December 2011 Newsletter

The following articles are reproduced from the December 2011 Newsletter to members. Non-members may or may not be able to relate to the contents.

An Excursion to Pulau Ubin

By Jillien Foo

The October rains fell on the morning of 22nd as they have done for many days in the preceding weeks. The ominous clouds relented only ever so slightly so that TS members heading for Pulau Ubin for a visit back to the old, rustic Singapore found themselves boarding the coach amidst light rains and overcast skies. Despite the sun being largely in retreat, it was obvious that spirits were high from the smiles on the faces of the participating members.


Members were mostly punctual, and the coach headed for Changi Jetty in Changi Village at eight or so minutes past two. Along the way, members made sure they enjoyed the journey by singing several songs to entertain themselves. With Bro. Larry Lim and Sis. Lily Chong leading the group, it felt like school all over again as the coach rang with the hearty – as well as the shy – voices of the busload of theosophy students.


At Changi Jetty, the 45 members out of the 48 who had signed up for the trip made the journey to Pulau Ubin in five or so bumboats together with bikers, nature lovers and other visitors to the island. At the jetty on Pulau Ubin, the welcome party for the members included Bro. Ali Ibrahim and Sis. Choi Yook Sau, as well as several accompanying dogs which lumbered about the jetty, true-blue residents that exuded languidness in complete congruence with the laid-back character of the island.


Working with Nparks and stationed on Pulau Ubin, Bro. Ali and Sis. Yook Sau assembled the members at Visitors' Centre, briefed them and divided them into two smaller walking groups before leading them on their tour of the Sensory Trail in the western part of the island.


The Sensory Trail, the brainchild of environmentally-conscious students from the SAVE Club (Students Against Violating the Environment Club) of Singapore American School, is a joint project with the Nature Society of Singapore to develop a trail that would allow the visually handicapped to experience nature at Ubin using their senses of hearing, touch, taste and smell. For the non-visually impaired, the 1.5 km trail allows its participants to experience the rustic landscapes and biodiversity of Ubin through an easygoing walk lasting from 60 to 90 minutes.


Amidst the occasional raindrop, TS members embarked on a sensory experience as Ali and Yook Sau took them through an informative and delightful tour that teased the whole range of their visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory and tactile senses. They touched, tasted, examined and smelled a wide variety of herbs and plants, all to the piercing calls of bulbuls and other resident birds.


As the two groups wound their way through the Herb & Spice garden and beyond to the coastal forest and mangrove habitat, the city folks amongst the members saw the complete plant/tree of many of the fruits and vegetables for which most see only the fruits or its leaves as they are packed for the markets and supermarkets. These included the lemon grass, pandan, citronella, guava, jackfruit, banana, durian, noni, belimbing, tongkat ali, candlenut, cocoa as well as a range of interesting herbs used in cooking and as traditional medicines, e.g. the garlic plant and the toothache plant!


The last leg of the walk included a visit to the house of the last Village Headman of Ubin. Now under the management of Nparks, the house is a one-storey wooden building with a coat of paint in sky blue.


Members in the first group travelled several decades back to an era when houses had walls of wooden panels, bare cement floors, louvre windows, big CRT televisions, foot-powered mechanical sewing machines, wooden couches without cushions, and even charcoal-heated irons! However, members in the second group who enjoyed their tour of the trail at a leisurely pace only got to view the building from beyond the locked gate. Still, the sight of the quaint little house in its idyllic setting on a slope evoked a sense of longing for those of us old enough to remember Singapore as it once was!


More of the old-charm wooden buildings with aluminium roofs that worked up a raucous beat in tropical storms greeted us as ended our walk at Ubin village. Bicycle rental shops, provision shops and eating houses lined both sides of the tarmac road that rounded the loop leading back to the jetty. With some time to spare before the group embarked on the bumboats for the ride back to Singapore, some members chose to enjoy a beverage and the picturesque view of the sea at the nostalgic “town” by the jetty.


By late afternoon, when it was obvious that the overcast sky would deprive the sun of its final glory at sunset, it struck us that the dark clouds and rumbling skies that seemed to follow us had not rained on our parade. Indeed, we had been blessed with beautiful weather that made our walk cool, comfortable so that it felt almost effortless!


Still hungry stomachs had to be placated and the group, after the unexpected delay in the arrival of the coach, headed for Just Greens Vegetarian Restaurant in Joo Chiat Place where the patience the group exhibited in waiting for the coach was to be well-rewarded.


“Sumptuous” and “scrumptious” describe the vegetarian meal that awaited us. Consisting of eight courses, the meal that followed was truly a gastronomical experience! Starting with a cold dish that teased the palate, the meal was altogether very well put together.


The well-chosen, MSG-free dishes offered by the restaurant included double-boiled watercress soup, braised abalone with mushrooms and vegetables, and veal cooked in two different ways - which set a wonderful balance with dishes which featured deep-fried items such as the cereal prawns, pork nuggets, and fried fish slices served with sweet and sour sauce. Dessert, too, was a fusion delight which featured red bean soup topped with sea coconut (I think so! I didn't eat because of my cough!) and ice-cream.


It was a delicious dinner that won the vote of every member! We thank Sis. Nancy Teo for her amazing influence and goodwill as a frequent patron of the restaurant that made the fantastic dinner for the Ubin outing participants possible!


What a way it was to close the day!! The smiles and happy faces of the members told us that the effort was well-appreciated. We regret though to inform those members who requested (in jest, perhaps!) that such dinners be held monthly for TS members that this would be out of the question! The society will continue to devote its efforts to the study and propagation of the ancient wisdom.

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