Friday, September 7, 2012

My first visit to Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin of Singapore

This was my first visit to Chek Jawa since its public opening many years ago. It was an escapade adventure after 10 years of absence to a preserved marine beach on a tiny island at the north eastern part of the mainland Singapore known as Pulau Ubin which remained unspoiled, undisturbed and isolated since the nation’s independence.

The outing was an impulse decision. The half-day excursion was meant to be an outing to Sentosa being the vacation isle of Singapore at the south with the internationally famous Universal Studios and their upscale fantasy hotels in the midst of many tourist attractions of the World War amidst glamorous classy condo units of the Rich and Famous.

On the way to Sentosa, one passing chat-chit about our anticipated lunch of ‘Nasi Lemak’ and the 1 hour car journey  to Changi Village with my late mum for their famous $ 2 ‘ nasi lemak’ meal changed our entire destination.

With this stirring reminiscence, we changed our plan right away to instead revisit Changi Village and moreover to haul a humble ferry boat across to the tiny island of Pulau Ubin, opposite Changi Point, this destination being located between mainland Singapore and the east of West Malaysia.
One hour later, we arrived and embarked the soon vanishing wooden bumboat diagonally across the jade and calm sea to the environmentally-intact teeny weenie island.

Soon we begun a surprising nostalgic journey walking down the memory lane of yesteryears, of time with friends of the past but now forgotten, of time with my late mum and many oversea relatives, of the time of younger day exploits and time of solace, of present time when all lives seemed to rewind instantly back to our younger days and past lost memories and where time seemed to have paused for a moment and for that hour.

Soon we could see the unadorned concrete jetty which had remained unchanged for all these years except with some minor improvements.
At the end of the jetty walk, someone told us of a 10 minute car ride to Chek Jawa for a round trip sum of S $4/- which would without doubt be one hour on foot.

With the warm humid weather against the economical asking price, we unthinkingly hopped into the white antique air-conditioned van with the license plate of PU 100. What an amusing introduction for the start!
In 10 minutes’ time, we arrived outside the fork focal area where the right track of well trodden path could lead one to the Visitor’s Centre of Chek Jawa.

Here to my utter surprise, we encountered the second amusing incident of the day.

There was one wandering grey wild boar waiting near the kiosk shelter nevertheless unafraid or fluttered as if it was waiting for our arrival. But it turned out that it was waiting for food from the the lady driver of our van who promptly threw foodstuff to the famished and expecting wild boar.

This was indeed a strange and rare occurrence for us to cross path with this ordinary yet seldom sighted jungle creature.

We spent some time observing it and then took some memento photos. Ha ha, it was unquestionably a unique and awesome memento of our outing in modern Singapore!

We then strolled along the coarse stony track which led us soon to the coastal wooden board walkway of 20 minutes of pleasant stroll under clear blue sky in bright sunlight, accompanied by soft gentle sea breeze which provided instant relief from the day glare and from the unsolved yearly haze of Sumatra in West Indonesia that invaded the Asian region expectedly every September.

We then continued the stroll along the mangrove boardwalk for another 15 minutes.

Here, we saw many common nature and objects that could be educational to every schooling child and to any urbanite.

We saw the Nipam palms with their seeds or ‘Ah Tah Chee’ seed which was one indispensable ingredient in the local dessert of ‘ice kachang’. In addition, we came across the tiny dark crabs with one handed red claws, the common black crab, and we also observed one sting ray swimming leisurely in the muddy seawater near the shore.

Alas I saw no starfishes or exotic marine creatures, their existence being publicly displayed on the notice boards which we saw along the boardwalks. It seemed that these marine creatures could only be seen at low tide each morning, about 8 am every day.

After that entire walk, we returned to the visitor’s kiosk and were encouraged to proceed to a nearby heritage building to complete the tour.

It was the Visitor’s Centre of Chek Jawa , House No. 1 which was a handsome charming mortar 2 storey building being converted from an old Tudor style colonial residence of an Englishman that was built in the 1930s as his summer villa.

This charming quaint brick house gave the peculiar sentiment and mood of a British London’s cottage with a fire place and chimney thrown in.

The compound of this house overlooked the front seashore of the island which had a splendor panoramic view of Singapore Main Island.

From the garden seafront, one could walk down some brick steps to a short jetty that led to a platform in the middle of the Strait.

The walk to the end of the platform gave a peaceful tranquil feeling of the environment and of the historical setting of this wonderful forgotten island with many fish farms on the right in far distance and with huge rugged bronzed rocks in the forefront.

One could imagine the lifestyle and the magnificence of living in such ambience and setting for the previous owner, he being able to wake up each morning to such gorgeous view of every sunrise and each night enjoying his cigar and whisky after dinner on the front lawn to enjoy every sunset hue.

This house also provided such a romantic setting for those who wanted to observe the diamond starry night sky where they could easily locate the Southern Cross and where they could unwind amidst gentle tropical breeze of equatorial hemisphere and of the crisp night atmosphere.

No wonder this building was destined to be kept as a heritage building of the many historical monuments of Singapore with its past history of the colonial days and of the World War.
After the tour of this magnificent structure, we returned to the jetty by taking the same ride by the same lady driver who drove us there. I discovered during the return ride that she lived on the island for 3 generations in the community of some 60 others.

So it was indeed an insignificant but quiet, laid back and simple village of simple folks of little means and humble expectations where there were no high speed internet or Hollywood movies screening and where those who survived there so far would not want any drastic changes to their lives, their environment and to their lifestyle.

In conclusion, I only could say that though I enjoyed every moment of this outing, I secretly wished and imagined that I could get to meet some white cranes in my path or even colorful peacocks gracefully strolling somewhere. If there were wild rabbits or playful brown hares, or even naughty active squirrels scrambling ,won’t it be better too? Well, I better stopped all these wishful day dreaming and wild imagination now and let nature be itself!

Before I penned off, let us not forget our’ Nasi Lemak’ lunch. We returned to the mainland after waiting briefly for a total of 12 passengers before the boatman would bring us back. Only then did we discovered that the famous ‘ nasi lemak’ stall was closed and nowhere to be found.  It seemed that this stall in the market place was going under major building renovation.

So we simply ended up taking some other local food nearby, but the ‘ice kacang’ with its ‘ah tah chee’ seed was a must as we wanted to educate our young nephew of this transparent edible palm seed that we saw earlier. Thereafter we left for home in the West after this short 4 hours’ getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city life of Singapore with only the cost of S $ 15 per head.

This was definitely a great bargain in exchange for this unique experience and all the funny surprising happenings.  With a short timeframe and with little price, we had a change of holiday mood with the sensation that we had left Singapore for a weekend trip abroad in that several hours.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your write up on Chek Jawa. Thanks for sharing. You are a good writer!

Jason Ngan

Anonymous said...

nice article