum-heritage guided bicycle trail to discover Ubin" by Bridgette See
  • Tuesday, October 05, 2004

    Ubin Stories Photo Gallery Update

    A new Ubin Stories Photo Gallery has been uploaded. A series of photo taken from the same day as the previous gallery but by a different photographer (i.e. my sister).

    The above picture is taken at Noordin Beach of a Malay Fisherman at work. Unsure if he is a resident of the island - probable that he is not a resident. There were 2 pair of them at work, each pair consisting of a man in the water fishing and a woman (probably their wives?) on the beach watching, probably waiting to help with the catch.

    Update (12 Oct 2004): According to the photographer, she believes that this is not a fisherman but just a man who is fishing for his family while having picnic on Ubin. The women on the shore has plastic bags waiting for the catch by the men in the water. The photographer believes that they are not expecting big catches and probably do this often.

    Gallery Link:
    2nd Ubin Stories Gallery - Ubin by Erkie 05 September 2004
    1st Ubin Stories Gallery - Ubin Explorer on 05 September 2004

    Tuesday, September 21, 2004

    Site & Sound II features Pulau Ubin

    Mediawork's Site & Sound II
    Episode 10: The last wild place to change its face

    "A journey through sites of history, legend and commerce on Pulau Ubin, where tigers frequently lurked beside clay and stone quarries, and jungle overtakes the remnants of the last island kampongs. Also included will be a brief visit to Singapore’s other small coastal islands such as St. Johns, Kusu, and the Raffles Lighthouse."

    Day: Wednesday 22 September 2004
    Time: 8pm
    SPH MediaWorks Channel i

    AVA buys up surplus chickens and ducks on Pulau Ubin for slaughter

    By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia
    Source: 20 September 2004

    SINGAPORE: Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) officials were back on Pulau Ubin on Monday to buy up any surplus chickens and ducks on the island so as to ensure that families on the island do not have more than 10 birds each.

    This quota was set to minimise the chance of the backyard farms on the island getting infected with the bird flu virus.

    The deadline for 18 farming families to get rid of their extra birds is Tuesday.

    Fortunately, some have managed to sell off their surplus birds.

    The AVA bought up the rest - some 75 chickens and ducks - for between $10 and $20 each.

    Residents were generally happy with the deal as the prices offered are comparable to market prices.

    The birds will be slaughtered before being distributed to the Salvation Army homes. - CNA

    Tuesday, September 14, 2004

    Changing with time

    "Even Ubin is not spared in fast paced singapore... [Not visit Ubin] for a couple of months and [you'll find] everything changed"
    - Anecdotal, in response to this story

    I tend to have the impression that Ubin is an idlylic island frozen in time, immune to the winds of change. Having not been there for almost half a year, yet I still expect every rock and every tree to be untouched, awaiting for my return, to welcome me from the same spot I left them months before.

    Never had I expected not only changes but familiar sights lost and never to be seen again.

    The biggest lost is ultimately the German Girl Shrine area facing Pulau Ketam and near Aik Hwa Quarry. I hardly recognised it as I cycled down the mountain of gravel. Originally, I was rather dissapointed when I heard earlier in the day that the area was closed off due to construction but as we were about to call it a day, we heard that the area was accessible and happily rounded the sharp turn from Thai temple to the German Girl Shrine.

    What greeted me as we cycled pass the "under construction" sign totally shocked me. It was the first time I could see the sea from anywhere beyond the beach itself. What used to be a nice patch of mangroves and coastal trees that lined the rocky beach and hid the sea from view had been totally removed. Nothing indicated its previous existence except for the stump of a chopped coconut tree. The only things left are my fond memories of admiring the serene coastline along the shade of the sea hibiscus trees, exclaiming the biology of fire ants.

    According to some stories I heard during the Pedal Ubin guide training sessions, this area is actually under development to become an off-road biking trail. Behind the beach is actually hills of gravel that create an artificial terrain for the adventurous. On one hand, this is good as it would offer an alternative to the adventurous slashing through the forest, creating new trails in the slowly reforesting Ubin. It has also been said during these training sessions that the gravel is actually from mainland singapore, a product of tunneling for the circle line.

    This was a relatively desserted land to the west of Ubin, near the Thai temple and Aik Hwa quarry where my grandfather used to work. Today, fences can be seen admist the sea of gravel. No trees in sight. Further from the Shrine, in the background of the photo, a barge can be seen near the coast, transferring gravel to the island.

    (l-r) Before [source] and After

    Fortunately, the German Girl Shrine can still be seen with its signature Sea Almond tree by its side, a lone figure in the barren landscape. In fact, it even received a face lift! No longer mysterious or creepy with its dingy old housing and crickety door and chain around its gates. Now it is airy and brightly lit as the renovator has taken pains to include windows for sunlight to shine through. The urn is prominently displayed with a rather modern looking female vanity as tribute to the local divinity.

    The Urn of the German Girl [source]

    While this may indicate that the Shrine is here to stay and will withstand the test of time and the intrusion of development, some of us who knew and loved the old shrine will miss it. The old shrine gave the mystery of the German Girl its flavour and supernatural aura. Its upgraded look could now pass off as any shrine on the island on mainland. It seems to no longer captivate the imagination asit once used to.

    A very old picture of the shrine [source]

    Perhaps my biggest regret in this time of change is not cherishing every tree and place enough, capturing them on photo and revering them while they were around. I had assumed they would be there when I returned, weeks later. This surely serves as a lesson to me and others, not to be complacent any longer.

    There is no use crying over spilt milk of course. My absence these few months has taught me that regular visits are a must. Every visit is a unique experience, cherish every moment and we will be able to learn and encounter new things. Perhaps this way we might be able to prevent our losses before it is too late. Take our memories with us in photos and stories and share it with everyone.

    Pulau Ubin Stories Archives: Mystery Girl of Ubin - reproduction of Tan Shzr Ee's article in The Straits Times, 9th March 2003.

    Find the German Girl. Webpage by Frische-Medien (Germany) to gather information about the girl and the shrine. The project is headed Ho Choon Hiong (Singapore), who is backed by Amie S. Williams (Balmaidenfilm Productions, USA).

    Photo Archives: Tapirs

    In the story "It's a zoo out there!" on 3 June 2004, I wrote about the pair of Malayan Tapir on Ubin that met a tragic end when one fell from the top of a quarry and met a bloody death.

    Without pictorial visualization, I always thought the tapir drowned because having never seen a fuctioning quarry, I had the impression that it has always been filled with water.

    If you are like me, then this photo provided by Dr Chua Ee Kiam, taken from the National Archives, will prove to be very enlightening.

    Errata: This photo belonged to a resident of Ubin and not from the National Archives.

    Thanks to Dr Chua Ee Kiam for the alert!

    Pulau Ubin Stories on the news

    Pulau Ubin Stories was started partly as an effort to archive the stories of Ubin as a future resource for students and researchers, or simply as a good read for the interested public and maybe even to create more awareness for some of the hidden treasures on the island.

    With this project and two others (Pedal Ubin! and hopea sangal education program), I proposed as part of my application to the Bayer Young Environmental Envoy. There was fierce competition from other excellent brown-issues related proposals, thus it came as a pleasant surprise when I was rewarded with being named one of the envoys this year.

    Yesterday was the award presentation and Pulau Ubin Stories was put on the limelight for the day.

    Read these news articles online:

    1) Channel News Asia "4 youths win trip to Germany to learn more about the environment," by Hasnita A. Majid.
    Website [pdf]

    2) Straits Times "Student gets green award for bid to preserve P. Ubin" by Radha Basu.
    Website [pdf]

    3) TODAY "From Ubin to Germany" by Eveline Gan
    Website [pdf]

    4) Lianhe Zaobao (not available online at the moment)

    Wednesday, September 08, 2004

    AVA visits Pulau Ubin for precautionary bird flu checks

    Channel NewsAsia - 8 September 2004
    Report by: Johnson Choo

    SINGAPORE : Officials from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority have visited the backyard farms on Pulau Ubin as part of checks to make sure bird flu does not enter Singapore.

    The visits are also to make sure that the public safety precautions put in place back in February are being obeyed.

    But villagers are still worried about their own livelihoods.

    Families and farmers on Pulau Ubin were reminded last week to make sure that they did not have more than 10 poultry each.

    The visit by AVA officials was to remind them about the dangers of bird flu, and to make sure that by next Wednesday any extra birds are slaughtered.

    Needless to say this has upset the farmers.

    "Only the rich keep pets. These are not pets; they're our livelihood," said Soh Hock Cuan, a licensed farmer.

    While the AVA officials understand their unhappiness, they say the poultry quota and other precautions are absolutely necessary.

    "If there are no chickens, that would be even better. But we have to work out a number that we're comfortable with. If you have up to 10, the chances of the virus multiplying are less as compared to more chickens. Because if you have more hosts, it means that you have more chances of getting viruses," said Dr Lim Chee Wee, head of AVA's virology branch.

    Of the 19 families on the island who still keep poultry, five have farming licences.

    Among them is Lee Chin Hah, who has been rearing chickens and ducks for the past 40 years.

    He pays S$100 a year for the licence and spends another S$400 each year on medical checkups to prove that he is healthy.

    He says if he can only keep 10 birds, he should be compensated.

    Mr Lee said, "Why restrict? It's like telling you to sell only 10 cups of coffee a day. It's unfair."

    But the AVA has pointed out that the licence also allows the farmers to rear fish or to grow fruit and vegetables. - CNA

    Tuesday, September 07, 2004

    Ubin "crop circles"?

    During my visit to Ubin on Sunday, 5 Sept 2004, I explored the entire stretch of Noordin Beach which I have never done before.

    The tide was relatively low and much of the natural sandy beach was exposed. While walking along the beach, I started noticing meticulously-created equal-sized balls of sand littered along the beach, forming very interesting patterns.

    The more I walked, the more I discovered. I was about to suspect that aliens have landed on Noordin till I noticed that the balls of sand usually span outwards from a hole in the middle. Then I figured it was probably the handicraft of a crab. I was unable to take a picture of the elusive sand artist but I managed to caught sight of a few sandy-coloured legs scurrying into the hole. Not only are they found along the beach, they are also found on the sandy banks of the river behind the beach, seperated by mangroves.

    After consulting a graduate student friend studying crabs at NUS, based on my description, she concluded that this was the work of the Sand Bubbler Crab (Scopimera).

    According to the Guide to Seashore Life in Singapore, "the common name of this crab derives from the balls of sand it leaves behind after sifting it for organic detrital matter. They are related to the soldier crabs (Dotilla) and prefer sandier areas. They have numerous stiff hairs on their legs, and lack the transverse row of abdominal hairs. Their hairs are instead located at the base of their legs, and are used for the same purpose as Dotilla's. (Body diameter up to 1.5cm)

    BBC's Blue Planet TV series also mentioned this fastidious worker to be "the best 'back-heel' in the world. These beach-dwelling [crabs] convert an entire beach into minute footballs as they work at breakneck speed to filter food out of sand grains. They religiously practise their skills every day as the tide goes out."

    I must have been very lucky to have caught them in action during the low tide then!

    Pulau Ubin Stories Gallery Photos from Ubin taken on 5 September 2004

    Sand Bubbler Crab in A Guide to Seashore Life in Singapore by Dr Leo W H Tan and Peter K L Ng. Published by the Singapore Science Centre and Sponsored by BP.

    BBC - Science & Nature - Sea Life - Blue Planet TV series

    Sand Bubbler Crab in Online Guide to Chek Jawa

    Photo of Sand Bubbler Crabs taken from A Guide to Seashore Life in Singapore. Taken by Kang Nee. (source)

    1991's Land Thefts

    "Illegal excavation on Pulau Ubin threatening birds and marine life"
    Source: The Straits Times, September 16, 1991
    Report by: David Miller
    Taken from:

    THE illegal excavation of soil on several plots of land in Pulau Ubin has destroyed the nesting grounds of some local birds and is threatening marine life as well.

    Dr Ho Hua Chew, chairman of the Conservation Committee of the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), said that part of a hill on one of the three plots which was illegally excavated was a haven for a rare species of bird - the red jungle fowl.

    The endangered birds - ancestors of the domestic fowl - are protected under local law. Although native to this region, they can only be found in Singapore on Pulau Ubin.

    Bird lovers fear that the destruction of its natural habitat would have serious consequences for the future of the colony.

    The area is also a sanctuary for other birds such as the green imperial pigeon, the ruby-cheeked sunbird, and the magpie robin.

    A Straits Times check at the island last week found that on the plots which cover a total area of 16 hectares on the island's northern shores, excavation has laid waste huge stretches of land.

    There are large hollowed-out depressions there - 3-metre-deep in some places - a silent indication of the vast quantities of soil which had been illicitly removed.

    And with the natural protective vegetation cleared away, erosion has set in.

    The run-off by rain water across the now barren landscape has cut ugly gullies in the soft soil and turned the nearby coastal waters muddy brown.

    This case came to light last Monday when the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) took court action against four landowners for marring the island's landscape by illegally excavating and removing soil and using the land for unauthorized storage of property like disused trucks.

    One of the owners said the soil was used for "industrial purposes" but declined to give further details. The other three could not be contacted. Villagers on the island believe the soil was taken away in barges to another Island. But most residents were unaware that the excavation was illegal.

    According to the URA, some of the of fences went as far back as 1966. The owners and operators of the land had ignored the URA’s order to restore the plots to their original condition and this led to the court action.

    The URA has again ordered the owners to refill and returf the land to its original condition. Details of how this will be done are expected to be worked out soon between the URA and the owners.

    The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $3,000 or a jail term of up to three months, or both.

    Meanwhile, conservationists are worried that If left unchecked, the rate of erosion could spell disaster for local marine life.

    Associate Professor Chia Lin Sien of the Geography Department at the National University of Singapore said the excavation and the washing of soil to remove the finer particles which would render It suitable for Industrial use, will adversely affect the marine eco-system in the surrounding waters.

    He said the erosion would lead to a silting of the sea water, which may in turn hinder the growth of Muatic plants like the sea grass.

    On its impact on the food chain of the marine eco-system, he said aquatic plants provide both food and shelter for small marine animals and fish, which in turn support larger marine life forms.

    One initial reaction to the gradual silting of the waters around Pulau Ubin would be the disappearance of fish which would move to more attractive feeding grounds.

    Perhaps even more worrying is that the layer of silt would eventually settle on the sea bed, causing distress to marine creatures such as sea worms, coral and crustaceans.

    Others which could be put at risk by unchecked erosion are the few families of sea cows or dugongs which inhabit the surrounding waters.

    These lovable and virtually defenseless mammals thrive or sea grass which would not be able to grow in muddy waters.

    Conservationists said that while remedial action in refilling the excavated land and replanting it may help contain the problem, it could take many years before nature’s balance is restored.

    Said Dr Ho: "As it stands now, It could be difficult for the natural vegetation to recolonialise the area as nutrients in the soil have been depleted."

    Prof Chia said it would be an expensive operation to restore the land to Its original condition as soil would have to be brought In to refill the excavated parts.

    Even then he cautioned that care should be taken to ensure that replanting is done selectively, using only the natural trees and shrubs native to the region.

    Pulau Ubin, which is a brisk six-minute boat-ride from Changi Point, has largely been preserved in Its natural state to promote outdoor activities like trekking, rock climbing and bird-watching.

    It also houses the Outward Bound School.

    Friday, September 03, 2004

    Sons of Ubin keep tradition alive

    The New Paper - SEPT 3, 2004
    Report by Kor Kian Beng
    Photos by Kua Chee Siong

    THERE was no boisterous getai, or roadshow, and no dinner. Only about 30 people came to bid at the auction. And when it was time for an opera performance, old folks turned up, some of them with their own chairs. The Hungry Ghost festival on Pulau Ubin is nothing like it is on the mainland. But there are those who make it a point to be there.

    Mr Lim Kia relocated from the island to Bedok North 26 years ago. But every year, the sprightly retiree returns to Pulau Ubin on the 15th and 16th of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar when the island celebrates the Hungry Ghost Festival. Said Mr Lim, 59, in Mandarin: 'I was born and brought up here. Most of my friends are still living here. So this festival is a good time for us to gather and catch up with one another.'

    And he is not the only one doing this. Mr Lim Ah Tee, 61, who moved out in 1974, has been helping the organising committee over the years with his knowledge on the religious rites and procedures. 'I grew up here. This is just a small way I can give back to this place which has given me so much,' he said in Hokkien.

    For these nostalgic folk, it doesn't matter that they get only a token hongbao for their efforts, said Mr Lim Kia, who was there with his wife, Madam Lee Soo Kheng. It also doesn't matter that there is nothing like the usual getai with humorous emcees and accomplished singers to entertain them. Nor is there any dinner which they can enjoy comfortably, while joining in the bidding at the auction. Instead, what they have on Pulau Ubin is a small, quiet affair - but interesting in its own way - as The New Paper witnessed on Tuesday. At 7.30pm, the Wayang House in the kampung square came alive with a traditional Teochew opera, with colourful characters and melodramatic acting. Old folk sat right in front of the stage - some of them on their own chairs - captivated by the show put up by a troupe hired from the mainland. The auction began around 8pm. There was no proper stage, so the auctioneers had to climb onto the altar table to make themselves seen and heard.

    Mr Lim Kia turned out to be a vociferous auctioneer, and kept shouting 'Gah gah!' (be bold in Hokkien) to the crowd. Standing around him were the bidders - mostly middle-aged men - clutching beer bottles and dragging their slippers. But they put up a bidding war no less exciting than what is seen at mainland auctions. The lack of getai and dinner didn't stop the 100-strong crowd from enjoying themselves. Some mainland visitors stayed till the auction and opera ended at 11pm before heading home.

    Madam Chris Seah, 26, was there with her family. 'You can't find the festival celebrated in this kind of atmosphere on the mainland,' said the former Ubin resident, who moved out at the age of 6. For those who remain on the island, the celebrations have to be there of course. Said Ubin resident Kek Koon Hai: 'This is my kampung. Of course, I enjoy myself more here than elsewhere.' But their numbers have fallen. Thirty years ago, there used to be crowds of 5,000 people at the festival. That is why the local people are particularly happy to see former residents coming back and doing their part to sustain the island's festival celebration.

    Said Miss Koh Bee Choo, 34, who runs Comfort Bicycle Rental near the jetty: 'Without them, we the younger ones won't have the know-how or the experience to run this festival.' Still, there are doubts about how long it can go on. Mr Lim Kia is determined to enjoy the event as long as it lasts. He declared: 'I'll keep on coming here and helping out with the celebrations. That is, until I'm too sick to get out of bed or until I die.'

    THEY used to be petrified of him. But now, Mr Lim Kia and Ubin resident Kek Koon Hai regard their former teacher, Mr Kek Yak Kwai, 67, fondly. They all help out together at the Hungry Ghost festival celebration every year. The grey-haired but fit-looking man was their Chinese teacher at Min Jiang Primary School on Ubin, where he taught for 27 years. Said the younger Mr Kek, 47, a kitchen helper: 'He once caned me on my buttocks for something I did wrong. I can still remember the pain!' His former teacher, who is not related to him, smiled. He was pleased to see many of his former students again on the island. I'm also glad to see them all grown-up and doing well,' said Mr Kek, who moved to Tampines around 20 years ago. 'Some of them are even grandfathers now!'

    Thanks to Sivasothi for the alert

    Thursday, June 10, 2004

    The Legend of Ubin

    Legend has it that three animals from Singapore -- a pig, an elephant and a frog -- had a challenge to see who would reach the shore of Johor first. Whichever animal failed to reach the shore would be turned into a Rock. All three creatures had difficulties swimming the Straits and while the frog turned into Pulau Sekudu, both the pig and the elephant changed into one big rocky island. The island of Ubin. (Source)

    As can be seen above, the island is well known to resemble a boomerang. So where are the resemblances to the animals in the legend?

    Pulau Ubin had not always been one whole island. In fact, the main island itself was originally two halves, bisected by Jelutong River. When prawn farming was a thriving trade on the island, the farmers built mud bunds across the Jelutong river so as to form dams or pools of water so as to rear the prawns and these are controlled by sluice gates which determines when the water is allowed to flow. Usually, the sluice gates are only opened when the prawns are mature for harvesting and a net is put on the other side gate where the prawn would flow into. These mud bunds was formed across the river so as to join the two halves of Ubin to form one whole island. Thus, this explains why, today, we only see one whole island of Ubin instead of the different halves that resembled the animals.

    That surely solved the mystery that the island was comprised of 3 animals - the frog (Pulau Sekudu means frog island), the pig (one half) and the elephant (the other half). Now which half looks like the pig and which half look like the elephant is a mystery to me! I guess we'll just have to leave it to the vivid imagination of our minds to figure that mystery out then. I have even heard of somebody commenting, after much scrutiny, that one of the ends of the island actually resembles the head of the tiger. The rumors of tiger stalking the island must have fueled their imaginations!

    What always made me wonder was, why is there a Pulau Ketam (Crab Island) - an islet off the south-west coast of Ubin - when there are no crabs in the legend...

    Tuesday, June 08, 2004

    The Red Jungle Fowl

    Pulau Ubin plays host to a great assortment of birds - whether residents or migrants. Some of these birds are even endangered and as habitats are being destroyed all over the world, the population of these birds are become rarer yet! I must admit that I have never been much of a birdwatcher, but there is nothing more exciting on Ubin than the exhilarating moment of spotting a oriental-pied hornbill (first picture on the top left of this website) swoop right across your path or chancing the unique cry of the Red Jungle Fowl!

    The Red Jungle Fowl was one of the first resident birds of Ubin that was introduced to me during my first Pedal Ubin! guide training in late 2003. I must say I feel like I have a sort of "karma" with this shy, elusive bird that I have yet to see on the island itself. Perhaps it is by no coincidence that the Pedal Ubin! guides are also called the "jungle fowls". However, it is wise not to confuse the jungle fowl with the "kampong ayams". Kampong ayams (kampong chicken) are actually to my knowledge the descendants of the jungle fowl. According to Ecology Asia, "Close to the kampongs (villages) the males (jungle fowls) will interbreed with domestic stock, producing a range of hybrids." Kampong Ayam would be better described as non-factory, subsistence-bred, traditionally free-roaming village chickens.

    You may have guessed by now that the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) is actually the ancestor of the domesticated chicken. What then makes it so special since it is just another... chicken?

    The red jungle fowl is said to be the original "chicken" from which all domestic chickens are descended based on comments and observations made by Darwin. (Source) Inbreeding, hybridisation and genetic engineering efforts in recent decades have taken us even further away from these natural birds. Therefore the small pockets of jungle fowl still living in the wild are almost living dinosaurs and are of great interest and value. (source) The endangered birds are protected under local law. Although native to this region, they can only be found in Singapore on Pulau Ubin. (source)

    Unfortunately, I have never had the privilledge of setting my eyes on what can be described as our "national treasures", until this day! Knowing how rare this bird is, I seriously never had thought I would encounter it on mainland Singapore, much less at Sungei Buloh itself! I am almost 100% certain that it is the Jungle Fowl itself. However, how it got there I have absolutely no idea since Junglefowls are not known for their flying ability. They have curved rounded wings that enable swift flight. Unfortunately they can only fly for very short periods of time. (source)

    When the children I was guiding at Buloh on Friday (4 June 2004) triumphantly announce to me that there were "chickens" hanging around the trees near the visitor centre, I wrote them off as being domesticated poultry that were remnants of farms in the area. I had originally told the children that there were probably no "chickens" at Buloh but obviously I was proven wrong. Nonetheless, nothing prepared me for the shock when I saw not one but 3 jungle fowls sitting calmly just 1.5 metres away from me. When I recovered from my shock, I quickly whipped out my camera and nervously tried to take some clear sharp photos of them but it seems impossible with my hands shaking.

    I was certain they were Jungle Fowls because I had learnt the hard way how to identify them (if and when I would ever see them on Ubin!) It was during Dr Chua's talk in April that the Jungle Fowl came into discussion. I kept insisting that the Jungle Fowl's tail was upright or something ridiculous and was very sternly set straight that the way to identify a Jungle Fowl is with the following:

    1. The tail is carried horizontally.
    2. The female has no comb.
    3. the pure strain of the male Red Jungle Fowl can be identified either by its grey legs and white cheeks
    4. the male is vibrant in colour with gorgeous golden neck feathers and long dark green tail feathers (but this is common to all fowl species)
    5. the truncated call

    As you can see, the picture on the right is of the male and on the left, one appears to be a younger male and the pheasant looking female appears to be blocked by a branch. Notice the distinct white cheek and downwards tail of the males. It was obvious that they are Jungle Fowls. Compared to the domesticated chicken (rooster) below, you can see that the domesticated chicken usually has its tail upwards. Of course some chickens have been bred to have a very small comb but it does not have the pheasant like qualities of the jungle fowl females.

    Still, theres no way better to differentiate the domesticated chicken and its ancestors than the difference in their call. Our poultry usually goes "cu-koo-koo-kooooooooooo" while the jungle fowl sounds like a "strangled chicken" thus the "truncated call" as it goes "cu-koo-koo. koo" like a chicken with a bad sorethroat. The best way to experience the call is to either stake out in Ubin and try to listen out for the elusive call or get somebody to mimick the cry for you! My 2 year old nephew was rather captivated when I went around the house practising my jungle fowl cry. He almost thought there was a chicken in the house and couldn't stop looking around for it when I was sitting right in front of him!

    source and other reads:
  • Red Jungle Fowl
  • Illegal excavation on Pulau Ubin threatening birds and marine life
  • Ecology Asia
  • Background on Jungle Fowl
  • Pulau Ubin Fowls to be put down - Feb 2, 2004
  • No bird flu, but AVA to destroy 250 poultry from Pulau Ubin - Feb 1, 2004
  • Thursday, June 03, 2004

    It's a zoo out there!

    You may have read about elephants swimming from Johore and possible tigers (or maybe just leopard cats) on Pulau Ubin. But Pulau Ubin has had seen more "exotic" residents yet!

    Wildlife checklist:


    Workers taking away a shot deer after a hunting trip at pulau ubin in 1930s, courtesy of PICAS

    Sadly, there are no longer any deers on the island itself. However, in an article from Naturewatch's Pulau Ubin Special, it writes "One can imagine that the larger mammals like elephant, tiger, leopard and deer, mammals that were still found in Singapore in the last century, roamed Ubin freely then." The above picture is surely proof to fire those imaginations!

    Malayan Tapir

    Malayan Tapir at the San Diego Zoo (Source)

    In one of my first trips to Pulau Ubin in recent years, around 2003, along with another 2 photographers, we visited a Taoist Temple on Ubin and spoke with some of the people who worked and possibly lived there. While chatting about the quarry lake (Tian Ci) just behind the temple, a lady amongst the group told us that a long time ago, there were even Tapirs on the island and one of them even fell into the quarry and died. It was part of a couple. That was the first time I even heard of a tapir in Singapore. It had apparently swam over to Singapore from Johore.

    This seems a common occurence as is written on a Museum Fest writeup "The northern coastline of Singapore is barely one kilometre away from the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. So close, in fact, that large animals can easily swim across the Johor Straits from Malaysia as they would any large river. And indeed they do, considering that animals do not recognise political boundaries drawn by humans! Wild pigs, elephants, tapir, and perhaps even a tiger have recently landed on the mangrove-fringed shores of Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong in the Johor Straits."

    Later, in the talk by Dr Chua Ee Kiam, he also mentioned the tapirs. In fact, he even showed a black and white picture of a dead tapir at the bottom of the then functional quarry HDB Quarry (now Tian Ci) surrounded by the quarry workers. That was the first time I realise that the Tapir had fallen to death and not drowned as I initially thought. Sadly, I have not been able to find the picture yet.

    Wild Boars

    Priscilla the Pig at Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin

    Wild boars are a common species even on mainland Singapore. Of course the most famous wild boar in Pulau Ubin must have had been Priscilla who lived in Chek Jawa. She was brought up by a family at Chek Jawa, on the east coast of Pulau Ubin and thus explained her friendliness to humans. Sadly, Priscilla recently passed away. Of course there is also Pringles who was rescued by the NParks officer who was found swimming in the middle of the Johore Straits. Yet again, proof that animals constantly swim over the channel.

    Pringles the Piglet

    Of course, almost all of the wild boars on the island are dangerous and unlikely to be friendly to humans. Most of the time they would not be seen by visitors to the island but traces of them can be found in the form of half eaten durians and turned-up soil that indicated they have been digging around for food. Of course there is also another known pet wild boar near Mamam Beach, at the home of the headman Lim Chye Joo's son, Lim Chu Zi. However, this particular wild boar is kept within an enclosure at the compound.

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004

    The Legend of Ma Zu

    In the previous article "Ma Zu Temple", I discovered the origins of a Ma Zu Temple that once stood on the west coast of Pulau Ubin. Since the article was written, there was a spark of curiousity as to why seafaring folk were faithful devotees of this female Deity - Ma Zu. Who is Ma Zu and why did she become the patron "saint" of the sea.

    As I mentioned previously, my mother had told me that most island countries have its fair share of Ma Zu temple and devotees. In total, there are around 1,500 Matsu temples in 26 countries of the world ( Singapore is no exception. In fact, this particular Ma Zu Temple of Ubin was not the only one. It had a more well-known counterpart in the Thian Hock Keng Temple which stood on the Telok Ayer Basin before land was reclaimed from the sea. According to, "Telok Ayer Street once formed the foreshore of the sea before it was reclaimed in the 1880s". Again, the similarity in locations is unmistakable. wrote, "Thian Hock Keng is the oldest Chinese temple in Singapore, it is also the island's most important Hokkien temple. Sailors were said to have given thanks at this Taoist-Buddhist temple as early as 1821. Both the young and the elderly can be seen paying their respects to Ma Zu Po (the Mother of Heavenly Sages) or Confucius."

    Picture of Thian Hock Keng, undated (UNESCO)

    At first I didnt understand why "Thian Hock Keng" would have any similarities to the "Ban Gang Tian Hou Gong" of Ubin. There appears, of course, to be many variations of Ma Zu Temples. Thian Hock Keng is the hokkien dialect pronunciation of "Tian Fu Gong" while the temple on Ubin is "Tian Hou Gong". However, according to, Ma Zu is also known as Ma-Zu-Po (Tian Shang Shen Mu), the Celestial Queen. This is of course familiar as can be seen by this photo below. The name on the sign says "Tian Hou Shen Mu" which may just be another variation of Ma Zu's title.

    According to the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation webpage on Thian Hock Keng Temple:

    "The shrine was dedicated to Ma Zu Po, the Goddess of the Sea, or Mazu for short. As the immigrants would have had a potentially hazardous voyage across the China Sea, the newly arrived showed their gratitude to Mazu for a safe passage. Those making the return trip would have done likewise to insure a safe return.

    Mazu lived on the coast near the Island of Meizhou in Fujian. She was gifted with great powers; of healing the sick and guiding seafarers to safety when the sea conditions were hazardous. Though her life was quite short (AD. 960 - 987), her exploits were extensive and were recognized by the Emperor. After her death she was revered as a goddess or saint and particularly by those whose livelihood depended on the sea and those embarking on a voyage. She was said to have appeared in dreams to coastal dwellers and instructed them to build temples so that they could receive blessing for safe voyages.

    This is evident from the many temples, including Thian Hock Keng, dedicated to her that can be found throughout the region from Fujian, along the coast of Southern China, Indochina and the Malacca Strait including Penang and Lumut. This was the area of sea plied by the Fujian seafarers. These temples all feature close similarities in architectural style and the deities represented within included idols of Mazu herself as the principle.

    The importance of Mazu's blessings for safe passage from China to Singapore cannot be underestimated as in those days the voyage was made in small sailing junks across seas beset with dangerous reefs and typhoons. Safe passages as well as safe arrival of the cargos and trade upon which commerce depended featured significantly in the welfare of all the immigrants from Southern China. Thus the clan leaders made it their business to build temples dedicated to Mazu."

    Ma Zu Temples are predominantly found in Chinese Dispora Communities in the South China Sea. As mentioned above, the immigrants before the dangerous voyage would pray to her for safety and when they reach their destination, to show their gratitudes, became faithful devotees and thus the temples started sprouting up in areas where the Chinese Dispora were established. According to the Chinese Overseas Databank, "These sojourners originated mainly from southern China and have come to trade and finally settled in Southeast Asia over a period of a thousand years." There are Chinese Dispora communities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar.

    Not only are there temples dedicated to Ma Zu, in Taiwan, there is even an archipelago (a group of islands) named after Ma Zu. The Ma zu Archipelago is located northwestward by west in Taiwan Strait, which is the very water Ma zu (the deity) had saved many sailors' lives. According to Asia Planet, "Ma Tzu (the archipelago) is named after the Goddess of Sea, who carried the body of her drowned fisherman father back to shore. The casket of the Goddess is still preserved in a local temple. Ma Tzu consists of more than 10 islets with a total area of 28.8 square km. Due to its sensitive position, Ma Tzu used to be a military fortress like Kin Men. With the cross-strait relations growing friendlier, Ma Tzu is now developing its tourism. In 1999, Ma Tzu was designated as a national tourist district and began attracting tourists."

    Not only were there islands in Taiwan named after Ma Zu, but if the below is true, then the previous portuguese colony of Macau may just be in fact named after Ma Zu too! According to a website dedicated to the place of Ma Zu's birth, Putian (Taiwan), "Ma Zu - The world-famous sea goddess Mazu ( Lin Mo by name) was born on Mar.23, 960 A.D. at Meizhou Bay in Putian and died on the ninth of September of the lunar calendar in the year 987 A. D. on Meizhou Island in the Song Dynasty. Throughout her life, Mazu devoted herself to offering generous help to those who were distressed at sea, for which she has been highly revered by the public. In 987 A.D., more than 1,000 years ago, people built a temple on Meizhou Island to worship her and to commemorate her meritorious deeds. After her death, she became the goddess of the sea. With great respect, outh-east China fishermen bring her statue with their travelling and build emples for her everywhere they settle down. Macao, the English name of this small peninsula actually cames after a temple of "Ma Zu" in the peninsula. This is the reason why the pronunciation of Macau(Macao) is so different from the Chinese name (Au Men) of it."

    For more interesting background reads on Ma Zu:
  • RGS' "Ma Zu in Singapore"
  • Online Encyclopedia entry on Matsu Goddess
  • Online Encyclopedia entry on Matsu Islands
  • Sunday, May 30, 2004

    Ma Zu Temple

    In my post on May 21 2004, "Have you been to Ubin yet?", I wrote about my first trip to Ubin and my visit to the Ma Zu Temple on the west of Ubin.

    As mentioned, the temple has been demolished and is now OBS land. The first time I heard it mentioned in recent years was during Dr Chua Ee Kiam's talk on 22 April 2004. During the talk, Dr Chua briefly mentioned the temple but I do not recall any photos of the place. It was at this point that he reiterated the fact that many times, when we actually miss a place, it may actually be too late to capture a photo of the place which is true in this case.

    Thus, I consider myself really lucky while search through the National Archives of Singapore's PICAS that I found these 3 pictures of the Ma Zu Temple. I might never have identified the photo if not for a lingering doubt that I have not seen this place in recent times. First of all, the picture of captioned vaguely as "Chinese Temple on Pulau Ubin" circa 1992. Secondly, the sign on the temple was not "Ma Zu Temple". It actually says "Ban Gang Tian Hou Gong" in Chinese which I loosely translated as the "Heavenly Empress' Temple" from "half bay/port".

    Honestly, these words ring no bell with me at all. However, the part that gave it away was that it was a female deity. Afterall, in my knowledge, "Ma Zu" means mother goddess or mother ancestor. With this latest clue, I quickly called my mother on the phone and she confirmed that "Ban Gang Tian Hou Gong" is the name of the now-demolished temple we call "Ma Zu Temple".

    Now the mystery that remains in my mind is why is "Ma Zu Temple" actually called "Ban Gang Tian Hou Gong" with a little subscript at the left that says "Pulau Ubin" in Chinese. (Do note that in traditional Chinese script, we read from right to left)

    Of course, the first place I went back to was my original source of information - my parents. My father explained that the Ma Zu Temple is originally from a small fishing port at the mouth of the Serangoon River. Serangoon River was called "Ban Gang" by the Chinese, according to my father, because it was bigger than most rivers but not big enough to be "Gang" which I think means bay or port. Thus it was called half port. It was at the river mouth, or "gangka (river mouth or river foot), of this "half port" that the original Ma Zu Temple stood.

    Map of Serangoon River courtesy of

    According to my mother, Ma Zu Temple usually attracted seafaring folks or rather people who depended on the sea as their livelihood. Sailors, fishermen, boat builders, etc. My mother kindly supplied the information that most island countries usually have devotees of "Ma Zu", such as Taiwan for example. I also remembered reading about Ma Zu in my primary or secondary Chinese textbook which spoke of the fishermen and sailors praying to Ma Zu for safety in their voyages. It is understandable why the original temple was at the mouth of Serangoon river as originally, according to my mother, that area was a jetty or fishing village where fishermen would drop off their catch for the day. It is pretty much the Pasir Panjang or Jurong fish wholesale market that we have today. With the high concentration of folks that depends on the sea for their livelihood, it is obvious that Ma Zu Temple is appropriately situated.

    However, Ma Zu Temple was then moved from the original "ban gang" area to Pulau Ubin as the "gangka" - the river mouth of serangoon river - was being developed. The fishermen and the fish market were, in my mother's words, "chased off" by the government. Similarly, the temple was asked to move as well. It was then that it moved to Pulau Ubin, to an area that my father said was termed as "xin gang" which means new port. According to him, "xin gang" referred to the river between Pulau Ubin and Pulau Ketam, along OBS' coast line. The particular stretch of shoreline on Ubin along this river was also termed as "xin gang" or "new port". It was also here that my mother lived her first 12 years. It was also termed "new port" as it was developed much later than the other parts of Ubin such as the Malay villages in the east and north of Ubin. This is the reason why the sign on the temple still reads as the temple from half port which is to indicate its origin. Sort of like a "katong laksa" stall in Changi.

    In the 1990s, the Ma Zu temple was again "chased off" from Ubin as OBS land takes over. According to my father, the temple has now moved back to the mainland again, at a location in Sengkang! My parents suggested that perhaps I should go visit the temple in its current location and interview the people at the temple. Perhaps, I will.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2004

    Bin Kiang School Alumni

    On 22 April 2004, Dr Chua Ee Kiam- an author of 2 books on Pulau Ubin - gave a talk at the NParks office to Ubin volunteers on the nature and cultural heritage of Pulau Ubin. During this talk he mentioned the (now torn-down) Bin Kiang school of Pulau Ubin. According to Dr Chua, the school functioned from 1952 to 1985 and was demolished in the year 2000. He felt there were probably not many pictures taken of the school before it was demolished. Hearing that, I was inspired to embark on a mission - to uncover as many historical records (pictorial and otherwise) of the school.

    Picture by Dr Chua Ee Kiam

    My first action was to approach my mother, because she had been enrolled as a student in Bin Kiang School from 1958 to 1963! Initially, my mother was of the impression that the photos of her days in Ubin were at my grandmother's place. However, a search by my auntie only revealed two photos taken on Ubin.

    Still, my family was lucky in having pictorial records as my uncle worked in a photography studio on the mainland. According to my mother, most families on Ubin were unable to own a camera and have no photos of their families. Since my uncle owned a camera and often visited the island, he took photos of the family. Sadly, they were mostly portrait shots with no indication of the surrounding.

    Undeterred, my mother began a search of her own photo albums. Just as we were about to give up hope, we discovered a treasure amongst the yellowing pages. A photo of my mother's class in Bin Kiang school!

    (The year which this photo was taken is at the moment undetermined)

    Encouraged by this find, my mother was insistent that she still had her Bin Kiang School report book somewhere in the house. Hearing this, I was absolutely excited. After ransacking the multitudes of cupboards in the house, we finally found the tiniest little yellowing booklet that says "Bin Kiang School - Student Results Book" in Chinese characters. (Bin Kiang School was a Chinese-ed school. The other school on the island was a Malay school.) All this time, this little piece of history was sitting in a cupboard in my own room and I never knew to treasure it.

    Cover of the Bin Kiang School report book.

    The interesting thing about the report book I discovered was a little subscript that says "Pulau Ubin. Singapore. 17." I was puzzled by what the 17 meant. I thought it was like one of those exercise books nowadays where it allows you to fill in the year after the generic "19__" The part that didn't make sense was Bin Kiang school was not established in the 1700s! After questioning my mother, I found out that 17 was actually the postal code of Pulau Ubin! Incredible! The postal code in Singapore since my birth has always been four digits. This is just amazing to my lack of knowledge in Singapore history.

    For more information on Bin Kiang's history, there is a brief write-up by Raffles Girls' School on "Pulau Ubin's Vanishing Kampong". In it, a section deals with school life and includes some details on Bin Kiang School. There are even photos of Bin Kiang school before it was demolished and a picture of students having classes.

    Monday, May 24, 2004

    Money can't buy my perfect island retreat

    Ubin man returns to kampung lifestyle
    Reports by Fawziah Selamat

    GOODBYE Singapore. Hello Pulau Ubin. That's probably what Mr Othman Mohd Seh uttered as he set off on the bumboat for Pulau Ubin four years ago.

    This Singaporean, a 59-year-old retired firefighter, just could not feel at home in, well, Singapore.

    An Ubin native - he was born and raised there - Mr Othman could not wait to return to his childhood stomping ground which now serves as his sweet retirement enclave. This, despite knowing that even if he had all the money in the world, he cannot buy a permanent home on the island. Pulau Ubin belongs to the state. Residents are given a Temporary Occupation Licence - a licence for temporary use of state land. Being an Ubin native has its privileges. The Singapore Land Authority is not issuing any new licences to live there. Only those who are native to the island can be residents.

    'Everything just feels right here (on Ubin). When I lived on the mainland, all I could think about was going back to Ubin,' said the divorcee with four children. Having failed to convince his then-wife of the pleasures of kampung living, Mr Othman reluctantly packed his bags for the mainland in 1965, the year he got married. Home then was a cramped three-room flat in Bedok North. Still, Mr Othman would take his family to Pulau Ubin, to stay at his parents' spacious six-bedroom kampung house on weekends and public holidays.

    'The city is just too noisy and crowded,' he said. 'Ubin makes me feel rested.' Today, it has become Mr Othman's home. His parents' house was demolished in 2000 - the land on which it stood had been earmarked for development by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. But even that couldn't kill his dream of retiring on Pulau Ubin. He moved into a friend's kampung house - the friend preferred the mainland - and has no wish to look back. Mr Othman says he enjoys a lifestyle that he thinks he would not have been able to afford had he remained on the mainland. 'I'd probably have to settle for a one-room flat or move in with my children. There's no way I would be able to enjoy such a wide space,' he said. 'I'd probably have to be more thrifty with my money as well.' With his pension of $840 a month, he has more than enough to live on Pulau Ubin, where his average monthly expenditure doesn't exceed $500.

    As he had planned to spend the rest of his days on Pulau Ubin, he spent half of his $40,000 nest-egg on his son's wedding, as well as a gift of an all-expenses paid honeymoon in Australia, when he retired in 2000. His only worry: Giving up his dream retirement home one day since he does not have a permanent right to live on Pulau Ubin. 'The saddest day of my life would be when I'm told that I have to leave Ubin,' he said. 'I hope the day never comes.'

    MY $6,000 SOUPED-UP VAN
    STEPPING off the jetty at Pulau Ubin, we expected the kind of vehicles even Third World nations would reject. After all, Pulau Ubin, aka Pulau Junkyard, is where koyak (Malay for rundown) cars go to die a natural death - running till they can sputter no more. But coming at us instead was a spanking blue van with wild, red flames printed on its sides. We looked around to see if we could spot Scooby Doo. But it wasn't the Mystery Van. It was Mr Othman's entertainment-mobile.

    The second-hand van, which he retrofitted himself, comes complete with an LCD monitor to play his favourite Inul (that hip-swivelling J-Lo of the Indonesian dangdut scene) VCDs and ear-drum splitting speakers to blast his favourite techno tunes. Yes, you read right. This 59-year-old retiree enjoys the kind of thumping beats more popular with young bengs. And judging from the many disoriented cyclists we met along the way while Mr Othman drove us around Pulau Ubin with the speakers blaring, we weren't the only ones surprised by his odd choice of music.

    Bought at the rock-bottom price of $6,000 - vehicles on Pulau Ubin do not require a COE - the van serves as a means of extra income for Mr Othman as he uses it to ferry daytrippers around the island. We're now just waiting for Mr Othman to install ghetto-pimp hydraulics to convert his van into the ultimate souped-up vehicle.

    WITH the beach just a short 10-minute walk from his house, it's not surprising that Mr Othman leads the ultimate beach-bum lifestyle. Lazing by the beach, fishing on the open seas and cycling around the island - all that's missing is a choker of seashells around his neck to get him dubbed Pulau Ubin's 'Budak Pantai' (Malay for beach boy).

    But Mr Othman already has his moniker-quota filled. He was nicknamed 'Man Keras' (Malay for Iron Man) by his firefighter mates - a play on his name as well as a reference to his bulging physique. And a framed article of the time he was crowned Mr Fire Service - a body-building contest for firefighters - in 1976, hangs proudly on his living-room wall. No longer in his prime, Mr Othman nevertheless fools many into thinking that he's younger than his 59-year-old self.

    Casually dressed in a tank-top and bermudas, Mr Othman doesn't look a day over 49. Perhaps his exercise regime has something to do with that. 'Ubin is great for jogging although I've since discovered that I love cycling even more,' said Mr Othman as he pointed out his mountain bike. 'But of course, since I don't have a fridge, I have to run to the shops to buy ice. That's about 2.4km - just like when I had to do my IPPT,' he added as we winced from remembering the days we used to fail that very fitness test.

    HIS kampung house is not a mansion (it's as big as a three-room HDB flat) and the compound leaves much to be desired (discarded appliances and rubbish are piled up not too far away). City slickers will no doubt complain about Pulau Ubin's less than modern ways - Ubin residents power their lights and appliances using a generator, and water is still drawn from wells - but Mr Othman dismisses such inconveniences as being too trivial for him to worry about. 'You just get used to it,' he said, without breaking a sweat.

    We, on the other hand, sweated buckets in the baking heat and almost tripped over ourselves in our desperate bid to swat away mosquitoes. And mind you, we were indoors at the time. To save costs, the generators are not switched on till evening, when natural light has to be replaced by man-made light.

    So don't even think of making yourself an iced tea to cool yourself down. But make no mistake, as Mr Othman has shown with his van, this kampung aficionado isn't about to leave all the inconveniences of modern technology behind. A karaoke fan, his living room can barely contain his entertainment unit - two large speakers, a 21-inch television set and a single player which plays CDs, VCDs, DVDs as well as your almost-defunct videos. 'With this (his entertainment unit), I never feel lonely,' said Mr Othman, who lives alone.

    Source: The Electric New Paper, May 24 2004, Taken from,4136,62457,00.html

    Friday, May 21, 2004

    Have you been to Ubin yet?

    Today on a bus ride home, I chanced upon a conversation between 2 persons discussing a trip to Ubin. It took me by surprise that I would so fortuitously hear Ubin mentioned on such a random occassion. Then again, I have been living on a pendulum of opinions (between thinking everybody has been to Ubin or the other extreme) ever since I started guiding with Pedal Ubin!

    My first trip to Ubin was in the late 80s or early 90s (the timing is rather fuzzy to me by now). I remember I was still a primary school kid and my dad has dragged me out with him to a mosquito infested, dirty, smelly jetty early in the morning. The jetty was brimming with people and I learned that we were going to Pulau Ubin to visit the Ma Zu Temple (a deity that looks after the seafaring folks - fishermen, islanders etc) on the island.

    The Ma Zu Temple seemed like a really popular spot for the devotees on mainland Singapore and on the island. That day, I was also reminded by my father that my mother was born on the island of Ubin and lived there till the age of 12. We walked around the island after visiting the temple and my dad pointed out the prawn pond and ramshackled, desserted hut that was once the home of my mother and her family.

    That was the last time I've seen the house and the Ma Zu Temple. All of it is now Outward Bound School (OBS) land. The temple, house and along with one third of the land on Ubin was cleared to make way for the school and I heard they are still considering expansion. Personally I feel a deep lost for my personal heritage. I would never be able to see my mother's home with the eyes of a comprehending appreciative adult.

    Nonetheless, the next time I stepped foot on Ubin was in 2003. I went with 2 other photographers to photograph the sights of the island, touted as the last "kampong" in Singapore. To my knowledge, many different groups of people visit Ubin consistently. Thus, I had the impression that Ubin was as well visited and as well known as Sentosa. Afterall, both had resorts and man-made lagoons.

    However, during a session of Pedal Ubin on April 25th 2004, in a conversation with one of my guests, a gentleman I estimated to be in his 60s, I was shocked to discover that in all his years since birth in Singapore, he has never stepped foot on Pulau Ubin until that very day. After sounding my parents out, they affirm that in their experience, it comes as no surprise that as much as there are many Singaporeans visiting the island every year, there are just as much or more who has never been on the island.

    I was fortunate enough to have had a glimpse of my mother's home in my lifetime but there are many others who never had the chance to see it as it is now. Perhaps it is time to head down to Ubin now and revel in it before its all gone.

    Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    The Ubin Tiger - April 1997

    Thanks to news archives of
    "Tiger Talk Taken Seriously By Singapore Authorities"
    Reuters World Service 29 April 1997

    "It may sound like the stuff of urban legend, but Singapore authorities are taking seriously talk of tigers at large on one of the city state's outlying islands.

    State television and the daily Straits Times newspaper said on Tuesday that police had warned residents of Pulau Ubin, located between the main island of Singapore and the coast of Malaysia, to stay indoors at night.

    Police have also advised the public to keep away from the island, the Straits Times said.

    The warnings came after quarry workers and an island resident separately reported spotting animals that looked like tigers.

     Although some three million people are crammed into Singapore's 648 sq km , Pulau Ubin has just 600 residents, and large patches of swamp, jungle and remnants of old rubber plantations.

    Police and experts from the National Parks Board and Singapore Zoological Gardens have searched for the animals but so far found nothing.

    But the report gained some credence because the island is within swimming distance of the Malaysian mainland and an elephant turned up on Pulau Ubin in 1991. Tigers disappeared from Singapore by the early 1930s, the last one having been shot in 1932."

    "Tiger Reported On The Loose In Singapore"
    Deutsche Presse-Agentur. April 25, 1997.

    The following text is from an article reporting possible sightings of a tiger in Singapore. "Residents in a wooded area of Singapore claimed Friday to have spotted a tiger on the loose in the densely populated city-state. Police confirmed that officials had been dispatched to search for the animal.

    'It's true. People have seen a tiger here,' a shop keeper on the island of Pulau Ubin, a part of Singapore which lies less than one kilometre off the coast of Singapore's mainland, told the German Press Agency dpa.

    'Some men came over here to look for it. They had five or six rifles,' the shop keeper, who would identify herself only as Miss Koh, said. Police confirmed that personnel from the Singapore Zoo had gone to the island Friday morning to investigate reports of a roaming tiger.

     'Some officials from the zoo went over and conducted interviews with people who said they saw the tiger,' police spokesman Douglas Yeo said. 'Based on their expert opinions, they think the reports are very unlikely.'

    Others said a wild tiger could possibly have reached the island by swimming across the narrow strait separating Singapore from the Malaysian state of Johor.

    'Now that Pulau Ubin is being depopulated, wild animals are coming in from Johor,' K.P. Tan, a naturalist who studies flora and fauna in Pulau Ubin's jungles and villages, said.

    'There are a lot of wild boar on the island which swim over, and tigers are very good swimmers. If a boar could make it, a tiger certainly could.'

    Tan noted a well-documented case in which a wild elephant swam to the island five from Johor five years ago and had to be captured by authorities.

     Pulau Ubin, one of the few largely forested parts of Singapore remaininng, is roughly five kilometres (three miles) long and two kilometres (1.2 kilometres) wide and has about 300 inhabitants, who live in small villages or on farms.

    The number of people living on Pulau Ubin has been diminishing in recent years as the government prepares to step up development on the island."

    "Mystery girl of Ubin."

    "Mystery girl of Ubin."
    By Tan Shzr Ee. The Straits Times, 09 March 2003
    (c) 2003 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

    An urn in an obscure Pulau Ubin temple, said to hold the remains of a WWI German girl, has been attracting devotees since the 1930s

    THEY call her the German Girl, or the Nadu Guniang - a Malay-Chinese appropriation of the words 'Datuk' and 'Miss'.

    She makes her home in a yellow shack by an Assam tree, among carpets of lallang and grass.

    The place: Pulau Ubin's south-western plains, far away from the cries of cyclists daytripping from the Singaporean mainland, or other gourmets slurping down prawns by the northern island's eateries.

    All around her wooden hut, the air is dead still. But signs of human activity show through the lick of flaming candles and smoking joss-sticks twirling around her altar of an abode every day.

    She is dead - and has been dead for more than 80 years.

    A trickle of devotees on the island - and across the sea from Singapore - still meander round to the obscure spot to pay their respects regularly.

    'I've been coming here for years,' says Madam Cheng Xuan Li, 39, a factory worker who troops down to the site every weekend with her family, armed with packets of Qoo Grape and floral offerings.

    'An old friend told me about this temple. I have prayed for things, and have received them. It's only right that I return the favours.'

    She is not the only visitor. Pulau Ubin resident Chye Leng Keng, 74, reveals that worshippers from as far as Thailand and Myanmar have come to pay homage as well, over the years.

    Throughout his entire life, the old man and his wife have been living in a corrugated-iron hut, stapled together with age and dust, only footsteps away from the temple.

    He is the key witness to the strange proceedings that take place every time devotees troop in to worship the deity.

    'People come, sometimes with mediums who claim to speak German, and they ask for all sorts of things,' he says.

    'They pray for health. They ask for Toto and 4D numbers.'

    But the story began even before Chye himself was born.

    Local folklore goes that the girl was the daughter of a coffee plantation manager who lived near the present temple site in the early 20th century.

    At the end of World War I, British soldiers rushed in to intern her parents but she was said to have escaped through the back door.

    In her haste, she fell into a quarry behind the coffee complex, stumbling to her death.

    Her corpse was discovered by Boyanese plantation labourers, who threw sand over her body and offered prayers, flowers and incense as a gesture of goodwill each time they passed her.

    Eventually, a group of Chinese workers on the island carted her remains to the crest of the quarry's hill and gave her a proper burial.

    'How she became a temple of worship - I have no idea,' says Chye who used to work in a shipyard and has three grown-up children living on the mainland.

    'The workers had probably been treated well by her parents, and maybe did what they did as a gesture of thanks.'

    Whatever the long-winded route the German Girl's tale took to become reincarnated into its present-day myth, worshippers and Toto punters have not stopped coming.

    From the 1920s to the 1970s, they left a trail of bananas and soft drinks on the burial ground for Chye to steal - as a hungry teenager and, later, as a cheeky old man up to nosey antics.

    'I'm not pantang (superstitious),' he says proudly.

    'I don't believe in all this ghost talk. I've never seen one in my 70 years in this place.'

    In 1974, the grave was exhumed to make way for quarry excavation work and relocated to its present spot near Chye's hut.

    He remembers playing kaypoh at the dig, sticking his head in the crowd to see a rusty cross and a few strands of hair recovered from the grave. These were apparently transferred to an expensive Jiangsu urn, bought for the ritual of ash-transferring by quarry company Aik Hwa.

    Today, the supposed urn - a heavy white jar decked with tattered scarves - sits upright on a dust-caked altar strewn with a battleforce of eerie feminine tributes: hair brushes, nail polish, powder, Safflower Oil, Florida Water, Hazeline Snow and the odd tube of Revlon lipstick.

    Newer displays - red packets rolled into tokens used for casting 4D numbers - bear imprints as fresh as this year's Powerpuff Girl ang pow logos.

    A red medium's table and chair sit quietly in another corner, adjacent to the altar.

    For all the fuss over the urn, Chye swears that it is actually only a replica of the original 1974 pot, which he believes to have been stolen by vandals simply for its beautiful Jiangsu design.

    'It doesn't look the same as the one I'd seen. But people still worship it,' he says.

    'Anyway, Singaporeans are strange. It's ironic that this German girl - a Roman Catholic going by her crucifix - should become some kind of Taoist deity for all these Chinese punters.'

    The mystery has not only intrigued him but also caught on with two curious filmmakers. Ho Choon Hiong, 28, and Michael Kam, 34, stumbled across the temple while making a documentary on Pulau Ubin's nine temples and 11 shrines in 2000.

    They have done the extra legwork of tracking down the former coffee plantation's 19th-century land deeds to a certain Daniel Brandt and Hermann Muhlingans of Germany.

    But beyond these two names, they have failed to unearth further information on the supposed girl or her parents. Further enquiries with the German Club and other sister organisations here have drawn a blank.

    A Sunday Life! check with the Singapore Land Authority and the National Archives similarly revealed nothing.

    Yet Ho, who has been tracking this temple (below) for two years, does not intend to give up - not least when there is talk that it may be torn down to make way for expansion of the Outward Bound School nearby.

    'I'm just hoping that it can be preserved or saved in some way, even if the land were to be taken over,' he says.

    'One day, I want to find out who the German girl really was and what she looked like,' he adds.

    For now, however, he is content to unravel the other mystery behind the urn: whether it contains the ashes of anything vaguely, formerly human, or, as Chye insists, is simply a replacement vessel for the Jiangsu original.

    Balancing on a stool and blowing dust off the stacks of offerings, the intrepid Ho scales the altar on bended knee. He pries nervously at the lid of the porcelain jar.

    'I have a clear conscience,' he says with a grin. 'Nothing to be afraid of.'

    The big moment arrives: The lid is cranked open.

    The urn contains nothing.

    Nameless, faceless, speechless - and now, formless.

    Why would anybody still worship an empty pot? But adamant devotee Madam Cheng insists: 'Ah, but that's exactly why she's a deity. She's invisible but everywhere, like Tua Pek Kong. Her power is omnipresent.'

    First posted to Pedal-Ubin Mailing List, 8th Mar 2004. Thanks to Eunice Low of National Library for her help in acquiring this article.

    See also: Changing with time in this blog.

    Monday, May 17, 2004

    The Straits Times, 17 May 2004 - "Burglars steal $35,000 from Pulau Ubin House"

    Burglars steal $35,000 from Pulau Ubin House
    By KC Vijayan
    The Straits Times, 17 May 2004

    TWO dogs in the compound of a wooden house on Pulau Ubin did not stop the home from being broken into and the burglars getting away with $35,000 in cash on Saturday morning.

    The incident is believed to be the first reported burglary involving such a
    large sum to have occurred on the island in recent times. Burglary is rare there and on the occasions it has happened, only small sums
    have been taken.

    Home owner Moh Seng Whee, 65, and his wife, Madam Ee Yam Ngoh, 56, left the house at around 7am. She went fishing and he to drive his cab. When Madam Ee, who is also a taxi driver on the island, returned about two hours later, she spotted a side door to the living room had been forced open and called her husband.

    They found that about $15,000 in cash that he had placed in an unlocked top
    drawer in the room was no longer there. About $20,000 in cash which she had hidden in an adjacent store room in a plastic bag was also missing. The other three rooms in their home were not disturbed. Neither of them had known where the other's money was kept, said Mr Moh.

    Mr Moh, who has lived on the island from birth, said the money was the result of 10 years of saving, plus contributions from their daughter who lives on the mainland.

    The Mohs have lived in the single-storey wooden house, located about 1km from the island's jetty, for more than 40 years. The first sound that greets any visitor is the barking of their two dogs.

    Mr Moh said that though he had a bank account, he and his wife kept cash at home for their daily and other general expenses. But they would not be doing so
    any more.

    He added that it pained him to think of the losses.

    The police are investigating the case and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them on 1800-255-0000.

    Sunday, May 16, 2004

    Couple loses S$35,000 life savings in Pulau Ubin break-in

    By : Johnson Choo, Channel NewsAsia
    Date : 16 May 2004 1830 hrs (GMT)

    SINGAPORE : A couple lost S$35,000 in cash when their house on Pulau Ubin was broken into on Saturday.

    Both husband and wife had left their house at 7 am, returning two hours later to find their life savings gone.

    Moh Seng Hwee and his wife are both taxi drivers plying the roads of idyllic Pulau Ubin .

    They normally do not lock up their house, and when they left home on Saturday morning, it was just a normal day.

    But when his wife returned at 9 am, she was heartbroken.

    "When she got back, she found the house ransacked. She called and told me the money's gone," said Mr Moh.

    The door linking the kitchen to the living room was also broken.

    Mr Moh's wife, in her mid-50s, discovered her S$20,000 in cash missing. It had been hidden in between egg-trays and wrapped in a red plastic bag.

    Also missing was Mr Moh's S$15,000 in cash, kept in a black pouch in an unlocked drawer in the living room.

    Anyone with information on the case can call the police hotline at 1800-255 0000. - CNA

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    "Flying elephants do not cross the river"

    "World has turned, but have we?" by Richard Lim
    The Sunday Times, Page 4, Sunday, 25th May 1997.

    "In Chinese chess or xiangchi, one player has two elephants, among other pieces, and his opponent, two ministers, because the two words sound alike (xiang). They are roughly the equivalent of the bishops in chess, except that the elephants and ministers cannot cross the half- line of the xiangshi board, which is marked by a river.

    An age-old proverb has come out of this rule: fei xiang bu guo he, or "flying elephants do not cross the river". There are just some things that one cannot do.

    But in 1990, two elephants swam across the strait from Johor to Pulau Tekong, and in the following year, another one swam across to Pulau Ubin. I remember a former colleague laughing about it then - another truism turned on its head."

    Originally posted to Pulau Ubin Mailing List, 3rd April 2004

    "Pulau Ubin abode for Thai monk"

    By COLUM MURPHY, Bangkok Post, 3rd July 2003

    Singapore -- For three months, Buddhist monk Phrakru Panna Dhamvithes walked south from his native Phattalung province in southern Thailand in search of a spiritual haven where he could build a temple and meditate. In May 1986, he finally found his piece of paradise in a somewhat unusual place - Singapore. He has been there ever since.

    Phraku Panna's new home is not among the shopping malls and high rise buildings on Orchard Road, but among the mangroves and thick forests of Pulau Ubin, one of the islands that makes up Singapore.

    It is not difficult to see why he settled on Pulau Ubin.

    A short 10-minute ride in a bumboat from Changi jetty, the island is a welcome enclave of raw nature in the otherwise clinically pristine city-state. Singapore still has a soul and it can be found on Pulau Ubin, Malay for `Rock Island.'

    The trouble is, while visitor numbers are growing, the local population is dwindling, and it may be only a matter of time before the island loses what is arguably its greatest attraction_its people.

    According to legend, the island was created when an elephant, a pig and a frog decided to race each other across the stretch of water from the main island of Singapore to the shore at Johor. Whoever lost the race would be transformed into stone. Since none of the three reached land, the elephant and the pig became the granite rock that is Pulau Ubin, while the frog became Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island).

    Eight kilometres long and 1.7 kilometres wide, boomerang-shaped Pulau Ubin is densely covered with mangroves and secondary forest. The island is home to some rare animals and birds including red junglefowl, wild pigs and oriental pied hornbills.

    But flora and fauna are only part of its attraction. The island boasts the last few remaining kampong, or traditional villages, in the whole of Singapore. They date back to the middle of the 19th century with the arrival of a group of Malays. The Chinese followed soon after.

    At 99 years of age, the village chief Mr Lim Chye Soo has seen it all. When he arrived at the age of 30 from Swatow in China, the island was prospering thanks to its rich granite reserves - the Raffles Lighthouse was built using Ubin granite. Much of the original vegitation had been cleared for the cultivation of rubber and crops such as coffee, pineapple, coconut and jasmine. At its peak, 2,000 residents lived on Pulau Ubin. Thanks to Mr Lim's efforts, the island got its first school when Bin Kiang School opened in the 1952.

    Over the years with the erosion of competitiveness in granite and rubber, people began to leave - or were resettled - on the mainland. Bin Kiang School closed its doors in 1985, and today there are only 100 residents remaining on the island. Fourteen families are Malay, the remainder Chinese. Largely reliant on diesel generators for electricity and wells for water, their lifestyle shows the humble past of modern day Singapore.

    Now ecotourism is touted as the island's "saviour''.

    Each day the bumboats pull into the jetty at Pulau Ubin offloading predominantly Singaporean tourists from the mainland. Last year 300,000 visitors came to the island to take advantage of the recreational opportunities on offer. Cycling is one of the main draws and the bike rental shops vie for customers near the jetty. Hiking and camping are also popular _ there even is an educational nature trail specifically designed for the visually impaired. And during religious festivals, vistors join locals in prayer and meditation at the island's numerous temples and shrines _ among them Phrakru Panna's Thai temple, and the shrine at Aik Hwa Granite Quarry, which supposedly houses the remains of a German girl who died during World War I.

    Mr Ali bin Montail is the 75-year-old leader of the Malay community on Pulau Ubin. Raised on the island, he left to work on the mainland with the British RAF before retiring back to the island in 1965 where he now runs a coffee shop. He says that the island is now much cleaner than it was before.

    Singapore's National Parks (NParks) manages large chunks of Pulau Ubin. In addition to reforestation with primary forest - a project that could take over 100 years to achieve - NParks is also responsible for protecting the environment at Pulau Ubin.

    Given the volume of visitors, this is not an easy task.

    Last year, following public outcry, the government abandonned planned reclamation projects on the island's east coast to avoid impacting marine wildlife at Tanjong Chek Jawa. Saved from damaging development, the site now faces another challenge_the harm that could be done by over-enthusiastic tourists. To prevent this NParks organises tours to the area in a bid to limit the environmental impact of tourists.

    In spite of NParks' efforts, the daytrippers are starting to take their toll. On the north side of the island at Noordin Beach, Singapore's only natural sandy beach, polysterene cups litter areas of the sand_washed up by low tides or left behind by careless campers.

    Now, visitor numbers look set to increase even further as NParks is converting a former quarry into a mountain bike course, capable of staging international competitions.

    The good news is that the Urban Redvelopment Authority (URA), Singapore's national planning authority, has recently pledged to keep the island as it is.

    The bad news is that URA says it will do so for "as long as the the island is not required for development.''

    It is unclear whether this curious caveat constitutes a firm commitment to keeping the island in its current green state indefinitely or if it is merely a stay of execution.

    But Mr Ali is still hopeful for the future, and is quietly confident that the island can be kept as it is now so that fuure generations might know what kampong life is like.

    But will it be preserved as some curious relic to the past, a type of open-air museum, rather than as a living, vibrant, real community?

    There appears to be widespread resignation that population decline is irreversible. And in the absence of proactive policies to promote repopulation of the island, it seems inevitable that the 100 residents will soon whittle down to zero.

    Perhaps in its zeal to protect the island's flora and fauna and promote it as Singapore's ``recreational zone,'' Pulau Ubin most precious asset_its people_will be overlooked. Without a vibrant local community to continue the legacy of Messrs Lim and Ali it might only be a matter of time before the island loses its soul and becomes just another entertainment zone for stressed-out city dwellers, becoming a greener yet equally heartless Sentosa Island.

    Back at the Thai temple, Phrakru Panna mediates, oblivious to the social and environmental changes taking place around him. He says he wants to stay forever on Pulau Ubin teaching meditation.

    But if the population of locals continues to decline, it could be that his future congregations will be made up exclusively of curious mountain-biking daytrippers.

    First posted to Pulau Ubin Mailing List on 19th March 2004