St John’s Island, Singapore

Introduction

St John’s Island previously known as Pulau Sakijang Bendera, is one of the southern islands of Singapore. It is located approximately 6.5 km to the south of the mainland Singapore.

Sir Stamford Raffles the founder of Singapore actually anchored off this island first before arriving in Singapore in 1819. From the late 19th century till War World Two, the island was used as a quarantine station for victims of infectious diseases such as  cholera, beri-beri  and leprosy. By 1930, the island gained world recognition as a quarantine centre screening Asian immigrants and pilgrims returning from Mecca. After the era of mass migration, the island was used to  house detained political prisoners and ringleaders of secret societies. Later a drug rehabilitation centre was also set up in the island.

In  the 1975, the island was transformed into a tranquil getaway with beaches, swimming lagoons, picnic grounds, BBQ pits and trekking routes. There are also chalets and dormitories available for public renting.

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Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

Introduction

The Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall also known as Wan Qing Yuan served as the  home and headquarters of Sun’s revolutionary activities in Southeast Asia. Sun who visited Singapore eight times between 1900 and 1911 stayed at the villa on three occasions.

Originally called Bin Chang House, it was built by a businessman Boey Chuan Poh in the 1880s for his mistress called Bin Chang. In 1905, the villa was bought by rubber magnate Teo Eng Hock – great granduncle of Singapore Minister Teo Chee Heng – for his aged mother, Mdm Tan Poh Neo to enjoy her later years in peace and tranquillity. Teo was a keen supporter of the Nationalist cause in China and offered the place to Sun as the Southeast Asian Headquarters of his revolutionary movement, Tong Meng Hui from February 1906. After the fall of Qing Dynasty in 1911, Teo who was having business setback during the depression sold off the villa. In 1937, the villa was bought by a group of six leading businessmen (Lee Kong Chian, Tan Ean Kiam, Chew Hean Swee, Lee Chor Seng, Yeo Kiat Tiow and Lee Chin Tian) who then donated it to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) to be preserved. During the Japanese occupation, the villa was used by the dreaded military police Kempeitai as a communication hub. After the war, SCCCI converted the villa into a museum called Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, exhibiting artifacts belonging Sun and local revolutionaries. The memorial hall epitomises the contributions of the local Chinese to the revolutionary movement in China. Continue reading

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Lake Toba – Sipisopiso Waterfall – Berastagi – Mount Sibayat

Introduction

Lake Toba located about 176 km from Medan city is the largest volcanic lake in the world.  It is 100 kilometres long, 30 kilometres wide, and 505 metres at its deepest point. It covers an area of 1,707 sq km (Singapore is only about 704 sq km) with an island (Samosir Island) in the center. It was formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago, believed to be the largest volcanic eruption in the last 25 million years. Lake Toba is home to the Batak people who have a unique, interesting culture and are mostly Christian. 

Sipisopiso Waterfall is located 45 km from Berastagi at the northern end of Lake Toba. At 120 metres high, it is the highest waterfall in Indonesia. The waterfall is formed by a small underground river of the Karo Plateau and flows out into the Lake Toba caldera.

Mount Sibayak (Indonesian:Gunung Sibayak) is a small stratovolcano overlooking the town of Berastagi in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Although its last eruption was more than a century ago, geothermal activity in the form of steam vents and hot springs remains high on and around the volcano. The vents produce crystalline sulfur, which was mined on a small scale in the past. There is also a small  and shallow crater lake which is relatively accessible to visitors.  Continue reading

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Bukit Brown

Introduction

Bukit Brown Cemetery (aka Kopi Sua or Coffee Hill) was officially set up as a public Chinese burial ground on 1 January 1922. It was opened for more than half a century until its closure in 1973. There are about 100,000 graves in an area of about 200 hectares in size.

The cemetery was named after its first owner, George Henry Brown a shipowner, trader and broker who arrived in Singapore in the 1840s.  The land was then later bought by Ong Kew Ho and the Hokkien Huay Kuan, who gave it to the Ngee Ann Kongsi. To meet the pressing need for more Chinese burial grounds, the Municipal government acquired a section of the land  and converted it into a  public cemetery. By 1929, Bukit Brown Cemetery accounted for about 40 per cent of all officially registered Chinese burials within municipal (city) limits.

Many well-known and prominent Singaporeans are interred at Bukit Brown Cemetery. They include Lim Chong Pang (Chong Pang Village), Gan Eng  Seng (Gan Eng Seng School), Ang Seah Im (Seah Im Road), Chew Boon Lay (Boon Lay Town), Cheang Hong Lim (Hong Lim Square) and Chew Joo Chiat (Joo Chiat Road). The grandfather (Lee Hoon leong) and aunt (Lee Choo Neo) of Singapore first Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew are also buried in Bukit Brown. Bukit Brown is also “distinguished” for having some of the oldest and biggest graves in Singapore. The oldest grave in Bukit Brown dated to as early as 1833. The headstone belongs to a man called Fang Shan, who died in 1833. The tomb of Ong Sam Leong and his wife is said to be the largest tomb in Singapore. It is as big as a few Housing and Development Board (HBD) flats.

Over the decades, Bukit Brown has evolved into a rich ecosystem. Many species of birds are spotted including migratory and endangered ones. However there are plans by the government to clear the cemetery  for new development. A shell MRT station (Bukit Brown MRT Station) was already built in the area. Construction of a new road that cuts through the cemetery will also begin in year 2013. In fact the whole area is earmarked as a future new town by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Conservationists object to this, saying the area is rich in heritage and biodiversity.

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Upper & Lower Peirce Reservoir

Introduction

Both Lower and Upper Peirces Reservoirs  are impounding reservoirs, created by damming the lower reaches of the *Kallang River. They are located near MacRitchie Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir. These four reservoirs together with  the surrounding forests form the Central Catchment Area of Singapore.

It was originally known as the Kallang River Reservoir and was renamed Peirce Reservoir in 1922 after Robert Peirce, the Municipal Engineer from 1901 to 1916. The reservoir was again renamed Lower Pierce Reservoir in 1975 after the construction of the new Upper Peirce Reservoir

In the late 1960s, increasing demand of water led the Public Utilities Board to examine the feasibility of increasing the capacity of Peirce Reservoir. Thus a higher dam was constructed  upstream of the existing dam in 1970 to create Upper Peirce Reservoir.

Peirce Reservoir is sometimes misspelt Pierce Reservoir.

*Interestingly the source and mouth of the longest river in Singapore – Kallang River, have both become reservoirs. The source was damned to create both Lower and Upper Pierce Reservoirs in the 1910s and 1970s resepctively. At its mouth or Kallang Basin, a dam Marina Barrage was built in 2008 to create the Marina Reservoir behind it.

(Reference article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lower_Peirce_Reservoir,
http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_704_2005-01-03.html)

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Pulau Semakau – Inter-tidal Walk

Introduction

Pulau Semakau is located to the south of the main island of Singapore. It was once home to a small fishing village as was the nearby island of Pulau Sakeng.  In 1987, the Singapore government, after having acquired the land on both islands from the islanders, set about relocating the islanders to the mainland. Subsequently, Pulau Sakeng was subsumed by the land reclamation process of Pulau Semakau and the combined islands was converted into a landfill.

The Semakau Landfill is Singapore’s first and only offshore landfill. It covers 350ha (about 440 football fields) and has a landfill capacity of 63 million mor a lifespan of 30 years.  The landfill  is filled mainly with ash produced by Singapore’s four incineration plants, which incinerate the country’s waste, shipped there in a covered barge (to prevent the ash from getting blown into the air) every night.

To safeguard against pollution of the sea, a 7km confinement bund surrounds the landfill site covering part of the sea off Pulau Semakau and the former Pulau Sakeng. This bund is lined with an impermeable membrane and a layer of marine clay to prevent the leakage of leachate, which is waste water generated within the landfill area.

Today, after years of careful environmental management, the ecosystem of Pulau Semakau is flourishing. Birds can be seen in the air and on the open landscape, fishes swim in and out of the lagoons, and marine life continues to thrive in the mangrove mudflats and the western shorelines of Pulau Semakau.

(Reference article: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_1008_2010-03-22.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulau_Semakau)

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Pengerang Battery (Johor, Malaysia)

Introduction

Pengerang Battery is a World War Two fort located in  Johor, Malaysia. It is located near the exit of Tanjung Pengelih  immigration custom. Unlike most of the War World Two forts (Fort Canning, Fort Siloso, Labrador Battery) in Singapore, Pengerang Battery is a completely forsaken site without any restoration in place. Except the courtyard (cook house area) which is almost fully consumed by the forest, most of the structures are still intact, despite braving elements of weather over 60-70 years.

The battery consists of a few buildings and structures scattered around an area (at least the size of a football field) on top of a small hill overlooking the eastern mouth of Straits of Johor. These structures include pillboxes, trench, bunkers, barracks, offices, cook house, toilets, tunnels etc. However unlike most of the old forts in Singapore, there is no decommissioned guns not even turrets or mounting platforms in sight.

It is believed that prior to Japanese occupation of Malaya, the British scrapped or destroyed the costal defence guns to deny usage by the Japanese. Contrary to what the British believed (that the Japanese will invade Singapore by sea), the Japanese invaded Singapore by land through the so-call impregnable Malaya jungle. Japanese forces under General Yamashita who was betting on a quick victory (in view of the shortfall in manpower and ammunition) skipped the pockets of resistance in Pengerang Battery and focused the attack on Singapore. Hence the defense system of armaments and tunnels in Pengerang went through the war without a single fire shot. This is however a far cry from the £60 million Singapore Naval Base (just across the Straits) which also saw no action and was partially destroyed by the British at the onset of the war. Continue reading

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Syonan Jinja

Introduction

Syonan Jinja was a former Shinto shrine in the middle of the MacRitchie Reservoir forest. It was built by the Japanese Army and British prisoners-of-war  during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore in World War II. It was officially unveiled on 10 September 1942. When the British forces re-occupied Singapore in 1945, the Shrine was destroyed. Today, only remnants of the Shrine foundation and pillars remains. In 2002, the Shrine site was declared a Historic Site by the National Heritage Board.

The Shrine was built to commemorate Japanese soldiers  who died during the Malayan campaign. A large tract of forest in the north-west side of  MacRitchie Reservoir was cleared to build the Shrine. The Shrine design was based on  famed Yasukuni Shrine in Japan. The Yasukuni Shrine  has been both the commemoration memorial and resting place for more than 2 million solders who died (from Meiji era till WWII) fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan. Shinto meaning “the way of the gods” is the native faith of the Japanese and is primarily pantheistic. The Shinto followers believe that “divine spirits” or kami reside in nature and thus the location of the Syonan Shinto Shrine in the midst of the forest.

(Reference article: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_236_2004-12-24.html)

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