Pulau Ubin Stories

Stories, old and new, about Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Kampong Pictorial


(l-r) Feasting on the floors of the house. Homemade lontong and tea by our host. Old fashion ice shaver brings back good memories. Found a scarecrow outside the house - perhaps to prevent the garden from being nibbled away? Photo by November. 31 Jul 2005.

Last weekend, visiting Kamariah's house for Cookery Magic's kampong cooking class was surely an eyeopener for me.

The layout of a malay kampong house is often remarked as being very unique and most of all, it can always be lifted up whole and moved elsewhere! I always thought that was a very innovative feature! You would also have noticed that it is on stilts. According to answer.com wikipedia, "a main characteristic of a typical kampung house includes the obvious fact that it is raised on stilts or piles. There are five or six advantages for this: to avoid wild animals, to be above floods, to deter thieves and enemies, for added ventilation from underneath and as a storage area below."


A thriving and beautifully maintained kampong home. Photo by November. 31 Jul 2005.

Another unique feature is the raised verandah attached to the house which is for "seated working or relaxation or where non-intimate visitors would be entertained, thus preserving the privacy of the interior" (wikipedia). It is also rather obvious that where we were seated, it was an area for hosting guests as the family quarters are beyond the room. Also noted in the description of a malay house is that it has "at least two parts: the Main House called Rumah Ibu in honour of the mother (ibu) and the simpler Rumah Dapur or Kitchen Annex - this way if the kitchen catches fire only that part would be damaged, saving the main house" (wikipedia).


(l-r)Several views of the window, from outside and from within. Perhaps the simple pleasures from a relaxing afternoon sees wide smiles from our instructor. A congkak board in our host's home. Photo by November. 31 Jul 2005.

One of the first things that captured my attention when I entered the house is the congkak board (above) by the window. The image of the Congkak (or congklat in bahasa indonesia) often speaks in my mind as being synomynous with the malay kampong lifestyle. Read more about Congkak in Wikipedia.

Still, this must be the shared heritage in Singapore as often people forget that in the past, as perhaps even today, in villages such as on Ubin, there are not many differenciation between ethnicity. Islanders communicate not using english but malay or chinese or its dialects. My grandmother spoke her native dialects, mandarin but also Malay. My mother also mentioned that Malay islanders not only speak with their chinese counterparts in Malay but also in Mandarin! The cross cultural exchanges goes both ways.


Kamariah's uncle's al fresco shop front with its festive disco ball. One of the many cats homed by the Ubin barber. Photo by November. 31 Jul 2005.

Perhaps a good example would be Kamariah's uncle, who would be of my grandmother's generation. He works on the island as the resident barber, probably the only of his kind left. Upon some questioning from my host, she reveals that most of his customers are regulars and they are mostly Chinese! However, at this point in time, he no longer serves new customers but only his long time clients.

Interestingly enough, Kamariah and her sisters and their families only visit the island and the house on weekends, spending weekdays on the mainland and at their respective jobs and school. On the other hand, her uncle commutes daily to the island to work and instead there was no sign of her uncle that weekend. Still, his house is just right in front of theirs! Kamariah reveals that at one point in time, his house was home to 50 cats but ravenous wild boars has reduced the population significantly till certain measures were taken by her uncle to protect his feline house guests.

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If you wish to organize visits to Kamariah's home to experience a true kampong experience, contact Kamariah at:
email: visit_ubin@hotmail.com
mobile: 91006958

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