Friday, November 28, 2008

Wildlife sighting on Ubin

There appears to be quite a fair bit of wildlife sightings on Pulau Ubin of late. It's always wonderful news to hear of possibly other mammals on the island other than wild boars and homosapiens! (Oh, and we have civet cats and otters too!)

On the other hand, Ubin has had its share of mega faunas such as the tapirs and a visiting elephant in the 90s.

Related Reads:
"It's a zoo out there", Pulau Ubin Stories, 03 June 2004
Animals of Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 4 April 2005
Assorted Elephant Stories on Pulau Ubin Stories

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ubin Lodge is now open!

Welcome to Ubin Lodge

In February 08, I reported that the former Civil Service Club Chalets were renovated and ready to be open for corporate bookings according to the caretaker.

2 weeks ago, a lil bird told me that the former CSC Chalet is now known as Ubin Lodge is open for public bookings! Rates are relatively cheap, near the Ubin Jetty and perhaps this might be a good boost to the visitorship on the island. Perhaps finally there'll be an excuse to visit the island more often! More overnight stays too perhaps?

This place is definitely memorable as I will always remember the stories of how Ria Tan booked the old Civil Service Chalets for the volunteers helping out with Chek Jawa in 2001. This was when Chek Jawa was still about to be reclaimed, prior to deferment! Low tide was at unmentionable hours and volunteers need to be there whenever the tide calls so that they could survey the flora and fauna of CJ! I'm sure those volunteers would have many stories to tell about the civil service chalets!

Related Reads:
Ubin Lodge Official Website
Civil Service Chalets on Ubin, WildSingapore
Former Civil Service Chalet, Pulau Ubin Stories, 18 February 2008
Bed & Breakfast or resort likely on Pulau Ubin as first public tender called on island, Channel News Asia, 14 December 2006

Ubin, the clean-energy island

Island to become model 'green island' powered by clean and renewable energy
Tania Tan & Amresh Gunasingham, Straits Times 8 Nov 08;

ONE of Singapore's last rural enclaves could soon be transformed into a high-tech test site for renewable energies.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) yesterday announced plans to embark on a project to turn Pulau Ubin into a model 'green island' powered entirely by clean and renewable energy.

'We want to use technologies that will best integrate into the island's natural environment,' said Mr David Tan, deputy chief executive of EMA's energy policy and planning division.

Aside from solar panels and using waste as fuel for energy generation, electricity could also be produced from a hydrogen fuel cell plant, biofuels or turbines powered by wind or waves.

'The key is finding the right fit,' said Mr Tan.

A tender for a consultancy study has been called, and the project will be awarded later this month.

The six-month study, slated for completion in May, will look at how much energy is needed by residents on the 10 sq km island, and the most cost-effective combination of renewable energy technologies that can be used.

Apart from the fact that the project will be situated near the Ubin jetty, details are still sketchy, said Mr Tan.

Pulau Ubin, situated to the north-east of Singapore, does not draw electricity from the country's main power grid, because it has been too expensive to lay transmission cables for such low demand.

Instead, about 100 villagers use diesel generators, which are not environmentally friendly.

The Nature Society of Singapore welcomed the project on principle but said it had to be done right, from the start.

'Given the number of stakeholders involved, it would be wise to accommodate the concerns of the island's inhabitants as early as possible in the decision-making process, not so much to seek their permission, but to foster community involvement,' said Dr Shawn Lum, its president.

The non-profit organisation conducts regular visits to nature park Chek Jawa, located on the eastern coast of the island.

But islanders are open to the prospect of reliable, non-polluting power.

A shopkeeper in Ubin, who wanted to be known as Ms Tan, said that because the island was run on generators which were prone to breakdowns, any help to boost power supply would be welcome.

The Ubin project is the latest in a slew of programmes to transform Singapore into a global centre for clean R&D.

In September, the National Environment Agency announced plans to convert the Semakau landfill into a renewable energy test site cum eco-park.

The Government has also pumped some $170 million into boosting the clean technology sector, with plans to build a business park devoted to companies specialising in clean technologies and products. The first building on the 55ha site at Jalan Bahar is expected to be completed in 2010.

Pulau Ubin, the model ‘green’ island?

Today Online 8 Nov 08;

LONG known as a getaway for nature lovers, Pulau Ubin may soon acquire a new reputation — as a model “green” island.

The plan calls for the island to be powered entirely by clean and renewable energy. The island’s residents currently run their own diesel-powered generators.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) has called a tender for a study to develop and implement clean energy solutions for both residents and small businesses on Ubin.

“This project will create an oasis where clean and renewable energy technologies can be tested in an actual live environment,” said Mr Khoo Chin Hean, the EMA’s chief executive. It will also benefit Ubin’s residents by providing them with “alternative sources of energy that are not only cleaner but are also cost competitive to diesel generators”.

The technologies to be considered in the study include those using solar, wind, marine and biomass sources. The study will also take into account the economic, environmental and social cost and benefits. The tender will be awarded this month and the study is expected to be completed by next May.

Pulau Ubin could be model "green" island powered by clean energy

Cheryl Lim, Channel NewsAsia 8 Nov 08;

SINGAPORE : Pulau Ubin could become a model island powered entirely by clean and renewable energy.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA) has called a tender for a consultancy study to develop and implement clean and renewable energy solutions for homes and businesses on the island.

It said this could lead to the development of small-scale power supply networks running on solar, wind or biomass sources to supply electricity.

Pulau Ubin currently does not receive electricity from the main power grid as it is not economical to lay transmission cables to meet the island's small power demands.

Residents depend on diesel generators for power.

EMA hopes the project will enable it to test clean and renewable energy technologies in an actual environment.

It plans to award the consultancy tender this month and expects the study to be completed by May 2009. - CNA /ls

Ubin to host testing site for 'green' energy

Alternative sources that will be test-bedded include solar, wind and biodiesel
Ronnie Lim, Business Times 8 Nov 08;

PULAU Ubin, a well-known adventure getaway for nature lovers, is going to be used as a test-bed for clean and renewable energy, including alternatives like solar, wind or biomass, to produce electricity for a cluster of homes and businesses there.

To kick off the project, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) has just called a tender for a consultancy study on this.

And depending on the study's outcome, it could be followed by development of actual infrastructure to create a micro-grid system - or small scale power supply network - on the island.

EMA's chief executive Khoo Chin Hean said: 'This project will create an oasis where clean and renewable energy technologies can be tested in an actual live environment.'

'At the same time, it can benefit the consumers in Pulau Ubin who currently rely on diesel generators by providing alternative sources of energy that are not only cleaner but are also cost competitive to diesel generators.'

EMA sees the project to transform part of Pulau Ubin into a model 'green' island as boosting Singapore's ambition to be a global test-bedding site for new energy technologies.

Currently, Ubin - off the north-east coast of Singapore - does not draw electricity supply from the main power grid, as it is not economical to lay power transmission cables from mainland Singapore due to Ubin's modest energy demand. There is also no centralised electricity supply system on the island.

All the 100 inhabitants on the 110 sq km island, including small businesses, run their own diesel- powered generators to generate electricity.

Giving more details about the study, EMA said that it will look into 'both the technical and commercial viability of the options proposed, while giving due consideration to economic, environmental and social costs and benefits'.

It listed a long list of potential technologies to be test-bedded, including solar, wind, marine, biomass (such as solid waste and algae), biodiesel and bioethanol, hydrogen and fuel cells, microturbine, the energy management system for the micro-grid, and substations.

EMA expects to award the tender for the consultancy this month, with the study to be completed by May next year.

The EMA tender comes as Singapore Energy Week drew to a close, with Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar earlier promoting the idea of how cities like Singapore can serve as clean technology and R&D hubs, by leveraging on their concentrations of technological and scientific talent as well as access to capital markets and funding.

The Republic has already attracted mega investors in solar cell manufacturing, new generation biodiesel production and also R&D in wind power.

Safe Cycling on Pulau Ubin

Safe Cycling on Pulau Ubin
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: cycling safety)

Otterman did a simple and straightforward presentation on safe cycling on Pulau Ubin and highlighted some of the "danger spots" on Ubin. A helpful reference for those of us new to Ubin, cycle often or looking to bring friends and family to Ubin for a cycling trip.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Residents call it 'cemetery road'

Two cyclists have died on this Pulau Ubin slope
Desmond Ng, The New Paper 11 Sep 08;

IT'S called Jalan Wat Siam, but its nickname has a more sinister ring - 'cemetery road'.

And true to its nickname, this road at Pulau Ubin has already claimed two lives.

On Sunday, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, died after she was flung off a tandem bicycle together with her daughter.

The housewife had lost control of the bike while they were going down a steep slope.

She hit her head, lost consciousness and died 11 hours later in hospital.

Another fatality occurred two years ago when student Zawiyah Mohd Muliana, 18, fell and hit her head while cycling on the same slope.

She slipped into a coma and died later in hospital.

The slope looks deceptively easy to navigate but it's a 200m- long, curvy slope with a sharp incline of about 30 to 40 degrees.

To novice cyclists, it can be quite a challenge, said seasoned cyclist November Tan, who helps organise guided cycling tours of the island.

And there's an average of one accident along the stretch every month, though most are minor, islanders told The New Paper.

There are four street signs along the stretch of the slope warning cyclists and motorists to go slow.

But old-timers on the island have dubbed it 'cemetery road' because there's an old Chinese cemetery on top of the slope.

Longtime resident Ong Kim Cheng, 50, said he avoids cycling along that stretch because of stories about an old female ghost lurking there.

He said in Mandarin: 'I don't like to ride around this area because of the stories about this place being haunted. People say that they've seen a female ghost here while picking durians, so I am not surprised about the accidents.

'But the slope is really quite steep and can be quite dangerous if you're not careful.

'I've seen cyclists with scratches and bruises walking back to return their damaged bikes after falling along this slope.'

Superstition aside, the islanders agree that this is one of Ubin's most dangerous roads to cycle on.

It's called Jalan Wat Siam because there was previously a Thai temple there. It was relocated to Jalan Kayu last year.

When The New Paper visited Jalan Wat Siam yesterday, four cyclists, all foreigners, were riding on the slope.

All had no problems cycling there.

Japanese expatriate Momo Matsutani, 28, was shocked to hear about the death.

She said: 'It's not difficult to cycle here. We just came down slowly and we didn't speed.'

At the bottom of the slope, there's also an NParks signboard with a map of the area and a warning: 'Always wear a helmet when riding in this area'.

Warning ignored

But it seems very few visitors pay heed to the warning.

All four bike rental shops we visited at the main village offer helmets for rent at $2 to $3 each, but they have found few takers.

Yen Fa Bike Rental's Mr K H Sit, 55, said in Mandarin: 'Some people think it's too expensive to rent the helmets. To many people, it's just not a habit here to wear helmets and cycle.'

Mr Sit had rented the bikes to Madam Lee and her family on Sunday.

He said that if she had worn a helmet, the accident may not have been fatal.

Owners of bike rental shops there said that only one out of every 10 people rent helmets.

It costs about $3 to $15 to rent a bicycle for the whole day.

When The New Paper was on the island yesterday, no cyclist was seen wearing a helmet.

Cyclist Nick Ward, 25, said: 'I don't think there's a need to (wear helmets). It's not that dangerous.'

Some islanders felt that the road should be closed.

Said Mr Sit: 'There's nothing to see there, so there's really no point for anyone to cycle up there.

'If people tell me that they plan to cycle there, I'll just tell them to go elsewhere. The authorities should either close the road or make it safer for cyclists.'

Editor's Note: I was quoted as a "seasoned cyclist" which is hardly true. I think they gather that from the fact that I've been guiding with Pedal Ubin for the last 5 years! I kept emphasizing to the reporter that I'm hardly the person to ask about cycling since I consider myself a novice amateur.

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More news report on Ubin Cycling Fatality

Editor's note: With regards to the Straits Times report below, helmets do not cost from $100 upwards. There are cheaper ones available. My helmet cost $25-35. There are also helmets for rent on Ubin. Depending on the shop, it cost about $2-3 to rent a helmet from the bike shops.

母女乌敏岛骑脚踏车失控 母不治 女受伤
Lianhe Zaobao, 刘丽仪









Woman dies after falling from bike
She was not wearing helmet when she was flung going down a winding slope
Sujin Thomas, Straits Times 10 Sep 08;

THE death of a woman who was flung off her bicycle on Pulau Ubin has highlighted Singaporeans' tendency to skip wearing safety helmets while cycling.

The owner of Yen Fa Bicycle Rental on the island, who gave his name as Mr Sit, said when Mr Tiew Sin Keng, 44, turned up with his family of six on Sunday to rent four bicycles, including two tandem bikes, 'they didn't ask to rent helmets and I didn't offer them either'.

Each helmet costs $2 to rent for an entire day. Despite this low cost, only two in every 100 of his customers ask to rent them along with the bicycles.

Mr Sit, who has 50 bicycles and 10 helmets for rent, said: 'They don't like to wear helmets because they say that they are uncomfortable.'

Mr Tiew confirmed that the shop did not ask whether his family wanted to rent helmets.

His wife, Madam Lee Yan Inn, 41, was on one of the tandem bicycles with their daughter aged 15. They were then going down a winding slope along Jalan Wat Siam, which has an unmarked hump at its foot.

The family's lead rider, Madam Lee's mother, made it down the slope and over the hump safely at low speed.

But Madam Lee and her daughter, who were next, shot down the incline.

Mr Tiew said the hump might have stopped the bike suddenly and flung them off, or that his wife might have braked too hard, throwing her and their daughter off.

Madam Lee died at Changi General Hospital 11 hours later. Their daughter escaped with bruises.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary (Community Development, Youth and Sports) Teo Ser Luck, himself an avid cyclist and triathlete, said cyclists should wear helmets for safety - even when riding short distances.

He said a helmet saved him from serious injury two years ago when he was riding in a tight convoy with five others along Upper Thomson Road. His front wheel clipped the rear wheel of another bicycle and he fell, but 'I was fine because I was wearing a helmet'.

He said a friend who fell the same way was also unscathed but his helmet took the impact and cracked.

Depending on the brand, helmets cost upwards of $100 each.

That stretch of road where Madam Lee died is a known accident spot. Other bicycle rental businesses on the island said four accidents happen there every month.

A Land Transport Authority spokesman said that, aside from the usual warning signs like 'Slow' or 'Bend Ahead', additional signs saying 'Caution Steep Slope' have been put up along Jalan Wat Siam.

The president of the Singapore Amateur Cycling Association Victor Yew said that when going down slopes, cyclists should brake gently on their rear wheels.

'If you slam on the front-wheel brakes only, the momentum will cause the bike to flip over,' he said.

For Mr Tiew, tips like these are moot.

He said he would insist that his three children wear protective gear when cycling, but with the memory of how his wife has died, he added: 'I don't think I will cycle ever again.'

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mum of three falls off bike and dies on family outing

Grieving Dad, Daughter say they will never cycle again
The New Paper, 9 September 2008

Page 1 Ubin Cycling Accident Page 2 Ubin Cycling Accident
Click on thumbnail for full size article.

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Capital 95.8fm Report of Cycling Accident on Ubin

Editor's Note: Upon verification with New Paper and Lianhe Zaobao's reporting, this report is absolutely erroneous. Time of accident and age of victim's daughter are wrong.

一对母女在乌敏岛骑脚踏车时滑倒 造成一死一伤
9th September 2008, 0700 hrs
Capital 95.8fm News





Translation below by November Tan:

A pair of mother and daughter slipped while cycling on Pulau Ubin resulting in 1 death and 1 injury.
9th September 2008, 0700 hrs
Capital 95.8fm News
While cycling on Pulau Ubin, a mother and daughter lost control of their bicycle, slipped and fell, resulting in 1 dead and 1 injured.

Police reported that 2 nights ago (7 Sep 2008, Sunday) at around 8.30pm, a 40 something years old chinese woman was cycling with her daughter pilliontandem on the bicycle. While on the way back to the Ubin Jetty, lost control on a steep slope and fell, resulting in severe head injuries.

She was sent to the Changi General Hospital for treatment but died at 8 Sep 2008, 12.10am from her injuries.

From what the reporter understands, the victim's 10 year old daughter suffered some light injuries.

Related Reads:
Fatal Cycling Accidents on Ubin, Pulau Ubin Stories, 8 Sep 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fatal cycling accidents on Ubin

Was informed today that there was a fatal cycling accident on Ubin today (or perhaps yesterday? unconfirmed as yet). It would appear that somebody fell from their bicycles while cycling on Pulau Ubin. Details remain unconfirmed. Waiting for news to appear in the press. Just got word from a reporter that the accident happened at Jalan Wat Siam as the cyclist was coming downhill. Still awaiting for the news to appear in the press but it seems that it might not appear for a few days yet. [update at 9 sep 08, 1.38pm - this incident is headline news on The New Paper. Read TNP article here] There is a lot of discrepancies between the report by Capital 95.8fm and The New Paper. The time of the accident and ages of the victims are all different.

I was asked where are the places to be cautious of on the island and to my limited knowledge, here are the main roads on Ubin that may pose serious threats to the unwary cyclist.

1) "Cemetery Hill"

This is the slope up Jalan Wat Siam where the previous Thai Temple and Kekek quarry is, after the fork to Ketam Quarry. So named because of the chinese cemetery located beside the steep slope. Not quite auspicious but easy to remember. This is where the accident happened.

2) Slope in front of Belatok Hut

DJ Zhou Chong Qing fell at this slope last year. Personally I've only gone down this slope once and it was quite frightening especially since (if I remember correctly) there is a speed bump at the end of the slope which may throw off the cyclist's balance if they've been going too fast from speed accumulated from coming down slope. Braking too suddenly may not help either!

3) Road to Chek Jawa
Now that the boardwalk is open, many people cycle to Chek Jawa but the road is off road, unpaved, rocky and at several points, steep. A fellow pedal ubin guide, Athena, wrote that her friend, a seasoned cyclist with his own, very expensive bicycle gear, crashed at the road beside the quarry en route Chek Jawa and ended up with his lungs punctured!

Pedal Ubin's original objective was to promote safe cycling on the island and every so often, I feel the importance of our objective when accidents like these happen. It's so important to remember:

  • always use your gears accordingly
  • moderate your brakes as you come downhill (press down gently throughout the process of coming downhill)
  • do not suddenly jam your brakes
  • use your back brakes and not your front or you'll be thrown forward in front of your bike!
  • do not panic (this is very important when you see obstructions in front of you)
  • ride safely and cautiously!

If a lousy cyclist such as myself can survive these slopes without a scrape in the last 5 years then surely, anyone can manage it too with the right practices! But even experienced and expert cyclists get into accidents so beware all!

Latest Update @ 9 Sep, 8.35am
Heard on Capital 95.8fm reporting news of this fatal accident on Pulau Ubin but could not find the transcript on the website. Still waiting for media to come up with the print version.

A fellow Pedal Ubin guide, Athena, emailed the list regarding this accident having read it from the togoparts forum.

"tragedy at p. ubin yesterday. a cyclist loss control of the bike going down a slope and flipped with the bike. evacuated to mainland hospital but did not make it later in hospital. died of head injuries.

wat started out to be a weekend family outing, ended in tragedy. my sincere condolences goes out to the family.

but can this be prevented by wearing a helmet?......
i think it should be compulsory to wear helmets while riding in ubin. there's just too many accidents. i hope this tragedy never ever happens again."
Latest Update @ 9 Sep, 12.56pm
Thanks to the comments left on this blog post, apparently the police took half an hour to locate the scene of the accident. According to reports from Capital 95.8fm, the accident happened at night. Read the radio news transcript. However, The New Paper reports that it happened in the late afternoon.

In case of emergency on the island, here are some useful numbers:
Ubin NParks: 65424108
Ubin coastguard: 65428664

However, always remember that the island is not as accessible as mainland Singapore and dangers do exist. There is little to no public street lighting on the island as electricity is available only through generators on the island. As such I would not advice people to cycle in the dark of Ubin if you are not familiar with the island! Coming down a steep slope in the dark of the night is quite dangerous. Tandem bicycles are also difficult to control.

Related Reads:
"Mum of three falls off bike and dies on family outing", The New Paper, 9 Sep 2008
一对母女在乌敏岛骑脚踏车时滑倒 造成一死一伤 [capital 95.8fm report of this cycling accident], Capital 95.8fm, 9 Sep 2008
Ten cyclists injured each month on Pulau Ubin's 'danger spot'" Channel News Asia, 9 Jun 2007
"Days earlier, other student dies after fall from bike", The New Paper, 18 Jul 2006

Sunday, August 24, 2008

More opting to scatter ashes at sea

Numbers growing in last two years; pragmatic reasons cited for practice
By Diana Othman & Kimberly Spykerman
Straits Times
24 Aug 2008

MR RONNIE Ho arrives at the Changi Ferry Point bearing a simple white urn.

In it are the ashes of his aunt, Madam Fang Lun, who died in 1987 and whose cremated remains had thus far been stored at Mount Vernon Columbarium.

When her only son Ricky Gah died recently and had his ashes scattered off the Changi coast, Mr Ho decided to do the same for her to reunite her with him.

He is among a growing number of Christians and followers of Chinese religions here who are giving this kind of final resting place to their kin.

The numbers are not known but funeral service companies say the number of requests for ash-scattering at sea has gone up in the last two years.

In Singapore, this has long been practised by Hindus such as the Kandiahs, who allowed The Straits Times to accompany them out to sea. They were on their way to scatter the remains of their father Subapathy Kandiah, who died at 101.

The family's youngest son S. K. Singam, 54, said: 'This is the traditional Hindu last rite we want to do for our father.'

Muslims bury their dead.

Mr Ho, when asked why he was not moving his aunt's ashes to another columbarium or keeping it at home instead, was realistic. He said doing either obliges descendants to visit during Qing Ming, the Chinese festival to honour the dead, and future generations may not do so.

He said: 'Relatives may visit the first, second, third or fourth years, but after the fifth and sixth, no more... What's the point of troubling people?'

As a Christian, he believes the body is just a shell for the soul, which returns to God upon death. He has decided that he too, will have his ashes scattered at sea. He and his wife have no children.

He also had a pragmatic reason for his choice: 'There's no point for the dead to fight for space with the living. It's a waste of land and resources.'

Singapore Casket told The Straits Times that, where requests for ash- scattering at sea came once to thrice a month two years ago, it was now arranging for this rite more than 10 times a month.

A spokesman said: 'People choose ash-scattering mainly to make it convenient for the next generation. When the ashes are scattered, they do not have to keep visiting to offer prayers.'

Another funeral service company, Funeral Solutions, now does six or seven ash-scattering rites every month, which contribute to about a third of its business, said its owner Teo Chin Li who, at 20, is reportedly the youngest funeral director here.

It did just nine sea services in 2006, its first year, and 40 last year. It did 40 in the first seven months of this year alone.

Marketing agency owner Angela Sim, 32, fulfilled her cancer-stricken mother's wish to have her ashes scattered.

She said her mother had felt it was a waste of time for her family to have to visit the columbarium: 'She said to just put up a photo of her at home and think of her because, at the end of the day, it does not matter if we are in an urn or a coffin. What matters is how people remember us and the memories of the life we make.'

Others who take the option of ash- scattering also see the rite as symbolic of 'freeing' the spirit of the deceased, and that it helps bring closure to the death.

Families will not have tangible remains of their loved ones, but some do head out to the spot on, say, the anniversary of the death to toss flowers into the sea.

Funeral companies' packages, which include collecting the ashes from the crematorium, prayers and a boat charter, cost about $300; if a meal is catered on board a more luxurious vessel, the bill can run into the thousands.

Most people stick to smaller boats berthed in Changi and Sembawang. Boatmen who used to ferry sun-seekers to Pulau Ubin and Pengerang in Johor now get the bulk of their business from taking people to their final resting places. For between $60 and $100, they ferry families of up to 12 to places up to 1 km from shore, near Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

Boat-charter company CKL Motor Boat takes families to waters off Katong and Tanjong Rhu from Marina South Pier.

But the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which regulates the disposal of ashes at sea here, has some rules - even if they are usually not enforced:

- Ashes should only be disposed 2.8km south of Pulau Semakau;

- Only the ashes should be cast into the water. Urns or containers should not, because the piling up of urns on the sea bed will reduce water depth; also, urns have been known to float to the surface and be washed ashore.


'She said to just put up a photo of her at home and think of her because, at the end of the day, it does not matter if we are in an urn or a coffin. What matters is how people remember us and the memories of the life we make.'
Ms Angela Sim, 32, said her mother had felt it was a waste of time for her family to have to visit the columbarium

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang 2008

My deepest and most sincerest apologies. This announcement is definitely too late but none the less, for record's sake, here it is.

This year's Ubin Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang will be held on 15 and 16 August 2008. That is yesterday and today. I forgot all about it until the annotated budak asked me today.

I received the email on Thursday from Alan Tan via the Ubin Volunteers mailing list but was swamped with work and forgot to update. Apologies again.

Ubin Wayang. Taken on August 27, 2007.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Is this a forewarning of reservoir in Johor Straits?

Within a short span of 4 months, Straits Times has TWICE published a letter to the forum page by readers suggesting a reservoir to be built between Pulau Ubin and Singapore, at the Johor Straits. Surely Straits Times is not forgetful in its old age despite PUB providing an official reply on the forum stating that it's not considering such a reservoir. However, is this a forewarning by our media of greater things at work? If this is an idea that's traversing the brilliant minds of our policy makers, I can only hope they perish that thought forever!

Create reservoir between Pulau Ubin and Singapore
Letter by Chew Wai Soon, Straits Times Forum
Aug 7, 2008

COME 2012, we will have to be more self-reliant for our water supply.

I propose Pulau Ubin be linked to mainland Singapore to create a huge reservoir.

On the eastern end of Pulau Ubin, a two-tier road can be built so the lower deck allows cyclists to cycle between Singapore and Pulau Ubin. The upper deck will be another route for vehicles to go to and from Malaysia. Jetties can jut out from both sides of the link - the reservoir side for smaller boats such as kayaks, sailing and racing boats, and water scooters, while bigger boats can dock on the other side. Bicycle rental kiosks, souvenir shops and so on can be built at the starting point of the link at the Singapore end. Further reclamation at the Singapore end will allow immigration offices and multistorey carparks to be built.

On the link at the western end of Pulau Ubin, bicycle rental kiosks, food centres and souvenir shops with solar-panelled roofs can be built for cyclists to cycle between Singapore and Pulau Ubin.

Pavilions can also be extended from both links into the reservoir for relaxation, photography and fishing.

Pulau Ubin can be promoted extensively as a venue for camping, mountain biking, adventure, trekking, hiking, jogging, horse riding and prawn fishing (to meet strong demand for youngsters to rough it out and enjoy nature).

The proposed reservoir will mean less land use elsewhere - some of the existing reservoirs can be redefined as collection centres for rainwater and Newater, and their water channelled into Pulau Ubin reservoir. The surrounding land can then be freed for other use, such as residential development to house a growing population.

Feedstock for Pulau Ubin reservoir can also be had from excess water from the smaller reservoirs, from rainwater and Newater to be collected from the northern and eastern parts of Singapore and from more Newater that could be generated.

Big water pipes connected to both links at Pulau Ubin would help to drain seawater between Pulau Ubin and the Causeway and provide a change of seawater according to the tides. Energy-generating turbines can be incorporated into these seawater pipes.

Coney Island can be reclaimed further to become part of the mainland and pavilions can be extended from Coney Island into the reservoir.

The damming of the water between Pulau Ubin and Singapore to become a huge reservoir promises many possibilities for development, for meeting future water needs and for recreation.

I urge the authorities to look into these great benefits on our doorstep.
Related Reads:
"What's wrong with an Ubin-Tekong reservoir?", Pulau Ubin Stories, 18 April 2008
"After Marina Barrage, Tekong-Ubin reservoir", Letter from Syu Ying Kwok, Straits Times Forum 18 Apr 08
"Tekong-Ubin reservoir not practical", Letter from Ivan Kwan Wei Ming, Straits Times Forum 22 Apr 08
"Strategy in place on long-term water supply", Reply from PUB, Straits Times Forum 22 Apr 08;

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Family of otters spotted at Jelutong!

Last Saturday, 2 August 2008, 2 days after I came back from research in Malaysia, I decided to take a trip to Ubin for a leisurely ride. First time in 5 years that I visit Ubin purely to relax and enjoy. As such, I was duely rewarded. Perhaps as my friend suggested, it's because the less people you're with the higher chance of seeing wildlife. Well, I was most pleasantly surprised when my friend yelled "Otters! Right in front of you" at Jelutong River after a feast of coconuts at about 3pm in the afternoon.

There weren't just 1 otter but 7 of them! [See above photo. I counted several times to be sure]

We observed them for a while and it was really quite interesting. I'm no expert in otters but they seem to play "follow the leader" and all of them will line up in the water and swim where the leader goes. Then they went and "queue up" at the shore which is when this photo above was taken. They seem to be looking at the camera!

After that they played hide and seek with us and we were running after them every time they surface and catching on our game, they quickly duck through the mud and mangrove before we decided to give up.

We also saw 2 wild boars, 1 at an abandoned rubber plantation from mamam beach and 1 at chek jawa! The mamam encounter was just a tad scary since it was stopped in front of my path and we were the only ones around. I gave it some time to excuse itself before proceeding. Too bad I was too shocked to take any photos.

Of course we also saw the "mandatory" sea eagle at jejawi tower. It might have been a brahminy kite... couldn't see its underside clearly to tell. It was quite a sight and charmed all the visitors on the tower.

Only a dugong sighting at chek jawa would have topped my day. Perhaps that's an encounter for another day.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Away on Research

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for following Pulau Ubin Stories over my inconsistent postings.

Some of you may know, I am in the midst of my Master Candidature and I am desperately in need of time off to focus on my research. I may still post as and when but for now, it's off to work hard on my vegetables. As such, I may not be writing for the next 4 months till mid August when I return from my field work in Malaysia. Of course as and when I may surprise you with a post so do subscribe to the Ubin Stories RSS feed.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vesak day celebrations at Ubin

Received an email from Adelle of NParks via the ubin volunteers mailing list today:

"If you have been to Ubin these few days you would have seen the many colourful flags and lanterns that line the jetty, the Ubin town and nearby temples.

In celebration of Vesak Day, there would be a 6 days Wayang performance organised by villagers on Ubin from tmw 18th May. There are a few bumboats chartering visitors to and fro Ubin in the evening 6.30pm / 7.30pm till 11pm for free. (more details see the below poster in chinese)

But do note that there is a non-traditional performance - "GE TAI" on the 23rd May. So if u want to see Wayang, come on other days"
There you have it. If you have never been to the wayang performances on Ubin, now is your chance. Unfortunately this monkey will be overseas on fieldwork. If you get a chance to attend the performances, do share your photos in the comments section of this post. Thanks!

Click to enlarge full size

According to the poster, there are FREE boat rides during the stipulated times. However, there are only 6 boats (license plate number listed) which will be providing this free service. I remember taking one of these free boats to Ubin during the last hungry ghost festival wayang. There will be signs on the boat indicating that they are free. Usually they will usher you directly on these boats unless all 6 are unavailable.

Related Reads:
Ubin Wayang after dark, Midnight Monkey Monitor, 29 Aug 07
Hungry Ghost Festival 2007, Pulau Ubin Stories, 26 Aug 07
Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang, Pulau Ubin Stories, 06 Aug 06

Monday, May 12, 2008

May Day Dugong Ambassadors Outreach at Chek Jawa

On Labour Day (1 May 2008), I joined the homeschooling community and a group of staff from Intel at Chek Jawa. The event was the brainchild of Joseph Lai and held in conjunction with the International Year of the Reef 2008.

The event was a full day of activities from a guided walk by us volunteers (from NSS and Naked Hermit Crabs), followed by mural painting, beach cleanup and an outreach exercise from the dugong ambassadors!

Children painting mural! You can see the mural at the Chek Jawa Visitor Center at House Number 1.

After guiding in the morning, I helped out with the seagrass station by the dugong ambassador from Team Seagrass, Siti! The Dugong Ambassadors are made up from the Intel group, the homeschooling group and some of us volunteer guides. We are supposed to share with the public who visit Chek Jawa about Dugongs. At my station, We were joined by a young friend from the homeschooling community who was more enthusiastic than us! I am full of admiration for him as he did not know anything before joining us and after we went off to check out some cool GPS gadget, Tin took over the whole station by himself! *Bravo!* I wish all youths of today are like him :)

Our industrious and enthusiastic young dugong ambassador, Tin at work.

I had a whole lot of fun on that day. It was not my first time working with this group of children and I enjoy every single experience with them. While we were at the seagrass station, a reporter from Lianhe Zaobao (LHZB) approached us and asked me and Siti a few questions. Yesterday (11 May 2008), my mom called me up and informed me that my photo and quote appeared in LHZB! The article was the center-spread of the LHZB equivalent of the ST Life! Section. You can see the article below. Unfortunately it is in Mandarin Chinese. Perhaps some kind soul with some time on their hands can help to translate this.

Excerpt on Naked Hermit Crab and me.

The full article. Click for full size.

More photos from the event can be seen here.

Related Articles:
"Shore extravaganza: Dugong Ambassadors at Chek Jawa", Wildfilms, 1 May 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's wrong with an Ubin-Tekong reservoir?

On April 18, 2008, Syu Ying Kwok wrote in to Straits Times Forum suggesting that after the Marine Barrage, to make the biggest reservoir ever, we should connect Ubin, Tekong and Singapore together to form the biggest reservoir ever. In fact, Syu esq. wrote that "If we can do this, the volume of this new body of water will be at least twice that of MacRitchie, Lower Peirce, Seletar and the new Marina reservoirs combined."

Sure, as we all know, for Singapore to be fully self-sustainable in water supply is one of our most important national prerogative. In fact, somebody commented on ST Online Forum that "it has been long overdue"! However, are we becoming myopic in our hunt for water?

Do you know where we are talking about? Check out the map. The blue placemarker at the far most left of the map is Sembawang Shipyard. Across is Pasir Gudang. The blue boundary indicates possible ubin-tekong reservoir location. within the boundary is Chek Jawa
View Larger Map

Here are some reasons why having a Ubin-Tekong reservoir is ecologically, politically and logically problematic:

1) Humans can only drink fresh water. The idea of reservoirs is to dam up rivers, which is a source of fresh water, so that we can pool this fresh water together to become a constant reservoir of fresh water supply. The marina barrage was already a problem because it is at an estuary which we have never dammed up before. This means they have to flush out all the sea water from the area before we can slowly let fresh water from further upstream (from Pierce Reservoir) fill up the reservoir. Now if we dam up the sea, where will we get this supply of fresh water to fill up this mega swimming pool? Malaysia?

2) In the first place, would Malaysia sit back and let us build this mega swimming pool at their door step? When the Pedra Branca dispute is not even settled (results out middle or end of May 08), mere suggestions of such a mega infringement of international boundaries is simply unimaginable. Let's not forget the quarrel over Tekong's reclamation.

Aerial view of Tekong Reclamation. Photo by Helen.

3) Why would they be upset you say? Well, you do now that the area between Ubin, Tekong and Singapore happens to be one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world! Ships travel between Pasir Gudang, Sembawang Shipyard and the world. Even if we ignore our neighbors, surely you would not want to kill one of our biggest industry at Sembawang would you? Previously when we wanted to connect Singapore to Ubin and Tekong via MRT line, there was already a big hoohaa. If you look at the google map above, you'll realize that for a ship to want to travel to any of the northern ports and shipyards in Singapore, you'll have to travel through the place where the supposed Ubin-Tekong Reservoir is. We have to keep to our side of the international boundary after all!

Shipping Lane between Sekudu and Singapore. Photo by Juanhui

4) Being a shipping lane, that area is also potentially polluted and constantly dredged. If we think that technology can overcome everything like the Marina Barrage then alright. But how much do you think this venture will cost? If we look at the cost benefit analysis, it'll probably not be justifiable. As a tax payer, I'm not willing to have my money being spent on building another swimming pool which may start a war when there are now a lot more other technologies out there to provide water in a more intelligent way. Yes, we are all about technology but as a Professor of mine said, it is no longer at technology's forefront to build reservoirs to collect water. Desalinization and reverse osmosis is just some of the examples of newer technologies but even those have been circulated for a while now. Besides, with potential sea level rise, a swimming pool out in the sea risk submergence or infiltration of salt water. Once salt water infiltrates the reservoir, do we have to flush out the fresh water and start over?

5) While most people may not care what happens ecologically but let me highlight a few items. If we are to reclaim Ubin Tekong and Singapore, then it's goodbye chek jawa. Goodbye Sekudu. Goodbye dugongs. Goodbye coral reefs. Goodbye mangroves. If that doesn't mean anything to you? Think seafood. We always see fishers off the waters of Ubin because there are fantastic amount of seafood there. Goodbye fish farms off Ubin. We'll now have even lower self-reliance on seafood supply and have to further import from others. Is it a worthy trade off?

Marine life found at Chek Jawa. Photo by WildSingapore.

I hope it becomes more apparent now that there are far more issues than benefits to building such a Ubin-Tekong reservoir. Honestly there are more reasons that I did not mention. Although we are a country that prides ourselves in our ability to overcome anything with technology, you could not begin to imagine what a diplomatic and economic nightmare it would be to create such a monster out in the most sensitive area out in our international boundary.

Sincerely, I hope that Singaporeans will make more informed decisions before speaking out in nationally published newspaper that is also read by many of our neighbors in Malaysia and beyond. How come we don't get positive letters in the Forum pages expounding the beauty of our northern islands instead?! Not news worthy enough?

update @ 12.58pm (18 Apr)
Finally somebody who thought things through posted a comment on ST Online Forum citing Malaysia sensitivities in the Straits of Johor.

update @ 2.26pm (18 Apr)
Ria at Wildfilms talks about the amazing northern shores of Singapore and what individuals like us should do when faced with such dam ideas.

update @ 19 Apr

Ivan K. has submitted a reply to Straits Times Forum. Hopefully it gets published.

Related Reads:

"After Marina Barrage, Tekong-Ubin reservoir" Syu Ying Kwok, ST Forum, 18 Apr 2008
"Singapore and Malaysia resolve land reclamation dispute" Channelnewsasia, 26 Apr 2005
"Singapore: Target - Private housing for a third of the population" The Business Times, 13 Sep 1991
"Singapore opens first desalination plant to cut dependence on Malaysia", AFP, 13 Sep 2005
"Fourth National Tap Flows", PUB, 13 Sep 2005
"Singapore Pioneers New Membrane Technology", PUB Annual Report, 06/07

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Poll: Your Favourite Restaurant on Ubin

If you like a restaurant that is not listed here, please tell us its name in the comments section! Restaurants means they served cooked food. Drink stalls not included!

Ubin First Stop Restaurant now on mainland Changi

ubin first stop now in changi

On Sunday, 13 April 2008, Straits Times reported that Singaporeans can now get a taste of Ubin on the mainland.

Interestingly, one of the restaurant featured, is run by a previous islander, Mr Leong Kee Keng 56, who served water-skiiers and boaters from his family kitchen on the island's north shore. The restaurant then moved to the mainland and has been moving from place to place, now owned by a businesswoman from the mainland.

The other is the Ubin First Stop Restaurant which may be familiar to people who frequent the island since 1990. Irony again, Ubin First Stop is owned by a mainlander, Mr Alan Tan 55, "who was born on the mainland but visited his relatives on Ubin regularly as a child".

But what is the true cuisine and "taste" of Ubin? Is it synonymous with seafood as suggested by the article or is it fresh kampung food served by the locals in the kampung setting?

Ubin First Stop's owner said that he is setting up shop on the mainland because "some of his regulars began complaining that it was a hassle to travel to Ubin every time they needed a seafood fix".

However, for me, enjoying the true taste of Ubin food is when I can sit by the beach, enjoying my homecooked food as I watch the fishermen cast their nets. I enjoy eating homemade lontong at Pak Ali's in the mornings. Gigantic portions of fried seafood beehoon at the 2 sister's [located beside Ubin First Stop] for lunch. Finally seafood at Ah Lian's restaurant under the canopy and the cool sea breeze. After all, Ah Lian's father in law is now the oldest man on Ubin who is said to have lived to his grand old age from eating all the freshest seafood from Ubin! I was kindly informed by a resident who frequents Hai Liang's family restaurant and provision shop. The restaurant is after all a converted store room from the family's home!

What I find interesting is that, if the banner pictured above is where the new Ubin First Stop will be located, it is actually a precious landmark to the Changi landscape! That building used to be the customs' office at Changi. It is a wonderful building on stilts that is a reminder to the coastal village that changi was! Likewise, the location of Ubin First Stop on Ubin itself is also a historic landmark being where the maternity clinic of Ubin used to be at!

Do you have fond memories of "food and fun" on Ubin? Straits Times wants to know and so do I! Do leave a comment and share your thoughts. Which is your favourite Ubin resturant?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pulau Ubin featured on The New Paper

TNP 1 April 08 Page 12 TNP 1 APril 08 Page 13 TNP 1 April 08 page 14
Click on thumbnail to read article

Thanks to Kenneth Pinto for alerting me to the articles in today's The New Paper (1 April 2008). This article is partly the result of my trip with TNP reporter Teh Jen Lee to Pulau Ubin on 16 March 2008.

Thanks to my immense luck, I also happened to write about Mr Tan Hai Liang just a day of this article appearing in the press. I had no idea but I'm glad anyways. You can see behind the scenes photos of the interview between Jen Lee and Mr Tan 2 weeks ago.

Living past 100: on Pulau Ubin, Singapore
Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper 2 Apr 08;

Madam Asiah prefers to grow old on the island. 'All I did on the mainland was eat and sleep,' she recalled. 'I fell sick. My joints ached from lack of use.

He's 101 but he can read without glasses. She's a great-great grandma but she can walk 6km a day. Both are among a vanishing breed of long-lifers on Pulau Ubin

EVER wondered what your life would be like if you ever live past 100?

Well, take a leaf from the book of Mr Tan Hai Liang, a 101-year-old Pulau Ubin resident.

But Mr Tan is probably even older.

Though his IC says he was born on 1 Jan 1907, Mr Tan said he was actually born earlier than that. He has no birth records from his hometown, Guangdong province in China.

But Mr Tan looks not a day older than 90. He eats whatever his family eats and does not need a special diet.

He can walk for short distances without the help of a cane and read the newspapers without glasses.

The father of five lives with one of his sons in a one-storey zinc-roofed house in Pulau Ubin's town centre, a five-minute walk from the jetty.

His son runs a seafood restaurant and grocery store next to the house.

Mr Tan has lived on Pulau Ubin ever since he arrived in Singapore in the 1940s. He worked odd jobs and later opened a grocery store there.

In his younger days, he served in the island's residents' committee and even hosted a visit by Singapore's first president, Mr Yusof Ishak, in the 1960s.

But these days, Mr Tan leads a leisurely life.

He wakes up at 9am, brushes his dentures and eats breakfast. His daughter-in-law, Madam Koh Siew Hong, 56, said: 'Whatever we eat, he eats. His dentures are strong enough.'

When the Chinese newspapers are delivered, he pores over them.

After that, he would watch the TV or Teochew movies on DVD.

Madam Koh said: 'We just had to teach him once how to use the DVD player.'

Every few months, he goes to the mainland for a medical check-up as there is no clinic on the island. He suffers from high blood pressure.

His hearing is also failing him. But Mr Tan has generally been healthy.

He told this reporter in Teochew: 'I'm old already, more than 100 years old, but still not dead.'

Madam Koh said that when her father-in-law was in his 90s, he was still taking baths in the sea and riding his motorcycle around the island.

When a Chinese worker we met during the interview found out Mr Tan's age, he said: 'He's special.'

Indeed he is. And he's not alone.

He's part of a small group of aged residents who still call Pulau Ubin home.

Over the last few weeks, The New Paper team caught up with a few of them. Like Mr Tan, Madam Asiah Ibrahim is older than the 86 years that her IC shows.

She recalls not having a birth certificate and getting her IC only when she got married. She was around 17 then.

The sprightly woman walks at least 6km a day from her home to the town centre. She lives in a village about 3km from the town centre.

Madam Asiah is used to being on her feet as she used to work standing in a bottle factory in Ang Mo Kio.

After her husband died in the 1980s, she moved to Pulau Ubin as she wanted a more relaxed life.

She has five children, 30 grandchildren, 25 great grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Her children visit her every week, and bring her food and money.

One of her sons works with the Outward Bound School and goes to Pulau Ubin frequently.

Madam Asiah, who lives alone with her cat, spends her free time gardening. On the island, water has to be pumped from wells using diesel generators, which are also used to generate electricity.

Despite this, Madam Asiah prefers to grow old on the island.

'All I did on the mainland was eat and sleep,' she recalled. 'I fell sick. My joints ached from lack of use.

'Here, I can plant trees, walk around and collect leaves and plants.

'All the people here are old. When we are gone, these villages will go back to the cats and monkeys.'

Monday, March 31, 2008

Oldest man on Pulau Ubin

Looking at a letter of commendation from President Yusof Ishak to Mr Tan

Mr Tan Hai Liang, 102 101 years old, is probably the oldest man on Ubin today. His long-time friend and colleague, Mr Lim Chye Joo, the former headman was 101 years old when he passed away 2 years ago in 2006. Mr Tan and Mr Lim both worked together on the Ubin resident committee and were men who contributed much of their time to the welfare of the island.

In the 1960s, when my mother was a young girl, she remembers buying drink from Hai Liang's provision shop every day from the way home from school. Dennis writes that Hai Liang was the drinking buddy of his grandfather as they lived just down the street from each other.

These days, Grandpa drinks alone, having survived most of his friends.

Today, Hai Liang is known affectionately as Ah Gong (or Grandpa) by everyone. He lives on the island with his second son and daughter-in-law. The Teochew family has been running the same provision shop on the island since my mother was a young girl. Hai Liang was not born on the island but came to Southeast Asia from China. He worked in Malaysia and Indonesia before finally settling down on Ubin. Although he could no longer hear very well, the amazing centurion can still write us messages in beautiful chinese characters. He communicates mainly in the chinese dialect of Teochew as Mandarin was a relatively recent standardization which many of the Southern Chinese did not learn when they left their homeland to seek jobs in the Southern Seas (Nanyang).

Today the provision shop is still there and on top of that, the former storeroom of the family has now been converted into the restaurant that we all frequent regularly! Ah Lian, the lady boss of the restaurant is Grandpa's daughter-in-law!

The restaurant used to be the storeroom of the family!

When we visited on 16 March 2008, this centurion just finished his shower and was about to settle down into his routine tsingdao beer and biscuits. Perhaps those are his secrets to longevity!

I found this amazing photo of Hai Liang from Dennis' photo collection from almost half a century ago (left). Still looking young as ever!

In fact, his youngest son divulged to me that back in the days when Bin Kiang School did not have enough classrooms, not only did they use the wayang stage as classroom but Grandpa Hai Liang also lent out the use of his home as classrooms for the school!

These rooms in Mr Tan's house were once temporary classrooms of Bin Kiang school.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Increase in Ferry Prices

On the ferry back from Ubin last Sunday with the bicycle shop auntie and her family, I was alerted to the fact that ferry prices will soon be increased. My attention was brought to the notice on the boat (pictured below).

Photo by November. 16 March 2008.

With effect from 15 April 2008, boat fare to and fro Pulau Ubin will be increased from the current price of $2 per person to $2.50 per person. However, the current practice of charging $2 per bicycle remains unchanged.

Ah to think of the days when tickets were but 50cents and police wore shorts. What with fuel prices rising all over the world, this increase is timely. Hopefully, it would help the boatmen to continue providing these much appreciated ferry services to and fro Ubin. Meanwhile, this Monkey dreads hearing renewed complaints from Singaporeans who have already been bemoaning the "expensive ferry service" to Ubin at the previously lower rate of $2/person. Perhaps it's time we put ourselves in the shoes of the boatmen. I haven't seen any of the boatmen wearing rolexes or driving mercedes yet.

During my chat with the auntie on the ferry home, we also talked about how not every bumboat has this notice but the increase, if I am not wrong, is standardized across the board with all the boatmen. Perhaps they have since increased the distribution of this news but I did not see it on my trip to Ubin, only on the way back. However, I just received a SMS from the annotated budak, informing of the same information which reminded me to share this piece of news with everybody. Spread the word!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Upcoming features on Ubin

Was contacted today by a member of the press and of the community. She is interested in doing a series of feature on Ubin, talking to villagers who have remained behind. Hopefully the series will highlight how Ubin is really a treasure and asset of Singapore and not quite the redundant liability that has no better use unless developed.

Talking to the late headman's daughter-in-law on 1 March 2008. Photo by Kenneth Pinto

I will be going down on Sunday and introduce the few families that I have been talking to, getting to know. I meant to write about their stories on the blog but work got the better of me. It'd be lontong in the morning again and a nice sunday of chit chat. That, is the perfect way to spend Sunday for me. And perhaps, for the urbanite Singaporean like me, that is the value of Ubin. A getaway, the last wild frontier, the last island refuge for our rural heritage. On a more personal level, a piece of family history.

What is your value for Ubin? Any thoughts?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Coastal Erosion Management - Ubin Style

Waterfront living is no easy task. The above picture depicts the edge of a slope that has been eroded away, looking like a 2m tall cliff, with the beach just below.

According to the reddotbeachbum, a year back during a coastal cleanup on Pulau Ubin, the team had to remove an abandoned motorbike from this spot. You might be thinking, who would want to abandon a motorbike on a beach? How bizarre is that!

Well apparently the story goes that this site used to be the home of Pak Ali (malay headman and owner of the coffeeshop by the jetty). His son explained that their home was in danger of being slowly eroded away and in order to slow down erosion, they dumped the motorbike there ala a impromptu seawall! Well I guess the seawall mentality of coastal erosion prevention goes even as far as Ubin - cept definitely more creative!

Now you know how to make your own ad hoc seawall - Ubin Style!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Former Civil Service College Chalet

In 2006, SLA offered up for tender the site of the former civil service college chalet. Located conveniently right in "downtown" Ubin, it is mere minutes walk away from the main jetty. However, it has been abandoned since 2001 when the area was supposed to be reclaimed. However, since the deferment of reclamation along the east coast of Pulau Ubin, the chalet has been neglected.

According to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) press release in 2006:

"The property has a site area of about 6,505 square metres and gross floor area of about 783 square metres, equivalent to about three tennis courts. It comprises three blocks of single-storey buildings with a camp, a pump house, three shelters and some ancillary facilities. Capitalizing on the rustic charm of the island, the approved uses adapted some of the former recreational uses, including that of a Bed & Breakfast, or a chalet or resort for short term lodging. It can also be used as a campsite or for group and corporate retreats for the conduct of team building, leadership or motivational activities. This is to cater to the traveller and tourist who are looking for a unique experience in rustic Singapore, away from the hustle and bustle of city life."
Last Saturday (16 Feb 2008), a visit to the site saw that the chalets have been recently cleaned and renovated. Having never been there, I was surprised at its pristine state. However, we soon realized that there was an ongoing party at the chalet to view the air show across the straits at Changi.


We were then kindly informed by the new caretaker that the chalet is now owned by a Yes Group who intend to rent it out long-term to companies. The company appears to have been awarded the tender for more than 3 months as the caretaker seems to indicate that they have completed renovations over the past months. There will be 2 additional chalets which will be set aside for short term rental. Corporate retreats, bonding sessions and other adventure type events can also be hosted there. Since we rather surprised them by taking advantage of the low tide coastal access, we were informed that the area is now private property. Alas, we have a feeling that the site will be yet another out of bounds area. The caretaker informed us that public rental are not in the plans.

Andy Dinesh, a past visitor at the chalet informed us that there used to be a dormitory behind the main chalets. However, a brief exploration of the area and questioning the caretaker informed us that it has now been totally erased from the landscape. What remained is a lamp that reminds us of Narnia.

Perhaps what is most charismatic about the chalet is the jetty / pier / bridge that extends out to see, connecting 2 huts sitting on trademark ubin granite boulders to the beach. That too appears to have been refurbished. There are also balinese-thai looking pavilions and lots of bbq pits.

While we were told to look for their head company, "Yes group", I was hard-pressed to find contact information online for this company. Could it be the "YES F & B Group Pte Ltd" that I've found on yellowpages? I tipped off recently that there was news of the successful bid of the CSC chalet but again, I was unable to find anything in the archives. Does anybody know more about this?

For more photos, see my flickr set.

More related reads
News about SLA tender of Civil Service College Chalet
WildSingapore's write up on Civil Service College Chalet
SLA Press Release on CSC Chalet tender

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Endangered Ubin Lontong II

4 months ago in October 2007, I wrote about the endangered Ubin lontong.

"Now why is this lontong endangered? Well this delicacy comes from the hands of the macik (auntie) of the establishment, wife of Pak Ali. The couple must be at least 90 years old now ... Unfortunately, as with the rest of the aging population, the lontong is under threat as it may very well disappear from the face of this planet when the cook is no longer with us. Where then would we find our Ubin lontong?"
Darn my words but the lontong came very close to true endangerment a few weeks before the Lunar New Year.

On 3 February 2008, I was tipped off by a duck that the lontong was unavailable as the coffeeshop was closed on that very sunday. Some asking around revealed that the Macik who mastermind this delicious lontong has been hospitalized! Apparently she fell at her home and broke her hip a few weeks before.

Fortunately, it comes as good news to this monkey that the couple's son is still often on the island. It had worried me that like many of the older residents, their offsprings may be more comfortable entrenched in urbanised Singapore and its many conveniences such as piped water and grid electricity.

On 16 February 2008, I finally met the couple's son, Hassan. He informed us that Macik is finally discharged and resting at home. What a relief! Hopefully she has managed to pass her secret recipe to her children before she took to her bed. At least the coffeeshop is now opened for business again. Thank goodness!

Related Reads
"Endangered Ubin Lontong", Pulau Ubin Stories, 26 Oct 2007

Diesel cars on Pulau Ubin

"Tax levy on private diesel cars reduced"
16 February 2008, TODAY

"Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the current tax on such cars was too "punitive", which explained why there was only one such vehicle on the road today — an observation that drew laughter from the House, especially when he said that there were two others on Pulau Ubin that did not pay road tax."

Read the full article here

Saturday, February 09, 2008

On this day, 66 years ago...

While searching online today for interesting tidbits of news about Ubin, I came across an archived New York Times article dated February 9, 1942 which mentions Pulau Ubin during WWII! Unfortunately, the article cost $3.95USD to read but here's the sneak preview:

New York Times - Feb 9, 1942
"Enemy patrols were reported to have landed on Pulau Ubin [Ubin Island] this morning. During enemy raids over Singapore Island this morning our fighters ... "
I may perhaps pay SGD$6 just to read this article. It better be good!

An earlier articles (also from New York Times) include:

"BASE AT SINGAPORE IS FORCE FOR PEACE; Defense Project Brings New ..."
New York Times - Feb 20, 1938
Opposite Changi and lying directly in the eastern entrance to Johore Strait is the Island of Pulau Ubin. It is several miles long and constitutes an ...
Other WWII articles from other news agency include a newspaper from Ohio, USA:

Zanesville Signal, The (Newspaper) - February 9, 1942
A few hoars Japanese troops had occupied deserted, un- fortified Pulau Ubin (Ubto kland) off the northwest coast, within half a solle of Sbigapore. ...