Sunday, July 31, 2005

Kampong Cooking on Ubin

Getting ready to cook al fresco with freshly pick herbs from the jungle. Photo by November. 31 Jul 2005.

Over this last weekend of July, a rather unique class was conducted on the island of Pulau Ubin. In fact, it probably was one of the most interesting class I ever attended, and definitely the most enlightening visit I had to Ubin in the last one year.

As mentioned several times over the month, Ruqxana of Cookery Magic has been conducting special Kampong Cooking Classes in an authentic kampong family's home on the island. In conjuction with the Singapore food festival, lessons were held on the 30th and 31st of July. I was fortunate enough to be able to join them on this second date.

Well trodden paths between homes in the Ubin Malay Kampong. Photo by November. 31 Jul 2005

Not only was this the first time I entered a real authentic Malay Kampong house on the island, and a very well maintained one at that, I also visited a part of the island I never had the leisure to explore before. This is perhaps the last thriving Malay Kampong on Singapore soil. It also allowed me to forgo any need for vivid imagination when I saw the well-used village paths that my mother talked about.

Lunch! - Mixed herb rice, Nasi Kerabu, served with freshly pounded and fried sambal belachan chilli in Simpoh Air leaves! Photo by November

Participants were led by the nature-taught guides through their backyard jungle to pick fresh herbs and plants off the tree and from the ground to make a most delicious Nasi Kerabu which is a mixed herb rice. At the same time, our knowledgable organizer informs us of the many wonderful medicinal and cooking properties of these herbs. What more, after frequently telling others about it, I finally had the first hand experience to eat my food out of Simpoh Air leaves, also known as tempeh leaves as they are often used to wrap those fermented beans.

All in all, it was a most fruitful morning despite misplacing my brimming notebook on the island. What more, to add the ice-ing on the cake, I got to witness my mother's favourite childhood dessert - the mythical ice balls!

Ice balls made by our little host. Photo by November.

If you wish to organize visits to Kamariah's home to experience a true kampong experience, contact Kamariah at:
mobile: 91006958

For more information on Ubin Kampong Cooking Classes or other interesting cooking classes, visit the Cookery Magic Website.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Speak up for Ubin

Focus Ubin is conducting a survey on what people think of Ubin.

This is your chance to share what you love about Ubin and what you forsee to be its future. Help shape the future developments on Ubin today.

View of new development on one side of the Jetty. Photo by November. 25 June 2005.

Results of the survey will be compiled and submitted to the authorities at the end of 2005 to show there are people who are interested in Ubin and what their hopes are for Ubin. The survey will be closed after a year of collecting feedback in October 2005.

Let your voices be heard!

Focus Ubin survey

Everytime the Pedal Ubin guides bring our participants around on Ubin, our objective is to show the sights, sounds, nature and heritage of the island and share what many of us love and have grown to treasure about Ubin. However, most of the time, the only voices heard out there are complaints. The agencies involved would not know that there are people appreciative of Ubin and its tresures if we do not speak up and voice our appreciation for keeping Ubin the way it is.

Morning sun on the other side of the Ubin Jetty. Photo by November.

One thing I have learnt is that we all need encouragements. If and when the authorities are doing the right thing, they need encouragement too. They need to know our support.

This is a really good chance to let them know the positive things we like about what they are doing and positive things we hope they are doing. To date, about 10-15 people a month drop by to do the survey and share how they feel about Ubin.

So what are you waiting for? Don't shy! *grin*

Friday, July 29, 2005

Albizia.... whatchamacallit

In response to my post on the cutting down of Albizia previously, Sivasothi commented that "it appears that Albizia falcata, Albizia falcataria and Albizia moluccana are synonyms of... Paraserianthes falcataria."

Thanks to Siva's little push in the right direction, I found out the following about Albizia or "whatever common or scientific names it is known" (source).

The trees in question. Photo by November

"Paraserianthes falcataria (L.) Nielsen is a valuable multipurpose tree for the humid tropics. One of the fastest growing of all tree species, it is used for pulp and other wood products, fuelwood, ornamental plantings and shade for coffee, tea and cattle. Potential uses for which it is being tested include alley farming and intercropping in forest plantations. This is a large tree that regularly reaches 24 to 30 m in height and 80 cm in diameter.

Falcataria occurs naturally in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands from 10 [degrees] S to 30 [degrees] N." [source]

Albizia falcataria (syn. Albizia falcata, Albizia moluccana, etc.) is "one of the quickest-growing trees of Malaysia. It is highly regarded as shade tree, sometimes used for coffee shade. It has also been used to shade tea in Java, but its rapid growth may damage the tea during drought. It has been suggested as cover for mine spoil. [editor's note: which may suggest its prescence near the quarry mines of Ubin] The wood is described as soft but suitable for tea boxes. [source]

Albizia trees behind a banana plantation at the brim of the Ubin quarry. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005.

Somehow that information failed to make any dents on my thick skull. Whatever impact I'm supposed to feel at the name of "Paraserianthes falcataria" was totally lost on my non-biological self. It could be the most common plant in Singapore next to the rain tree but what I learnt from a little research only reinforced the points I made before.

1) Albizia is a plant native to this region. It may not be to Singapore but considering how this area used to be part of the Sunda continental shelf or Sundaland, its dispersal over Indonesia and Malaysia to Singapore may not be impossible.

2) In fact, it is also a very useful plant! Unfortunately, we must not overlook its "pesty" qualities such as the fact that "the tree regenerates so easily by natural seeding on any clearing that it can spread rapidly and become a pest" (source).

Paraserianthes falcataria
Albizia falcataria

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Conversation with a Mother

This Sunday I am supposed to be going to the Kampong Cooking Class organized by Cookery Magic that is hosted in the authentic kampong home of a lady called Kamariah.

Thus, I decided to give Mdm. Kamariah a call today to introduce myself.

Instead, I was rewarded with a most enlightening and inspiring phone call. I find myself speaking with a peer of my mother and that this conversation with a Ubin mother opened my eyes to the plight of one who is desperately trying to retain a piece of her heritage for her children and her children's children. In fact, listening to her make me remember that everything we do to try to struggle afloat in the torrent of changes on Ubin worthwhile.

The first thing that struck Kamariah is that I sound very young. Indeed, I am about the age of her son. Immediately we established that she is about the same age as my mother, well, a little younger! The home that I will be visiting this Sunday is actually from the time of her grandfather, whom of course is no longer with us on earth. (He would have to be more than a hundred years old if he was alive! My great-grandmother herself passed away more than 20 years ago at more than 90 years of age.)

Image courtesy of Cookery Magic

I begin to see so much similarities in her story. Having about 3 generations on Ubin, and herself born on Ubin, just as my mother. (My mother lived with my grandmother opposite my greatgrandmother. Our entire extended family existed on the island.) The only difference is that she managed to retain her home on Ubin to this day and is struggling to maintain the expensive upkeep of a Kampong house. On the other hand, the last time I saw the shambles that was my mother's home was when I was 10. Surely, it is no more than an overgrown secondary forest now.

She told of the arduous task of having to import every single piece of wood and building material to maintain falling pieces of the house all the way from Singapore to Pulau Ubin. The material and transportation is both expensive and difficult because Ubin no longer has these material. Ironically, from my understanding, it should be rather difficult to get these materials from Singapore as well. They might just be imported! While a family friend on the island complained to my parents of the cost of generators, Kamariah exclaimed that generators are mere luxuries for their family. The cost comes more from maintaining the stability of the structure!

Image courtesy of Cookery Magic

Regardless, she desperately wants to keep her heritage alive for her children (whom I am not sure if they were born on Ubin or not) so that the future generation would still have a piece of their past! How I wish I had their fortunate opportunity of growing up visiting the island home of my mother and grandmother and greatgrandmother when I was young.

However, in some ways, I am glad that my mother is left only with the memories of a happy 12 years old girl. Otherwise to this day, she will have to worry about the maintenance of a home on a dwindling island and a burgeoning financial burden. Perhaps sometimes, an innocent and happy memory is better than an adult one full of responsibilities, fighting against changes with time. Still I know the people are happy but in the deepest recess of my heart, I know neither the city dweller in me nor my mother can adapt to living in a rural kampong again. Too far gone we are indeed.

Against the dwindling population and constant change on the island, I applaud her very much for her desire to maintain this for the future. I feel almost like the child who grew up never knowing wild animals 'cept for pictures and stories looking at the children who grew up having nature in their backyard.

If you wish to organize group outings or visits to Kamariah's home for a small fee, you can contact her directly at:
mobile: 91006958

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Making way for development

If you have been to Ubin recently, you may have noticed that the coast line near the Jetty and Ubin Town looks nothing like the original forested area it was 6 months ago. Instead, it looks very much like the parks we find often in the new towns and parks on the mainland.

A new look spotted from the Jetty. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005

Ria explained to me that a new campsite located near the Jetty and Ubin Town would be potentially a good thing as the litter and crowd would be limited to an area that is already seeing a lot of traffic and prevent a more mature and undisturbed forest nearer inland to suffer under the chainsaw. However, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss as I see the fallen trees.

Before - a secondary albizia forest. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005

Despite the reassurance that having a campsite would provide a steadier flow of tourist and camper income for the locals, I will always feel a personal connection with the albizia trees. Albizia trees are logically an expendable species as they are the fastest growing trees in the region, growing up to 7m a year and would only last 30 years before they would fall over and die.

After - a scene of albizia destruction. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005

As such, the wood is very light and therefore often used to make matchsticks and boxes. It is also one of the few trees I actually see my mother recognizing on our trip to Ubin. She actually excitedly asked me without prompting what I call those trees - pointing to the Albizias. Seeing how I did my research on Albizias when contributing to Pedal Ubin guides' notes, I was similarly excited that my mom recognized my "favourite" tree on Ubin.

According to her, my greatgrandmother told her that those are called "bak bong" in teochew or some chinese dialect. If I'm not wrong, that translates to matchstick tree! How logical. In fact, she reminisce that there were a big forest of albizia opposite her house in the Ban Gang and Pineapple Hill area where she was grew up.

Looking into the future, making way for a manicured garden catering to recreational users and a campsite by the sea. Photo by November. 23 Jul 2005

It is rather exciting that with increased facilities for camping combined with the slacker camping rules, the number of people going to Ubin may now increase and hopefully would as such revitalize the island's dwindling population and economy. Even for a previous resident like my mother, she feels that the facilities, such as the resort for example, available on Ubin should be more heavily marketed and tourism could potentially reinject the bustling life that the island used to see.

Native plants or something else? Photo by November. 11 Jul 2005

Still, with regards to the slaughtered albizias, it is instead replaced with some saplings and bushes that do not seem to promise the shade that trees promises. In a discussion with another pedal ubin guide, I questioned if "manicured" gardens planted by NPark could possibly be rehabilitated with indigenous or native plants, she replied that perhaps they are unmanageable! From what I do know, that may not necessarily be a problem. According to the Singapore Green Plan, one of the suggestions is to ensure that nature reserves are replanted with indigenous species, so why not even the regular parks we have, or at least that on Ubin which is right beside the thriving "wild".

Albizia has been argued not to be indigenous to Singapore. In its stead, some interesting maize-looking plants have been planted. I shall find out the species of these plants and if they are indigenous. I do know from my dad's observation that these plants can be found locally. He calls the maize-like plant the wood-bead plant as the seeds can be turned into beads! I have a small collection sitting on my table.

Quasi beads from the "wood beads plant". Photo by November. 11 Jul 2005

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pedal Ubin @ 23 July

One of the new Pedal Ubin Guide on her way to the island. Photo by November, 23 Jul 2005.

A new batch of Pedal Ubin guides finally graduated from 2 months of classroom and field sessions on Saturday, 23 Jul 2005, with their inaugural and very successful attempt at guiding the public around the island.

The 3 groups of new guides consisted of about 4 guides and 1 assessor to approximately 15 participants on a tour around the west and north of the island. It was a particularly challenging weekend as the new guides deftly handled a group of non-english speaking korean school kids, saving a man who fell from a slippery mangosteen tree and the chancing upon a family of 4 hornbills on a durian tree near the rubber plantation and Malay Kampong. All in all, the verdict for the final assessment was excellent. The new guides benefitted from a better structured training program than the original batch of guides.

I was part of a 4th group which consisted of 3 "old" guides, Gurmit, Joelle and myself, which gave our group a tour around the west of the island. It was also a rather pleasant surprise to learn that one of my group is actually my literature teacher from my JC years. We might just convince her to become a guide yet!

Despite the new fences that were erected about 2 weeks ago, we still managed a rather pleasant view of the quarries. We even found that one of the new fences already suffered at the hands of some fervent quarry lovers' wirecutter.

A scenic group shot in front of the Ubin Quarry. Photo by November.

More photos from the various groups during Pedal Ubin 23 Jul 2005:
Gurmit's artistic shots and lots of cute animals!
Sam Sam's photos
Ivan's photos
Ashwin's photos (with his new Canon 350D!)

Other accounts of the ride:
Ashwin's blog
Otterman Speaks

Friday, July 22, 2005

Moving Gods

**warning: spoilers**

Dreams of running and falling into a quarry. A taoist shrine dedicated to a german girl that is facing threat of development. An unquestioning caretaker of 40 years looking to move its patron diety to another location. Portrayal of stoic civil servants thinking only of costs and benefits. Numerous scenes and references of the supernatural at work. Juxtaposing the "newbies" and the "old school". Of swimming in quarries which we always warn people against. Taxi drivers that dreams of striking lottery. Most of all, a turtle named Leslie.

That could be the story of my life but this was actually of a fictitious movie based on a true event - Moving Gods.

Moving Gods still shots courtesy of XTREME Productions

In the director's words, there were a few issues that he sought to address in Moving Gods:

1. the question of blind faith
2. partly also inspired by a biblical text that the true God will disguise himself as a poor man and reward a man for his unconditional help.
3. the gods work in mysterious way theory or perhaps they really have a wicked sense of humour to get things done at the expense of clueless mortal beings.

Moving Gods still shots courtesy of XTREME Productions

There were also of course some other less thematic issues related to Ubin and to the German Girl Shrine that were addressed through the length of the movie. For those unfamiliar with the story of the German Girl, there was even a brief but informative historical summary in the middle of the film.

I definitely left the theatre wondering if the playwright Jen ever really had those dreams. Almost a week later, I find myself having dreams of his dreams. Many threads in the movie leaves one wondering such peculiarities as was there really an eccentric caretaker as depicted in the movie that Choon Hiong chanced upon while researching the German Girl years ago? Was the German Girl Shrine ever under threat of being obliterated since it now stands in the middle of barren development? Was there really a german girl or is it all a case of blind faith? How much of life on Ubin was accurately depicted amidst the fictitious quality of a story, yet "based on a true event"? How much of it is fiction and how much were facts?

Moving Gods still shots courtesy of XTREME Productions

Moving Gods is a movie by XTREME Productions and directed by Ho Choon Hiong who also previously did a documentary on the German Girl which we have now come to know as the Find German Girl project. Commissioned by Mediacorp's Art Central, Moving Gods is part of the stage to screen project, adapted from Lim Jen Erh's play of the same title. A free screening was held on Monday, 18 July 2005 at the Cathay Cineleisure.

Personally it was rather surprising that in addition to myself, 3 other Pedal Ubin guides, 1 toddycat (and family) who learned of it from Habitatnews and 1 Pulau Ubin Stories reader (with friends) attended the event. Maybe it was the unexpected free glasses they were giving away in exchange for a survey done!

Ticket stub and a free glass courtesy of Panasonic and Arts Central. Photo by November.

Interestingly, in response to my previous queries about the lanterns from the team in front of the temple, Choon Hiong responded that the lanterns were a dedication to the shrine. Likewise, the cast and crew also "burn offerings for her". Considering how the team met with some paranormal incidents while shooting Moving Gods that warranted the visit of SPI (Singapore Paranormal Investigators) and a subsequent documentary called the Curse of Moving Gods, one is definitely not surprised.

Appeasing the Gods? Photo by November.

Another factoid we uncovered during the screening was that the writer of the ST Article, "Mystery Girl of Ubin", Tan Shzr Ee, is also the composer of several songs in Moving Gods. According to MrBudak, Shzr Ee is a ethnomusicologist pursuing her PHD in UK studying indigenous folk music of East Asia.

Photo by November.

After all these interesting factoids and 2 thumbs up from Sivasothi (aka Otterman), I am sure many of you are eager to get a chance to watch Moving Gods.

The good news is that a separate screening of Moving Gods and 2 other documentaries by XTREME Productions, including the curse of the moving gods and german girl (a documentary filmed in year 2000 about the German Girl Shrine, possibly from the Find German Girl project), will be held tentatively at the end of August in NUS. Hopefully then the many questions provoked by Moving Gods will be answered during the Q&A session we hope to have with the director after the screening.

More information will be posted when details are confirmed.

[update: Arts Central has given us preliminary permission to screen Moving Gods but awaiting a formal reply by 1 Aug.]

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Fallen Sea Hibiscus at Dusk

A fallen Sea Hibiscus flower that has turned from yellow to dusky orangy-red at the end of its short day's lifespan. See the surrounding browned and dried heart-shaped leaves that are characteristic of the Sea Hibiscus plant. Pulau Ubin, 11 July 2005. Photo by November.

"Every moment of this strange and lovely life from dawn to dusk, is a miracle. Somewhere, always a rose is opening its petals to the dawn. Somewhere, always, a flower is fading in the dusk."
- Beverly Nichols

Monday, July 18, 2005

Five Stones

Ever wonder why "five stones" are called stones and not perhaps... "five bean bags"? Surely when we were young we have heard stories of the "good old days" where five stones was played with real stones and not the form in which we know.

It would probably not come as a surprise then that on the granite island, children played five stones with 5 carefully selected, rounded and mostly smooth piece of pebble of the right size. After much play of course the pebbles would become even smoother from the constantly rubbing and unintentional polishing from play. It also seems that on the mainland, five stones made of sand or bean bags were more common than using actual stones. However, true to being a child of a quarry worker, she claims that anywhere near a quarry, on the mainland or on Ubin, most children would naturally use the most available material to them - granite stones!

Mother showing me the art of selecting the right pebble. Photo by November.

Of course it shouldn't surprise me, but it did anyway, that dirt paths in the past (at least in the 1960s) were already as today, covered with a layer of gravel for added friction. Of course nothing as drastic as the barren landscape of gravel that is the bike park near German Girl Shrine (see below).

A barren landscape of gravel that is to be the offroad bike park. Photo by November.

The hierachy of roads are as follows:

  • Frequently walked and used paths have pebbles strewn as a top layer on top of the narrow dirt path. In today's standard, this would be the concrete-tar roads travelled by vehicles. Of course in the 60s, there were no motorized vehicles at all! While not paved, they were artificially "flattened" and specially created into a path by workers.

  • Lesser used paths such as those that leads to one's home would look as it does today, just a trail amongst trees. Of course back then, there were less trees and more signs of farms and dwellings. These paths are usually created from being trodden on instead of being purposefully created to serve as a road. It would look pretty much like the trail that goes through the rubber plantation to the "3 bridges" (as below) but as Mother's experienced eyes declared, that path shows signs of being "flattened".

    Towards the end of the path through the rubber plantation to the "3 bridges". Photo from Pedal Ubin.
  • Sunday, July 17, 2005

    "Moving Gods" @ Cathay Cineleisure

    "Preserving memories but at what expense? What happens when a temple is forced to move when the land it is sitting on is earmarked for urban renewal?" - Excerpt from Arts Central Website

    The german girl shrine amidst development of a recreational bike park as last seen on 25 June 2005. Photo by November.

    Dear Friends,

    Based on a TRUE EVENT...

    XTREME Production presents to you "MOVING GODS"- a feature TV Drama of a mysterious temple in Pulau Ubin that worships a German girl.

    Adapted from a play by Lim Jen Erh for The Theatre Practice, the story revolves around a filmmaker's (Jen) search for the German Girl mystery. Who is this German Girl, and why do people pray to her? More importantly, why does she always appear in Jen's dream?

    So, find out about the mystery of the German girl temple this Monday (18th July) at Cathay Cineleisure. Do check it out!

    Date: 18 July 2005
    Time: 9.30pm
    Venue: Cathay Cineleisure's Panasonic Hall 8
    Admission: Free
    (tickets at the door, first-come-first-served)

    More background information of the German Girl Temple:
    Mystery Girl of Ubin



    Look out for the lanterns from the "team of moving gods" at the German Girl Shrine next time you visit! Photo by November. [click to enlarge picture]

  • See Choon Hiong's "Find German Girl" project page:
  • Read more about the free screening as part of the Arts Central's series, Stage to Screen on Habitatnews.
  • For more information on the original play by Lim Jen Erh for The Theatre Practice, read the synopsis here.

    Photo from the original play. Source: Page To Stage Studio

  • [Editor's Note: I will be there to watch Moving Gods tomorrow and will follow up with a report and review of the documentary! Hopefully we will get an interview!]

    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Pineapple Hill

    Having not been on Ubin or in Singapore for the last six months, I decided to make up for my absence with weekly visits to the island for various purposes. On my most recent trip, I visited the island with my parents. Having left her birthplace 40 years ago, this visit was very nostalgic for her. Unfortunately, we were not able to go all the way to the west as we were... on foot! This is particularly apt as personally it was my first time getting around the island by foot but yet this is how my mother got around the island till the age of 12 as she did not cycle. Every day was a 1.5 - 2 hours walk from "downtown ubin" (where the jetty is) to her home near the "pineapple hill" (or Ong Lai Sua in hokkien).

    Walking down one of the few paths left on Ubin that even vaguely reminded Mother of the old dirt tracks she walked every day from school to home. Only difference is the resort that sprouted at the end of the path and the wide paved road that astounded her with its reminder of urban singapore. Photo by November.

    Pineapple Hill in actuality on today's renamed ubin map would be somewhere west of Aik Hwa quarry where the old Mazu temple would be, on Outward Bound School land. In the past, there were no maps and much less no official street or landmark names. The locals had common names for places that probably varied between the different ethnic groups. What more, it was referred to as Pineapple Hill because there used to be many pineapple plantations there, according to stories told to her by her grandmother (or my great-grandmother!). The area was also called Ban Gang or "half port". (read more about Ban Gang at the post "Ma Zu Temple")

    Just as there is a half port, there is also a Xin Gang (or "new port") where the German Girl Shrine currently stands. While Jelutong bridge being the first waterway you pass on the way west, it is referred to in dialect as Dao Diao Gang (or "number one river") and Pukau bridge and the river it crosses is referred to as Ji Diao Gang (or "number two river").

    Bollywood film Krrish to showcase Singapore

    By Vinita Ramani, TODAY
    13 July 2005
    If you happen to be strolling along the Singapore River, Chinatown or the Esplanade sometime between September and November, you may spot a film crew with cameras pointed at a group of Indians dancing up a storm. But it won't be a rehearsal for a Deepavali celebration. Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan is coming to town.
    Roshan is known for his role in the 2001 family saga blockbuster Kabhi Khushi, Kabhi Gham (Sometimes happiness, sometimes sorrow). Scheduled for a June 2006 release, Krrish is helmed by the renowned director Rakesh Roshan.

    The film will be shot in various locations, including the Singapore Zoo, the Esplanade, Pulau Ubin and Chinatown. While other Bollywood films, including Vaada (Promise) last year, feature Singapore locations, Krrish is unique in that up to 60 per cent of the movie will feature the Garden City.

    An agreement between Roshan's Filmkraft and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) allows the team to shoot with full permission from the authorities, reported Indian website

    "The agreement was the result of the Singapore Tourism Board's Film in Singapore initiative," said Mr Edward Chew, STB's area director for western India. "Besides providing financial incentives to these producers, STB also provides the necessary information and location assistance so producers can manage their filming project easily and seamlessly."

    Krrish is the follow-up to Roshan's 2003 sci-fi hit Koi Mil Gaya (Found Someone). Fans of Roshan, Priyanka Chopra (his love interest in the sequel) and legendary actress Rekha can look forward to a veritable feast of adventure and big-budget action.

    "The exposure for Singapore in the film is expected to be significant, both in India and across the Indian diaspora globally. Bollywood is the biggest film industry in the world and the Indian market is proving to be one of our key growth markets this year. Having the film shot in Singapore will undoubtedly increase the awareness and visibility of the Uniquely Singapore branding," said Chew.

    "I always wanted to shoot a film in Singapore, but somehow I never got the script," Rakesh Roshan told Now, with both a script and the support of the Film in Singapore! scheme, millions of Bollywood fans see Singapore like they have never seen it before. - TODAY/jt

    Editor's Note:
    If this piece of news does not appear new to you, it would be interesting to note that Ubin Stories picked up the news from prior to Channelnewsasia. Perhaps a more exciting prospect for Ubin Stories, as Sivasothi suggested, that perhaps I should take a trip down to Ubin when the film is being shot on Ubin! Look out for possible live coverage from between September to November then!

    Thursday, July 14, 2005

    A new survey

    A week ago, I posted the results from a survey conducted almost a year ago on "What do people do on Ubin".

    The conclusions were that the survey was probably not very reflective of the activities of regulars on the island.

    Thus I have created a new survey on the Focus Ubin forum.

    Do take part in the survey! Hopefully we can come up with updated results to compare with the previous one. In this short time, much change has occured on the island. The lifting of the camping restrictions and the new upcoming campground near the jetty may also change some of the trends we see.

    While we await the results to roll in on the survey, over the next few days I will be posting a series on the changes in Ubin that has occured over the last 6 months I have been away from Singapore and the last 40 years that my mother has not returned to Ubin! On Monday (11 July), my parents and I finally made a trip to revisit my mom's "old home" (which no longer exist of course). Many interesting tales and observations now fill the pages of my notebook!

    Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    New Pedal Ubin Guides

    New Pedal Ubin Guides and their guests on 25 June 2005. Photo by November

    On 25 June 2005, a new batch of RMBR Pedal Ubin guides were born after a series of intensive classroom and field lessons which culminated with a trial guiding session with friends of the guides.

    This coming 23 July 2005, the new guides would finally have their first try at guiding the public.

    Come and experience the stories and interesting facts about the natural and cultural heritage of Pulau Ubin.

    Sign up on the Pedal Ubin website before they run out of vacancies!

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Bye bye birdie

    Ubin resident Lim Choo Zi, 78, saying goodbye to his pet ostrich before the duo part ways.
    July 12, 2005
    Straits Times

    The young male, christened 'Ubin', has been adopted by the Jurong BirdPark, and made the big move to the mainland yesterday.

    The bachelor will join an existing harem of three females and, hopefully, do what the older male at the park has not been able to for the past few years - father some chicks.

    The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority recently banned all poultry on Pulau Ubin, including the ostrich, as part of ongoing efforts to keep the deadly bird flu out of Singapore.

    The 2m-tall bird was packed into a specially-constructed crate and ferried away by bumboat.

    Mr Lim, who has been given membership at the bird park, said he plans to visit his friend soon.

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Pulau Ubin ostrich taken to Jurong Bird Park

    By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia
    11 July 2005

    SINGAPORE : Jurong Bird Park has a new resident from Pulau Ubin.

    A 1.8-metres ostrich, weighing 60 kilogrammes, is the last of the kept poultry to be taken out of the island.

    'Ubin', the three-year-old ostrich, was shipped to mainland Singapore on Monday.

    Tests have been conducted on the bird to make sure it was healthy before allowing it to be transported.

    But 'Ubin' will still be quarantined for a month before making a public appearance. - CNA/de

    Note: Footage from Channel 8 News to follow.

    Sunday, July 10, 2005

    Bollywood movie filmed on Ubin

    According to, Bollywood Superstar, Hrithik Roshan's latest film, Krrish, is going for a 60-day nonstop shoot in Singapore from September to November.

    Of course for the fans of this island off the northern coast of Singapore, one of the places to be featured in the movie will be... PULAU UBIN. Soon we shall be able to catch the boomerang-shaped island on the silverscreen of Bollywood. Soon one shall be able to cycle down the roads of Ubin not just thinking about the Channel 8 TV series "Good Morning, Sir" (Chao An Lao Shi), but of scenes from an international film. [editor's note: correct me if I'm wrong please.]

    "Producer-director Rakesh Roshan signed an agreement with the Singapore Tourism Board in Mumbai and announced the deal.

    Krrish will showcase locations in Singapore including the world renowned Singapore Zoo, state of the art concert venue The Esplanade, a heritage pier built in 1933, the cultural repository of Chinatown, the bustling lifestyle districts along Singapore River and one of Singapore's rustic islands, Pulau Ubin."

    For the full story, read "Hrithik's Krrish goes to Singapore", 7 July 2005, by Syed Firdaus Ashraf (, India)

    Saturday, July 09, 2005

    Return of the Kampung Cooking Class

    Ruqxana of Cookery Magic who last organized a Kampung cooking class in one of the villagers' home on Ubin recently sent out another email announcing another great opportunity to experience food and life in one of the last kampungs in Singapore.

    In conjunction with Singapore Food Festival 2005 (SFF05), Cookery Magic announces the following:

    A Cooking Class in a Kampong House on Pulau Ubin
    Date: 30 and 31 July 2005, Saturday and Sunday
    Time: 8.30am - 1pm

    Menu: Nasi Kerabu
    1. Nasi Kerabu using jungle herbs which we will harvest from the surrounding jungle
    2. Sambal Blachan
    3. Ice Kachang.

    Cost: S$68 per person (cost includes ferry to the island)

    The kampung house on Ubin. Image courtesy of Cookery Magic.

    For more information, contact:
    Cookery Magic

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    AVA replies to letter on boar's plight

    The Straits Times, 8 Jul 05
    Care of Ubin's wild boar adequate

    I REFER to the letter, 'Life's a boar for this Pulau Ubin resident' (ST, July 2), by Madam Susannah Low.

    The Agri-food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) acted on the feedback immediately. AVA's veterinarian visited the premises where the wild boar is kept to check on the boar and interview the owner.

    Our investigations show that the boar is in satisfactory health and is kept under adequate living conditions. The boar's food and water requirements were met. Our veterinarian found that the boar was fed with food comprising commercial feeds, corn, fruit like apple, pear and coconut, and vegetables. In addition, it is given a large bucket of water twice a day.

    The owner, who has kept the boar since it was a piglet, has also given us the assurance that he will continue to look after it.

    We would like to thank Madam Low for her feedback and assure her once again that the boar's welfare has not been compromised.

    Goh Shih Yong
    Assistant Director
    Corporate Communications for Chief Executive Officer
    Agri-food & Veterinary Authority
    Ministry of National Development

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    8 Pulau Ubin poultry farmers accept resettlement offer

    By Lian Cheong/Joanne Leow, Channel NewsAsia
    05 July 2005

    SINGAPORE : Only one of the nine licensed poultry farmers has chosen to remain on Pulau Ubin.
    This comes after the government made a resettlement offer to those affected by the ban on rearing poultry on the offshore island last month.
    The ban was enforced to keep the avian flu at bay.
    The prawn farm belongs to Madam Lim Ah Lok, and it is the reason her family is staying put on Pulau Ubin.
    Because of the threat of avian flu, the family had changed from farming poultry to farming prawns.
    They have invested some $1 million in their new trade and want to recoup their capital.
    Other farmers, like 38-year-old Chew Lian Hoe's father are accepting the government's resettlement offer.
    But the family has mixed feelings about letting their now empty farm go after over 50 years.
    Mr Chew said he was happy now that his aged father need not have to work so hard to look after the farm.
    He said most of the farmers were giving up their farms because of old age and that their children do not want to take over their businesses.
    Those who have agreed to be resettled are being given a $3,000 allowance per family to relocate in addition to ex-gratia compensation for their houses and farm structures.
    The government is giving them housing priority to ensure that they will have a place to stay on the mainland.
    Licensed farmers who give up their licenses are also entitled to a cash grant of $26,000 to restart their lives on the mainland. - CNA/de

    Source: Channelnewsasia

    Editor's note: A similar story was also shown on Channel 8 news on 5 Jul 2005.

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    What do people do on Ubin?

    On April 10, a poster on the Focus Ubin forum asked:

    Just out of curiousity, has there been any study on the reasons why people go to our wonderful ubin? I suspect that though nature appreciation is a very dominant reason, there might be other factors that attract people there. Given the existence of Keramats and a number of Temples and altars on Ubin, a highly possible reason as to why some people visit the island is becuase they are attracted by the spiritual - religious elements of Ubin.

    A simple questionnaire survey done at the jetties, and the temples might reveal interesting figures, snapshots of situations fromtime to time. Has this ever been done?

    Zaki Jalil


    Belatedly, in reponse to his question, here are the results from a simple online survey I conducted last year on 82 respondents, of which 87% has been to Ubin which will probably put his and many others' speculations to rest.

    Out of these 87%, the answer for what they do on Ubin are as follows:

    Of course this survey has its biases since the respondents are not as neutral or random as if I had done the survey as suggested at the Jetty to Ubin. Still, it does shed light on some of the reasons why people visit Ubin. Perhaps, someone else would conduct a more accurate and objective survey at the jetty in the future.

    Saturday, July 02, 2005

    Life's a boar for this Pulau Ubin resident

    ST Forum Page, 02 Jul 2005

    Compared to the pampered and healthy animals in the Singapore Zoo, the boar was like an abandoned old person.

    The owner, who was smoking and looking very impatiently at all the
    visitors, said in Hokkien: 'I really don't know what to do with this animal. The Government also doesn't want him. Worse still, the Government doesn't allow me to collect money when tourists come to look at him. Now I have no money to buy food for him. But even if I had, I don't think I'd let him eat anything because his faeces are so smelly that I can't tolerate it anymore. I think I will let him starve to death. Or I will just throw a few coconuts to him.'

    From what I overheard, it seems that the owner had previously collected money from visitors who had photographs taken with the wild boar until the Government put a stop to it.

    I took a few photographs of the poor boar and walked away with a very heavy heart, thinking that even putting him to sleep would be kinder than letting him starve to death.

    I hope the authorities can do something soon before the poor boar dies of starvation.

    Susannah Low Xiao Rong (Mdm)