pulau ubin

My housemate Becky happened to mention one day while we were at home in Sydney that a friend of hers (let's call her N) is doing research on the conservation of Pulau Ubin. Since I was born and bred on the island, Becky thought it a good idea for N to interview me. We were then introduced to each other on email a few weeks ago when I was having a short break in SG. After a few rounds of emails, we discovered to our pleasant surprise that N's parents and grandparents know my grandparents. They were neighbours who lived just 10min walk away and my Grandpa's elder brother even sold his house to N's grandparents many decades ago.

And so, we arranged a trip to Pulau Ubin for memory's sake. We arrived at the revamped, modern looking Changi Jetty early in the morning at 8+. I don't like the new outlook of the jetty. The look and feel of the bumboats and the jetty are a total mismatch.

I was very happy to see that the boats used to ferry passengers across to Pulau Ubin are still the same. I always thought they were going to be replaced by modern ferries like those used for transporting passengers to Sentosa Island and that many of the old bumboat uncles would be made redundant. My grandpa used to own one of these boats too ferrying people between the old Changi Jetty and Pulau Ubin. He has retired now and his boat was scrapped years ago.

The information kiosk is the first landmark you'll see after disembarking from the bumboat at Pulau Ubin Jetty. There seems to be more and more of these brick buildings sprouting up everywhere on the island. I miss seeing those traditional old wooden houses with zinc roofs around.

See the green bottle hanging on the wall next to the 2008 calendar in the first photo below? It's actually a syrup drink in animal shaped bottles and was one of my favourite drinks when I was little. I would always go for the purple-coloured one in the elephant-shaped bottle. Photo on the right shows the empty village square on the island. Sad to see it semi-desserted as it used to buzz with life everyday.

Here's a random semi-abandoned wooden about-to-totally-fall-apart bridge that had seen better days.

Here's looking through the backdoor of an old house that still exists on the island. I wonder how the occupants feel about the diminishing island community due to the government's plan to take over ownership of the whole island for development. Even the once famous 大伯公 temple is longer there.

At least the opera stage is still standing. It has been around in the centre of the village square since before I was born. I used to watch Chinese opera here when I was a kid. I am glad they didn't demolish it as it has great significance to the people of Ubin.

Here's how it looks when it's all done up for a performance. This photo is taken from the Pulau Ubin Stories blog started by N to document the news, development, stories old and new and anything related to Pulau Ubin. There was a Ubin Hungry Ghost Festival Wayang held here in August 2008.

Thanks to N's friend from Nparks, I managed to find my way to the plot of land my old house used to sit. There is nothing left there now. The land is overgrown with trees and is just another forest now. However, I recognise this abandoned well you see in the below pic. It was where we did our laundry outside the bathroom. The durian, mango and jackfruit trees still standing among the wilderness helped with the identification of the exact location where I once lived. It was a sad moment for me to see for myself that the old house has indeed been completely torn down.

I have a lot to say about the way the government handled the whole buy-over-land-from-villagers-for-development-but-changed-its-mind-after-chasing-villagers-off-the-island-cos-of-many-factors-and-hence-island-left-empty-for-supposedly-conservation-purposes fiasco. Thousands were uprooted and homes were destroyed, and for what? I don't buy all the bullshit about conservation because that was something that came about much later. There would have been no special requirement for conservation efforts if the islanders were left to lead their simple ways of life. We used to see many more exotic species of animal and plant wildlife way before the special Chek Jawa Wetlands project came about. People exclaim with delight now when they see a wild fowl or a wild boar on the island and attribute this to the environmentalists' efforts. But hey, do you know we used to see these wild things running everywhere way before the government stepped in to claim the island for whatever it was they wanted to do? What is the point of spending millions destroying something hoping to build something better only to regret and then spend more millions trying to restore it but find that some things can never go back to what they once were? Well, to be fair, maybe I didn't get the big picture. But then, who has been informed of the big picture and if there was any to begin with? I look forward to being enlightened. I was and still am greatly saddened to see the islanders' lives and heritage being manipulated as if they were merely another statistic.


The Likkle Girl Who Wurves Pwetty Things said...

Hello Monkeycrab,
I'm from Singapore too. It's really sad what they've done to Pulau Ubin. I didn't live there like you but I think I've spent more time on Ubin with her lovely people than most mainlanders - I used to work in film production and have shot quite a bit on the island for when the script required "Old Singapore". I have to dig out all my location "recce" photos when I go home to Singapore next time. I wonder what happened to the "uncle" who was my regular guide/taxi driver/fixer...he was the best! You're so lucky to have grown up there!

Monkey said...

thanks for the blog post. as you can see, this other monkey has been very lazy and havent blog about our trip yet! omg sorry :S hehe my friend found this blog post and alerted me hehe i will make sure i link link
oh ya and thanks for scanning / uploading the photos! so sorry i didnt reply your email hehe i will work on them soon i promise hehe :P