Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Festival of Lights

The first week of November this year marked the celebration of both Deepavali and Hari Raya on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. In Singapore’s multiethnic community these are both major events, and they are both national holidays.

Deepavali is the Hindu Festival of Light that is believed to dispel darkness and bring illumination into one’s life. The truly remarkable light show on the main street in Singapore’s Little India has the wattage to make sure of that. Deepavali is a time when Hindus remember to thank the gods for happiness, knowledge, peace and prosperity. It is a four day festival that commences with Kartika Shudda Vijiya that marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka. The last day of Deepavali marks the beginning of their new year.

Hari Raya is the Muslim festival that marks the end of the month of Ramadan (the month of daily fasting). The faithful fast from dawn till sunset every day, and in addition to not eating or drinking, Muslims are also forbidden from smoking and having sexual relations. They are expected to avoid lying, breaking promises or cheating during the month of Ramadan as well. The primary purpose of all of this is to remind Muslims of self-control and submitting to the will of Allah.

The obvious up sides to this week were; a lot of happy people, lots to do and festivities to see, and a three day work week. The down side was it set the brewery project back about a week, but what can you do – everybody was having such a good time.

That weekend I was invited out to dinner with my new friend Ernest and his wife Muilee. They wanted to take me to see the last vestiges of a Singapore that once was. Out on the southeastern Island of pulau Ubin, kampong (village) living is still a way of life. Most of the people that live on pulau (or island) Ubin are fishermen, substance farmers or they rent bicycles to the few tourists that happen to find their way over. To help ward off development a large portion of the island has been turned into a nature park, with a keen eye on preserving as much of the rustic ambience of village life as possible. To get to pulau Ubin one has to go to the Changi point jetty where a small (and somewhat rickety) collection of “Bumboats” take turns ferrying people out to the island. The Bumboat captains wait patiently dockside until they have the 12 or more passengers needed, enough to make the 20 minute crossing worth their while.

We arrived late in the afternoon but still had enough time to walk around the main village and see a bit of the kampong life. The center of town had had an old covered stage area for public performances, a temple, a couple of out door eating houses (as they are called), and several bike retail shops. There are houses just out side the main square and a small police post.

After wandering about for a bit we settling in for an excellent dinner that consisted Chili Crab (who I got to meet prior to his being prepared - live tanks are common here, they insure super fresh seafood), Char Kway Teo (fried broad rice noodles in dark sauce with extra stuff), fried rice, an excellent large fried fish, a vegitable whose name I am not familiar (but it looked and tasted like a cross between Bok Choy and young cauliflower), and as an added special treat, we were lucky enough to be able to try some of the local wild boar. And what would dinner have been with out a few beers (cold, fresh Tiger Beer - ummmmm).

The meal was excellent, the surrounding were beautiful, and the company great. Later, standing on the jetty waited for the requisite 12 people needed for the boat ride back to the city, I realized that it was the first time I had seen any stars since leaving NorCal (where in our black little corner of Anderson valley I was nightly awed by the vast multitude). We loaded into the open air boat and started on our way, the stars now bouncing about us as we bumped along. By the time we had reached the other shore they had all disappeared, swallowed up by man made light.


At 5:03 AM, Blogger Zahra said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:19 PM, Blogger ria said...

Thanks for sharing the story about your visit to Ubin.

I've posted a link to your story from the focus ubin website that hopes to highlight ubin as the last unspoilt island in Singapore

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