Brewing in Singapore

One man's adventure of brewing beer in Asia.

Monday, March 20, 2006


My sister Suzy and nephew Patrick came to visit this weekend and of course I had to show off Singapore and all its great treasures to see (and food to eat). We did the ubiquitous tourist stops like Chinatown, Little India, the botanical gardens, Orchard (Road, not tower), Bukit Gombak, etc. We had all manner of food; Chinese, Indian, Peranikan, Malay, Thai. But the most memorable thing we did was definitely our trip to Pulau Ubin. For those of you who have been checking in on the singbrewer blog for a while you’ll remember the fantastic dinner I had with my friends Ernest and Muilee on Pulau Ubina few months back. Ever since then I have wanted to return and explore the island a little more. I wanted to do a day trip and really check out the island, so one morning we woke up early and caught a taxi down to the Changi Jetty. We waited for the requisite 12 people to show up (the boat only leaves when it has enough passengers to make the trip worthwhile). About 9:30 or so we loaded onto the Bum boat and made the crossing, arriving at the Ubin Jetty about 30 minutes later. We checked in at the information Kiosk and the ranger told us all about the animals we might expect to see. He said that there had been a sighting of the Pied Horn bill right there in the village just that morning - Check ( We inquired about the elusive proto-chicken (the red jungle fowl - or RJF). Suzy has a student that is doing a research paper on the mitochondrial DNA of the RJF and its dispersement throughout the pacific and we had heard that there might be a few RJF left on Pulau Ubin. The ranger was very nice and showed us where we were most likely to find our quarry. He also told us that when last counted there were about “one thousand over” living on the island. Skeptical of his math we went off to rent bicycles (the primary mode of transportation on Pulau Ubin). We decided to splurge and we got the $5.00 a day bikes (an almost completely indistinguishable upgrade from the $2.00 per day bikes). After some seat adjusting we mounted up and creakily (the bikes not us) off we went. About 10 minutes into the ride we can across the largest monitor lizard I have ever seen. Tongue to tip of the tail it was close to two meters long and took up most of the road. while scrambling to get out my camera I dropped my bike and he/she slithered off into a little creek and then into the culvert under the road. It poked its head out a few times but that was about as much as it cared to, and who could blame it – the temperature was heading towards 33 (90 F). We continued on our way and at the crest of a hill a few minutes later Suzy mentioned (at the same moment I was thinking it) that this was a likely spot for a chicken to hang out. She stopped her bike and there, not 10 meters away, was a male Red Jungle Fowl scratching in the leaves. We dismounted and slowly moved forward - but if you thought domestic chickens moved fast you should have seen this one run. Suzy and I tramped around in the bushes for a few minutes hoping to find a feather for genetic testing but no such luck. When we got back to the road Patrick had wandered a little ways away and as I looked back towards him a huge wild boar rushed across the road between us. My estimate on size was about 110 kg (250 lbs). Apparently for several years now the pigs have been repatriating themselves by swimming across the Straits of Johor to re-establish their home on the island. There are so many of them now that they are offered on the menu at the (only) local restaurant (and taste so ono brah – ho, broke da mouth). We had been told that if we waited in almost any one spot for a while eventually a wild boar(s) would come along, and sure enough – there one was. After trying (unsuccessfully) to photograph the boar we decided to move on. Another 100 meters or so along the way and another RJF ran across the road, and then another. We tried to get a few pictures but the damn wily things just moved to fast. A little later we ran into a French film maker who was studying the Pied HornBill. As he told us all about the RJF and studies that had been done on it, he pointed out the Hornbill sitting in the tree right above us (of which we had been completely unaware). He was a wealth of information and without his assistance we might never have seen a Hornbill. We rode all over the eastern half of the island that day and we saw over three dozed Red Jungle Fowl. But the best photo I managed to get was this small red blur bolting through the forest and my field of vision. Even though there are over a thousand of them on the island we found not a feather (although we did find a feather from one of the only four mating pairs of Hornbills on the island). It was not a great day for science but it was a great day for us. Pulau Ubin is just a great place to go - to get away from the city, to ride a really cheap rent a bike, to explore the forest and to see rare wild life. I look forward to my next visit – and exploring the western half of the island.