North of Singapore Island was Pulau Ubin Island on the eastern end of Johore Strait. In 1824 Crawford claimed it as British territory. Rubber tapping ceased in the 1980s and granite was quarried until 1999. By the 1990s fewer than 200 people lived on the island, and only one house held a resemblance of the earlier presence of the British.
By this time, some of the island was declared a national park, which made it an ideal place to escape from busy downtown Singapore. I headed over by bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to the Main Village, which was nothing more than one street of restaurants and bicycles renting stores.
When I’d arrived at the pier, an otter feasted on a fish. Behind the sea creature was my favourite kampong on stilts built over the water. In fact, the island was home to Singapore’s last kampongs. Durian Kampong was the largest with around ten houses. A few others lay by trails, like the kampong that once belonged to the headman of the village, and Teck Seng’s house, where three generations had once lived. The family resettled on mainland Singapore when poultry farming on the island was phased out, and the house was turned into a demonstration Chinese kampong. It was only open on weekends and holidays so I missed a chance to see inside, but it didn’t matter. There were better rewards when I hiked through the jungle.