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Surrounding Islands

Kusu & St. John's Islands

Kusu Island and St. John's Island are both located to the south of Singapore proper, about a 15- to 20-minute ferry ride to Kusu from the World Trade Center, 25 to 30 minutes to St. John's.

Life and Culture

Its name meaning "Tortoise Island" in Chinese, there are many popular legends about how Kusu Island came to be. The most popular ones involve shipwrecked people, either fishermen or monks, who were rescued when a tortoise turned himself into an island. Kusu Island was originally two small islands and a reef, but in 1975, reclaimed land turned it into a (very) small getaway island. There are two places of worship: a Chinese temple and a Malay shrine. The Chinese temple becomes a zoo during "Kusu Season" in October, when thousands of Chinese devotees flock here to pray for health, prosperity, and luck. There are two swimming lagoons (the one to the north has a really beautiful view of Singapore Island), picnic facilities, toilets, and public telephones.

Historically speaking, St. John's Island is an unlikely place for a day trip. As far back as 1874, this place was a quarantine for Chinese immigrants sick with cholera; in the 1950s, it became a deportation holding center for Chinese Mafia thugs; and later it was a rehab center for opium addicts. Today you'll find a mosque, holiday camps, three lagoons, bungalows, a cafeteria, a huge playing field, and basketball. It's much larger than Kusu Island, but not large enough to fill a whole day of sightseeing. Toilets and public phones are available.

Ferries leave at regular intervals and make a circular route, landing on both islands. Tickets are available from the desk at the back of the World Trade Center. Adult tickets are S$6.20 (US$3.90) and tickets for children under 12 are S$3.10 (US$1.95). During "Kusu Season"--the month of October--thousands of people make their way to Kusu Island to pray in the temple there, and during this month the ferry departs from Clifford Pier. To get to the World Trade Center, take MRT to Tanjong Pagar, then SBS nos. 10, 97, 100, or 131. For Clifford Pier, take the MRT to Raffles and walk through Change Alley. A small tip: There's a Cold Storage in the World Trade Center where you can pick up water and provisions for the trip.

Sisters Island

Sisters Island, just to the west of St. John's, is not visited as regularly as the other islands because no regular ferry service has operations there. However, at Clifford Pier you can hire one of the water taxis--the bumboats hired by ships in the harbor for cargo and crew shuttles--to take you there. The taxi dispatchers are on the ground level, lined up with tables, folding chairs, and CB radios. Feel free to bargain, but the trip will probably cost you around S$50 (US$31.50). People go to Sisters Island to swim. Sisters is also a popular destination for divers, who hire boats and come for advanced scuba outings.

Pulau Ubin

Located off the northeast tip of Singapore, Pulau Ubin has industry (mining), some Malay kampungs, and trails throughout the island for hiking and mountain biking (rentals are available at the ferry pier). You can eat fresh seafood at a few restaurants, and there are public toilets. Rumor has it that during the Occupation, the Japanese brought soldiers here to be tortured, and so some believe the place is haunted.

To get there, take SBS no. 2 to Changi Village. Walk past the food court down to the water and find the ferry. There is no ticket booth, so you should just approach the captain and buy your ticket from him--it will cost you about S$1.50 (US95'). The boats leave regularly, with the last one returning from the island at 9.00 p.m.

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Sentosa Islands in Singapore
Landmarks and Historic Sites in Singapore
Orchard Road - Singapore's Premier Shopping Area

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