SG50 celebration with Ubin 'wedding' for 1,000 Siglap residents

SG50 celebration with Ubin 'wedding' for 1,000 Siglap residents

Planning a trip for 100 people can be a headache. But when you have to organise one for more than 1,000 people, you might have a huge logistical nightmare.

That's the challenge Siglap division grassroots leaders in East Coast GRC have to face when they decided to organise a trip to Pulau Ubin for residents on June 13.

As it's an event to celebrate Singapore's 50th birthday, the leaders felt they should gather many residents to enjoy the unique charms of the island, which falls within the boundaries of the division.

An event of this magnitude at a mainland venue is not uncommon, but when you need to ferry so many participants to an island and back, it's a different story.

However, the community leaders, putting their brains and years of experience together, will ensure it will be smooth-sailing.

The $5 ticket promises the residents a rewarding, fun-filled experience in a guided tour that will take them beyond its flora and fauna, said Mr Imhar Said, a main organiser.

The event will also offer them a slice of Malay culture and country life on the island, said the grassroots leader, who grew up in a kampong near Bedok South where he resides today.

"All participants will be invited to a traditional Malay 'wedding' to be held at an old Malay kampong. They will enjoy a biryani feast, just like in a real wedding. The food will be cooked by a popular Malay wedding caterer. The occasion will come complete with a couple who have volunteered to play the bride and groom sitting in state, kompang performances and celebration music," he said.

Guests making their way there are unlikely to get lost as the traditional bunga manggar - wedding tree decoration - will line the paths leading to the village.

Considering that the ticket price covers the boat trips, a foldable hat, the biryani lunch (with both chicken and vegetarian options) and drinks, it's quite a steal. No wonder many tickets have been snapped up.

The outing will also feature tree planting, traditional kampong games, and possibly a tasting of tropical fruits in season.

The organisers are chartering boats exclusively for the Siglap residents at the Changi Village jetty so that they need not have to compete with the weekend visitors for the short passage across the sea. Call Siglap CC at 64498040 for more information on the event.

Island attractions

Although it is off the main tourist radar, the island has been highly recommended by international and local visitors on TripAdvisor website, who awarded it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The island continues to draw cyclists, trekkers, fishing enthusiasts and international visitors seeking the rustic charms of a bygone era in Singapore. And those looking for durians and rambutans, or 'hair-raising' encounters.

Most of them prefer to explore the island on bicycle, which takes them through lush environs of forests, plantations and villages. Along the way are stops to marvel at picturesque areas like the aquamarine lakes of old granite quarries, coastal scenery at boardwalks around Chek Jawa, and sprawling ponds with a profusion of lilies.

You are likely to chance upon monkeys, boars and dogs, which have become so used to mingling with visitors. Look hard enough, and you'll see spiders trapping their victims on large gossamer webs.

Bird and plant enthusiasts will have a field day spotting unusual species. And do quench your thirst with visitors' favourite drink - the island's huge coconuts - and savour a taste of the 'terroir'.

If you're intrigued with spirituality or the unknown, ask the island residents such as the bicycle rental people for directions to small Chinese shrines and the cemetery. One shrine, dedicated with a doll to a young German girl, who apparently perished in an accident on the island during the WWI era, is reportedly visited by those seeking lucky lottery numbers.

The small Da Bo Gong temple nearest to the main jetty has a wooden Chinese opera stage, where shows are staged during the Hungry Ghost Festival around August and on the deity's commemoration days.

The island is indeed a melting pot of vestiges from the past. You would think you've have walked into an English countryside at one corner of the arrival area of Chek Jawa. Still managing well is a dignified Tudor-style holiday cottage, which was built in the 1930s and now serves as a visitors centre.

It even comes with a chimney and fireplace, which of course, is no longer in use. Afternoon tea, anyone? Just spread a picnic mat on the lawn outside as it's crowded inside.

Do look out for the sneaky monkeys. Prawn crackers and bottled orange juice, among other things, have been known to have been snatched in a flash.

And please don't pat the cutesy baby boar as mom won't be too happy if you do. Just leave them alone as they rummage for food among the parked bicycles of visitors.

Accommodation on the island is basic, chalet-like with campsites for those who want to rough it out. Otherwise, a wider array of room categories, from modern hotels to holiday bungalows will appeal to the spoilt at Changi Village, which looks like a snazzy mainland cousin.

Explore the leafy Changi enclave, where the colonial, war and heritage sites, magnificent trees, sandy beaches and scenic boardwalks should keep you occupied. It's also a food haven offering bountiful choices, from local and Asian fare to western cuisines and trendy artisanal concoctions of ice cream, coffee and pastries.

Going to Ubin and Changi: Take Bus No. 2 from the stop opposite Tanah Merah MRT station to Changi Village (the last stop). Walk a short distance to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal and queue in the line for Pulau Ubin. Check the bus guide for more services at Changi Village.

chenj@sph.com.sg

 

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