30 March 2014

German Girl Shrine - Pulau Ubin

I mentioned in my previous post after my visit to Pulau Ubin that whilst there we managed to see something quite interesting.  This being the German Girl Shrine.  I had actually already heard of this, thanks to a previous blog post I'd read sometime ago (and others since) but I had no idea where it was on Ubin and whether, given we were walking, we'd be able to get anywhere near it.  Luckily though we managed to do just that and did get to see this curious place.  

It was not that well signposted but wasn't too difficult to find thanks to it being in a bright yellow building tucked just down a side road and clearly visible from where we were walking.  There was a sign on the road for the shrine just before we arrived at it, but this was the only one and only directed us in a fairly general direction.  So if you go looking for it yourself make sure to keep an eye out for that yellow building as you could easily walk right past it.

The German Girl Shrine is actually a little bit of a mystery it seems.  The story dates back to before the First World War and to a German family who owned a coffee plantation on Pulau Ubin at the time.  The land actually belonged to two German families but the exact identity of who the German girl was is not known.  When war was declared in 1914 the colonial Government here in Singapore began seizing German businesses, properties and so on, including the coffee plantation on Ubin.  The girl managed to escape into the woods, no one knows exactly what happened after that but a few days later her body was found.  It was assumed she had got lost and fallen to her death.

The story surrounding this unknown German girl goes on to say that when the war was over her family returned to try and locate her remains.  Sadly they weren't able to do so and so left Singapore.  The remains were said to have been kept in a Taoist temple where they remained until, in the 1970s, a new temple was erected to house them.  In time this temple became a popular place for worshippers praying for good luck in gambling.  By then the girl was regarded as a deity as some lucky gamblers attributed their good fortune to her and the shrine was adorned with offerings of fruit, flowers and other things as more and more came to worship there.

The story reached its conclusion when a local who had migrated to Australia had several dreams about the deity and to pay his respects subsequently went out and bought a Barbie doll which he sent to Pulau Ubin.  The doll has since become the symbolic idol of the shrine and is still there along with many items typically associated with young girls/teenagers.  People still regularly come to leave these items and pay their respects to the girl.  

Having visited many temples this one with its cuddly toys, make up, perfumes and so on is certainly the most unusual and quirky I've seen.  Sadly it seems now that the identity of the German girl has been lost in the mists of time and will probably never been known.  Although it seems unusual for her memory to be preserved in this way it is also lovely to think that this unfortunate nameless girl is remembered still to this day.

28 March 2014

#worldcolors #worldcolours 2014 - March - Green - What does green mean to me?

Green is this month's Project World Colours choice and as green was also featured last year I've again taken the approach of thinking about what the colour green means to me.

The colour green reminds me of the beautiful British countryside which is one of the things I do miss about living in Singapore and look forward to seeing again on return visits.  Green is a lush, vibrant colour and one that also features predominately in Singapore too given its rainforest climate.  Anyone living in Singapore will know that we've recently had a particularly dry spell of weather which has now finally been followed by some rain and it's good to see the green beginning return to Singapore.  Here then are my selection of photos from the UK (specifically the Lake District) and Singapore which I think best reflect what green means to me.

Lake District - UK 


Bishan park

Bukit Brown cemetery

Chinese and Japanese gardens

View from the Treetop Walk, MacRitchie Reservoir

Botanic Gardens

13 March 2014

Pulau Ubin

I like to think I've done quite a bit of exploring in Singapore, though I fully admit there is a long list of things still to do.  One thing I'd never done though was go to any of the islands off Singapore, with the exception of Sentosa but I'm not really sure that counts!  Of course Pulau Ubin is probably the most famous of these and finally I recently managed to get there.

The majority of visitors to the island hire bikes, I admit I am not a bike rider but my husband (who is) and our friends who came with us were thankfully willing that day to walk around part of the island instead.  To be honest the fact I'm not a bike rider is probably the reason it has taken me so long to go.  My husband has been before and biked around and I've always had the impression you could only really ride bikes there.  Yes you'll definitely see more by taking a bike ride but you can still walk it (or at least some of it) too.  So if, like me, you don't really ride bikes don't be put off going!

There are lots of bike hire places when you first get off the bumboat

It was another warm, sunny, dry day so sun cream was a definite requirement.  In case you didn't know Singapore is currently experiencing one of the longest driest spells since records began and I can only personally recall it raining twice since we got back from the UK at the start of January!  We do so desperately need some rain.  However it was a fine day for walking and it started early with a couple of (much needed) kopi's at the Changi village food court and then we met our friends and made our way over to Ubin.  

Getting to the island is easy by way of an approximately ten minute bumboat ride from Changi Village jetty.  The fare costs $2.50 one-way.  There is no set timetable, boats just go once they are full, they carry twelve passengers so it doesn't take long to fill up.  I'm not sure what time the last boat goes from Ubin but I would imagine you wouldn't want to leave it until the very end just in case you got left behind and had to camp out!

View across Pekan Quarry

Pulau Ubin is regarded as one of the last parts of truly rural Singapore reflecting what the main island used to be like before development took over.  There are many former granite quarries over the island and in the 1960s this quarrying supported a few thousand settlers but now only a handful of residents remain.  The name actually means 'Granite Island' in Malay.  The granite was used for much building work in the past including the building of the Singapore - Johor Causeway.  

For me the most surprising part initially was that there were proper roads on the island, though only a handful, and that there were so many signposts guiding you to the different parts.  I'm not sure what I was expecting but I suppose I just didn't expect to see roads.  I suppose on the flip side the fact there are so many good roads could also be seen as a hint about things to come.  There are suggestions the island may be developed in time, but it did make getting around by foot (and I imagine by bike) a lot easier than I anticipated.

We visited on a Sunday and I was quite expecting the island to be pretty busy.  In fact although there were plenty of people there it really didn't seem busy at all, other than where all the bike hire places in the the village area after you get off the bumboats.  We certainly managed to enjoy Ubin without having to fight through crowds of people.  Admittedly we got on the island fairly early but we spent several hours there and it didn't appear to get especially busier as the morning progressed.  I'm not sure how far we walked (several kilometres) but thankfully there were several drinks carts selling water etc. dotted around the island.  I'd recommend taking your own as well though just in case!

I had hoped we might get to see some interesting wildlife whilst we were there.  Sadly though all we got were just a few insects.  However we did get to see a very different Singapore to what I see usually, an interesting and slightly unusual spot (more on that soon in a separate post) and some different views across to Malaysia.  Somewhere (can you believe it) I still haven't been too!

Whilst there I was struck by the thought of what a fun place this would be to come for bike rides in the school holidays.  When I was younger I did ride bikes (alas not well) with friends and I'm sure we'd have loved to have had a place like this on our doorstep to go exploring in.  I really hope then that the island does not get altered too much from how it is presently.

After walking back to the village area on Ubin we were all pretty tired and in need of some refreshment and food.  We'd hoped to eat at the restaurant on the island as it looked good.  However it was lunchtime and incredibly busy with no one looking like they were leaving at any point soon unfortunately.  We walked just a little further towards the jetty and found a place serving drinks so managed to quench our thirst at least.  Instead of waiting to see if we could get a table (we were very hungry) we decided to get the bumboat back to Changi village and eat at the hawker centre there.  We had a great morning but I was so glad when we eventually sat and ate!  We all certainly got our exercise that day.  

Inside the bumboat on the journey back from Pulau Ubin

07 March 2014

An Evening of Jazz at the Singapore International Jazz Festival 2014

Last Sunday evening I attended the final night of the Singapore International Jazz Festival (Sing Jazz) 2014 at Marina Bay Sands.  This was the inaugural festival in Singapore and saw some pretty cool names playing over the four days, including Jamie Cullum and Natalie Cole as well as many emerging talents.  
Sipping on my FIJI Water, the official artesian water for the festival

Fortunately with the dry spell Singapore is currently experiencing there was no need to worry about the weather but it also meant we needed to ensure we kept ourselves well hydrated with the FIJI Water available to purchase.  With a host of free acts performing across the weekend we got there early on the Sunday afternoon to enjoy a drink, some dinner and some of the free entertainment first before heading into the Event Plaza for the main acts.

Backdrop to the festival

The main acts playing on the Sunday included Roberta Gambarini, Roy Hargrove, Gregory Porter and the Earth, Wind & Fire Experience.  All the performers played great sets and got the audience up on their feet and really into the music being played.  The performances were a mix of both singing and instrumental pieces, really upbeat and lots of fun.  Although I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about the performers (with the exception of the Earth, Wind & Fire Experience) prior to the night they were all great.  I particularly enjoyed Roy Hargrove who plays the jazz trumpet and played some really great music.  

In addition we were also in a prime spot to catch the nightly Light and Water Show at Marina Bay Sands something I've not seen before.  I've seen the lasers from Marina Bay Sands but never been in a position to see the water part too.  A nice little extra to our evening.

Stage area

The festival organisers are keen to show that there is an 'important and social development element to Sing Jazz' as well with the proceeds from the festival ticket sales going towards supporting the Foundation for Arts and Social Enterprise in providing funding to develop and promote local jazz talent through a Jazz Academy.  In turn the artists supported now will be expected to nurture the next generation of musicians in a creative 'circle of help'.  The organisers of this year's festival therefore hope to establish an enduring, world-class live music festival here in Singapore bringing together some of the world's best jazz acts and emerging talents, both regional and local.  

Backdrop by night

As I've already mentioned it really was a great night out no matter whether you were an ardent jazz fan or just someone, like me, who enjoys listening to good music of any type.  With the stunning Singapore skyline backdrop, great company and some fabulous jazz music how could we not enjoy ourselves?  I look forward to the festival returning next year.

Stage area by night

This blog post resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to FoodNews PR, FIJI Water and the Singapore International Jazz Festival for the kind invitation.

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