Friday, April 22, 2005

Aquatic Land Uses

More interesting information about Ubin from Edmund Waller's book "Landscape Planning in Singapore":

Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"The low lying mangrove swamps have been reclaimed from time to time for prawn farms. Traditionally, sea water is controlled by sluices in such a way that salt water containing natural prawn fry is impounded until the prawns are ready for harvesting. Large immediate earth berms (mounds) are sometimes used to contain the sea water and these often support a mangrove flora, especially if abandoned. They are also burrowed into by mud lobsters, which can cause leakage. It is considered important to prevent fresh water streams entering the prawn ponds because they might dilute the salt content to the detriment of the prawns. Therefore one often finds such streams carefully separated from the ponds but running alongside them.

View from a sluice gate discharging water from an abandoned prawn pond - by NT

The small scale traditional prawn ponds are an asset to the ecology as well as the island's ambience, but the larger more modern variety have caused the destruction of large areas of mangrove. Not all of them have been an economic success. Two of them can be termed "intensive" because they add addtional artificial prawn feed to the water.

An inland fish farm - by NT

Out at sea may be seen the picturesque traditional kelongs ("V" shaped fish traps) which are now giving way to the caged fish breeding pens, and it is said that the smaller fish caught in the traps are now sometimes used as food for the caged variety. Traditionally, kelongs also provided temporary accommodation for the fishermen, and can now be let out to visitors at weekends."

[Editor's note: Read the latest plan to build 10 fish farms in the waters off of Ubin! Other relevant read includes more about the high tech aquaculture prawn farm on Ubin who produces Ubin Krisp.]

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Kampung Cooking Lessons

Did you grow up in an urban environment and want to experience life in a traditional kampung with no electricity and the only source of water is from a well? Or did you grow up in a Kampung and wish to revisit your childhoods in one of the few remaining kampung homes in Singapore?

According to a post on Focus Ubin forum, one of the last few remaining Malay families on Ubin has opened their doors (to a 200 year old kampung house!) to groups interested in visiting them or taking cooking lessons.

Photo of above house and meal, by Ruqxana

More information on the Focus Ubin forum but here are the details on the cooking class:

Cooking Class in a Kampong House on Pulau Ubin
Date: 30 April 2005, Saturday
Time: 8.30pm - 1pm
Nasi Lemak
1. Coconut Rice
2. Stir Fried Green Vegatable
3. Sambal Ikan Bilis
4. Ice Kachang.
Cost: S$60 per person
(cost does not include ferry and bus – approx cost: S$10 per person)

Cookery Magic

Kamariah's uncle is the only barber on the island - by Ruqxana.

You could also contact the family directly if you wish to organize group outings. However, as the lady does not live on Ubin, she only goes back on weekends.
mobile: 91006958

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"The ambience is quite different from the cleanliness of the mainland and some Singaporeans find this disturbing. But others find it enchanting that decaying trucks or taxis are abandoned and become enveloped by the jungle. There is also the problem of flotsam and jetsam which is carried by the tides to envelop the shoreline at some places, and the primitive sanitary arrangements suspended above the fish ponds.

The shores along the jetty flooded with litter - by NT

The main point here is that these problems can easily and cheaply be rectified if the will is there. Many would consider that these disadvantages are a small price to pay for the cultural attractions which still persist (Waller, 1990).

The rural environment introduced to visitors is an ambience that is now absent elsewhere in Singapore. If it disappears, then links with a more self-sustaining rural economy will be severed forever. Unfortunately the traditional houses are disappearing at a fast rate. As soon as they appear to be uninhabited, they have to be removed."

An abandoned TV found in an old rubber plantation - by NT

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"Although the number of residents is decreasing, the number of visitors to the island shows a steady increase. The island may be very quiet on weekdays, but it comes alive at weekends and public holidays when cycling and camping are popular activities. This is also the time when mainlanders return to visit elderly relatives.

Pedal Ubin guides and cyclists on the island on a Sunday morning - by NT

At the moment, the island is large enough to absorb the visitors, but since current arrangements are to restrict the available recreation area to about half of the island's total size, there is a danger that the island's carrying capacity will soon be exceeded at peak periods. As increasing numbers of people wish to visit the only substantial remaining area of Singaproe's once significant countryside, it will soon be necessary to open up another access point to the island in order to disperse the crowds."

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Monday, April 11, 2005

Malay Kampong

Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"Pulau Ubin also has one of only two Malay kampongs remaining in the Republic. This consists of houses strung along the south-eastern coastline, many of which are stilted. The mosque survives complete with its bedok (drum). A gaol with rusting iron bars has recently vanished, and many of the outlying houses are deserted or destroyed."

[Editor's note: This information is rather outdated since it was probably from more than 4-5 years ago. According to Sivasothi, "unfortunately, by mid-2001, the kampung was flattened and most of the residents resettled."]

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Chinese village

Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"The population of Pulau Ubin was 2,028 in the 1970 census, 1,242 in 1980 and an estimated 500 in 1993, comprising about 200 families of which two thirds are Chinese (Teochew) and one third Malay. Since that time it has probably halved again. This exodus has been described and discussed by Edna Low (1995). Most of the original settlements have now vanished."

[Editor's note: This number is even lower today)

"Of those surviving, the most important is Pulau Ubin Village. This is the commercial centre of the island and is almost totally Chinese. It is the only traditional Chinese village remaining in Singapore today. It is built on each side of a road leading from the island's main jetty which widens out to form a village square where the two main buildings, the temple and the wayang (traditional Chinese opera house), face each other across the open space of the square."

'There are a handful of general provision shops, but in the last few years most of the shophouse occupants have taken to renting out bicycles so that there are perhaps a thousand available for hire on weekends and holidays. An art gallery opened up in 1998 [Editor's note: Is this still there?]. Students of the School of Architecture, The National University of Singapore, measured up most of the central village buildings, in July 1998 (Huang, 1998).'

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Low, E. (1995) "Pulau Ubin: The Exodus" Unpublished B.A. thesis, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore

Huang, Y.C. et al. (1998) "Pulau Ubin: Sustaining the Rural Episodes" Unpublished 2nd year elective. School of Architecture, National University of Singapore.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Flower farms

Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"Flowers are also grown and the most important are orchids, the cultivation of which dates from 1970. One of the orchid farms was relocated from Mandai. Two of the farms survived for a few years, and then ceased production because the owners did not break even.

However, in the past year another, smaller scale orchid farm has been established at the site of a boat building yard at Sungei Mamam. This farm also has caged birds such as peacocks, and serves drinks on weekends."

[Editor's note: This is the Orchid Farm at Sg Mamam owned by headman Lim Chye Joo's son, Lim Chu Zi.]

"A duck farm on the island failed and so it seems that farming at Ubin is not easy but almost all the homesteads grow fruit and vegetables in their gardens for their own use, and this adds to the charm of the island."

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Friday, April 08, 2005

Fruit Plantations

Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"Coconut plantations also have little use*. The nuts are mostly fed to the chickens or burnt in large piles. Others are left on the ground where they soon sprout into small trees. Some coconuts overhang the roads and tracks where nut fall is a source of poential danger.

Of the modern economic plantations, oil palms have not been introduced, and little opportunity has been taken to increase the numbers of durian trees whose fruit commands a high price in Singapore.

Rambutans are also of good quality and numbers could probably be increased, but each time that the Malaysian ringgit falls against the Singapore dollar, it becomes less economic to market the fruit.

The woodlands are now used almost exclusively for recreational uses, such as camp sites and outward bound activities. The Outward Bound School incorporated 13% of the island's land area by 1995, and most of this is former rubber plantation. Because rubber is no longer tapped, the plantations are reverting to secondary forest."

* [Editor's Note: Interstingly, coconut has always been called the tree of hundred uses as it has various parts that can be made utilized for many purposes. So I am not sure why it says that coconuts are of little use. In fact, coconut continues to be one of the few active plantations on the island, providing fresh, locally produced refreshment for visitors of the islands. However, the islanders have also taken to importing Thai coconuts even though they produce coconuts on the islands in order to cater to the tourists' palettes. Unfortunately, since they have to pay for importing these Thai coconuts, they will be more inclined towards marketing the Thai coconuts in order not to make a loss and thus the local coconuts become overlooked. Personally I always believes in supporting the local economy by helping it become self subsistence by buying only the local coconuts which are larger, more refreshing though not as sweet. Consumer demand does play a big role in shaping the socio-economics and ecology on the island.]

Yep, it's just (coco)nuts!

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Rubber Plantations

[Editor's note: I apologize for not citing sources for my previous few posts but this has been corrected. For the next few days, or even weeks, as I have been for the last weeks, I will be quoting some really interesting background information about Ubin from Edmund Waller's "Landscape Planning in Singapore".]

Excerpts from Waller (2001)

"Much of the land area of Pulau Ubin went through the same transformation as the mainland after the war so that plantation land was gradually abandoned. At that time plantations consisted of rubber and coconut but labour costs in neighbouring countries became so much lower that Singapore could not compete. Consequently, there are large areas of rubber plantation, which have been neglected for many years. Those most recently abandoned still show the scars of the rubber tapping and the branches of the aligned trees form attractive "gothic arched" tunnels. According to local residents, rubber tapping in these areas did not stop until the 1980s. Elsewhere the secondary forest has become so well established that the rubber trees have started to vanish.

Can you see the gothic arch? - by NT

The Lutyenesque "English lodge" of the rubber proprietor (No. 1, Kampong Chek Jawa) still exists on an attractive coastal location facing Changi and deserves a new use. But the North-eastern Islands Planning Report (URA, 1997:13) shows massive land reclamation works around the whole of the eastern end of the island, in which case the superb environment would vanish."

Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171

Urban Redevelopment Authority (1997) "North-eastern Islands Planning Report" Singapore

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Quarries

Taken from Edmund Waller (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore"

Granite has been exploited since the earliest colonial days and was once quarried for the construction of lighthouses. Both the Raffles and Horsburg lighthouses were built of Ubin granite. At a later time, the quarries were of significance in providing aggregate for roads and concrete during the intensive government building programme of the 1960s.

The Ubin Quarry - by NT

It was the strikes of Singapore's quarry workers that persuaded the Housing Development Board (HDB) to open their own quarries in Ubin so that they could be sure of regular supplies. Now, however, granite can be easily obtained from elsewhere in the region where the labour costs are lower, and so quarrying will soon cease at Ubin. (Editor's note: The last active quarry, Aik Hwa Quarry, has already ceased operation.)

The abandoned quarries remain unused and officially out of bounds. They provide a potential source of fresh water and additional opportunities for recreation, but dangers of unsupervised swimming have unfortunately barred public access.

  • Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171
  • Monday, April 04, 2005

    Animals of Ubin

    Edmund Waller (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" reports:

    "With regard to the fauna of Pulau Ubin, this is of greater national importance with several species rare or absent from the mainland. These include wild pigs and the leopard cat. In recent years, there has been a visit from a wild elephant and unconfirmed reports of a tiger.

    The recent appearance of elephants at Ubin and Pulau Tekong, whose presence had never been recorded, has added to the island's reputation as a last wild frontier."

    Editor's note: However, we now know that the reports of the tiger was probably untrue and of course the recent sightings of Otters reported throughout the island. Of course let's not forget the avifauna of the island such as the Jungle Fowl amongst other rare species of birds.

      Updated (and possibly incomplete) checklist.
    • Leopard Cat
    • Wild boar
    • Smooth-Coated Otter
    • Oriental Small-clawed otters
    • Macaques
    • Elephants (Non Resident)
    • Tapir (Non Resident)
    • Deers (extinct)
    • Tigers (extinct)

    Pulau Ubin has truly become the "last wild frontier" as deforestation continues in our neighboring countries which used to be the animal's refuge. However, with the lost of habitats, the animals such to seek other sanctuaries and the undeveloped island of Ubin becomes refuge for animals (and humans!). Not only has the example of the elephant proven so but the recent increase in animals found on the island such as the appearance of the Otters has also strengthen this hypothesis. Thus, it becomes increasingly important to further restore the island habitat, in addition to maintaining the island as it is.

  • Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171
  • Sunday, April 03, 2005

    Pulau Ubin headman celebrates turning 100

    April 3, 2005 (Straits Times)
    By Sharlene Tan

    MR LIM Chye Joo, Pulau Ubin headman and probably the island's oldest resident, celebrated his 100th birthday yesterday at his home, surrounded by family and friends.

    Special guest at the party was Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Speaker of Parliament and an MP for East Coast GRC, who first met Mr Lim about 10 years ago.

    Mr Lim, who is wheelchair-bound, looked happy as more than 50 family members and guests sang Happy Birthday and helped him blow out the 10 candles perched on a frosted pink cake.

    He has been living on Pulau Ubin since he arrived from China nearly 70 years ago and has eight children.

    His granddaughter, Ms Lim Mui Hoon, 25, told The Sunday Times: 'He's very happy. He's been looking forward to this event for quite a while.'

    Mr Abdullah, who attended the lunch party with his wife and some grassroots leaders, said: 'He's a very warm man and well-respected. He's always been supportive of grassroots activities and it's not every day that one reaches such an age.'

    Mr Lim was the former chairman of the management committee of the Pulau Ubin community centre, which closed in 2003.

    He used to rear pigs and chickens on a plot of land near his house and also ran a provision shop on the island.

    His fourth son, 64-year-old Lim See Hai, told The Sunday Times his father had always been active in the community.

    'He likes to help out and neighbours would always come to him with their problems, whether big or small.'

    Despite his advanced age, he said his father is in good health, although he is weak and has difficulty speaking.

    The elder Mr Lim, whose own parents also lived long lives, is looked after by two of his sons, their wives and a maid. Other family members visit on the weekends.

    Ms Lim spent her childhood on the island, moving to the mainland at the age of 18.

    She returns to the island every Sunday. 'I feel more relaxed when I'm here. Maybe that's why my grandfather can live such a long life,' she said.

    Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement & Condition of Access.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    Primary Production on Ubin

    The existance of the natural resources of Pulau Ubin has meant that the land uses differed from the mainland of Singapore because the island was used mainly for primary production activities such as fishing, agriculture or quarrying. Socially, there is also a difference because the island has been cut off from the mainstream of Singapore life generally.

    Before the currentt boom in weekend recreation, there were four traditional land uses as follows:

  • The Quarries
  • Aquatic land uses
  • Farmlands and old plantations
  • Settlements and associated land uses.

  • Waller, Edmund (2001) "Landscape Planning in Singapore" (Singapore: Singapore University Press) pp.165-171
  • Friday, April 01, 2005

    Cicadas sighting

    A photo of the cicada exoskeleton moults on Ubin. Taken by Chim Chee Kong, hosted on Habitatnews's flickr account.

    Recently cicada moults were sighted on the northern parts of Ubin near the prawn ponds of Sungei Besar on the way to Noordin Beach.

    Read more about it on Habitatnews

    Here's an extract of the report from Chim Chee Kong (as reported on Habitatnews)

    "Hi Siva,

    I was cycling in Pulau Ubin on Good Friday (25 Mar 2005) when I saw a hundred or more (could be in the hundreds!) moulted exoskeletons of cicadas left behind on tree trunks (e.g. Angsana) and underside of leaves (e.g. Rubber).

    I could not see the cicadas themselves (except for one that was left behind), but they were making deafening music all around me!

    The exact location is a shaded area on gravel path after the "3 bridges" (a Pedal Ubin term referring to the area between Sungei Besar and the prawn ponds) leading to Jalan Noordin.

    Chee Kong"