Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Kusu Island - A Pilgrimage Visit [龟屿进香] @ Singapore

My last visit to this 'holy' island was twenty years ago and when Mom suggested paying it a visit as part of her annual pilgrimage in November 2012, i volunteered to join her! 

In the past, we had to board the boat from the now-defunct Clifford pier. Now, the only way to Kusu Island starts at the far corner of Marina South known as Marina South Pier. 

Compared to the small, unstable boats that used to bring us to Kusu, you would be comforted to know that only ferries are allowed to ply the route. The comfort comes at a higher price though; S$15 for adult and S$12 for a child between 1-12 years old. 

Junk cruise on the sea! My ex company organised a welfare event on a similar vessel (we chartered the whole boat) before; check out here for my post.

Next to Marina South Pier is the new International Cruise Terminal; the construction of the terminal would enable the hosting of bigger cruise ships that are unable to dock at Singapore Cruise Centre (Harbourfront) due to the height limit. 

Adorable Jovyn entertaining passengers in the ferry! 

The tiny island of Kusu [known as Tortoise Island in Hokkien]. Do you know that its original size was only 1.2 hectares but land reclamation in 1975 has increased its area to 8.5 hectares?! 

Spotted the island jetty. Marina South Pier is much nearer to the island than Clifford Pier and this has cut the travelling time from 45 to only 20 minutes.

'Welcome to Kusu Island' - my memory is fuzzy on my last visit but i do remember vomiting all over the pavilion next to the jetty. Motion sickness was an ailment i suffered from young!

Most Singaporeans don't visit Kusu Island and the only exception is during the ninth month of the lunar calendar known simply as the annual Kusu pilgrimage. My mom made it a point to visit whereas most people from my generation could not be bothered to do so. 

Maybe it was the day i went (2nd last day of the 9th lunar month); the visitors number was low and the whole place was not as crowded as i remembered. 

Walkway to the Chinese temple. If you return on a non-pilgrimage month, you might be able to soak in the tranquil peacefulness of the place. 

Wishing well that does not belong to the temple! The island is managed by Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) and all the wishing wells on the island belonged to them; which also means all collection will go into SDC coffers, not the temple (this was mentioned in a journal article "Managing the Tortoise Island: Tua Pek Kong Temple, Pilgrimage, and Social Change in Pulau Kusu, 1965-2007" by Jack Meng-Tat Chia).

For my mom, she prays at the Tua Pek Kong temple for luck, fortune, prosperity and good health for the whole family. 

The above is a clear picture. Should i take the same scene 20 years ago, you are likely to see thick incense smoke engulfing the place! I am not surprised if anyone was hospitalised then due to excessive smoke inhalation! 

Purchase the joss sticks and other basic praying materials for only S$2 a pack! 

I guess the 'smoke' situation has alleviated tremendously because of the pink notice claiming that 24 joss sticks would be sufficient! Some kiasu devotees are known to burn extra joss sticks to increase their "chance" to be heard by the deity. 

Main altar of Tua Pek Kong; a common deity worshiped in Singapore. I am not sure why Tua Pek Kong is the patron deity in this temple as there is a lack of proper document on its history.

An article did indicate that pilgrimage to Kusu started as far back as 1813, well before our "founder", Sir Stamford Raffles, stepped foot on Singapore. 


Buck teeth stone lion in gaudy colours! 



Desire to have a child? Known as the child bearing tree, you are supposed to tie something to its branches. This family in the photograph (with four kids) was not aware and caught the attention of the caretaker who explained the correct purpose. He must be wondering the same thing as me; with 4 kids, we doubt the family wants an addition!

The iconic statue on Kusu Island; the three tortoises! 

They have been around for as long as i could recall and you may confirm it with this old photograph that has my elder sister in it! Joyce should be around 4-5 years old then, meaning this picture was taken over 30 years ago!

A tortoise island must have tortoises! This is one of three enclosures with the biggest at the Tortoise Sanctuary. You may check out my post here

All three enclosures lack the scale of the original location. Notice the big pond in front of the temple? The entire 'water' area was used to house the tortoises! 

Exiting the temple for Jovyn to have her meal. I wonder if there is a real need to have a gate since no visitor is allowed to stay overnight on the island. 

Temporary market set up purely for the pilgrimage. 

Good luck tokens and charms were widely available. Since it was the second last day of the pilgrimage, the stall owners were offering big discounts to clear the stocks.

I was tempted to buy the golden pig as my last one was smashed to pieces by the little brat!! 

Colourful windmill was another temptation! I have to keep reminding myself that i have to save save save and that Jovyn would likely destroy this in mere minutes.

Permanent food centre even though i believe only the structure is permanent. From my understanding, the hawkers only operate during the annual busy pilgrimage, just like the temporary market. 

She was hungry enough to bite through a sweet's wrapper! 

While Jovyn had her food, i ventured up to the holy kramats. Please click here for my blog entry. 

Beach at Kusu Island; honestly, this is way better than the ones on mainland Singapore. I had read somewhere that you can see corals when the tide is low; including sightings of clownfishes!

This is the other beach at Kusu; the one facing the central business district of Singapore. The rock bunds act as boundary and visitors are strongly advised not to swim beyond them. 

Jovyn; the little miss naughty against the nice backdrop of Singapore! 

Gang of Four - should we organise a BBQ session here?!?!!? It is quiet, the view is fantastic and the toilets are a stone's throw away! 

Given the unpredictable weather we have in Singapore, there are also a number of huts to shelter us from the rain! 

Many of us have heard about the legends of Kusu Island; the most famous of which is that a giant turtle has turned itself into the island to rescue survivors of a shipwreck! 

Myths aside, Kusu Island is a quite a boring place with limited activities. However, to get away from the bustle and crowd in mainland Singapore (and even Pulau Ubin), a visit to the tortoise island may not be a bad suggestion.

Please keep in mind there are specific departure timings! 

As a parting shot, here is another old photograph of the temple! This was most likely taken before land reclamation started in 1975! 

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Satellite Map of Kusu Island
As above. 

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