Singapore has a few islands and one of them is the southern island of Kusu. It’s name means Tortoise Island or Turtle Island in Chinese, named after the myth of a giant magical tortoise that saved some Malay and Chinese sailors from a shipwreck. Since I’m not good at re-telling history, I’ll copy and paste the island’s myth and the descriptions of the temples and shrines from http://www.wildsingapore.com/places/kusu.htm:
Legends of Kusu
Many legends surround the island, most referring to a
magical giant turtle turning itself into an island to save two shipwrecked
sailors – a Malay and a Chinese. It is said the grateful sailors returned to the
island to give thanks and others continued the tradition.
Before Kusu was reclaimed, some people say it looked like a turtle. Made up of two ridges on
a reef, one ridge the head, and the other (where the hilltop is now) the back of
Kusu, however, has since been reclaimed into an 8.5ha
holiday resort. There are now three Malay shrines or “kramats” and a Chinese
temple on Kusu Island. Nearby, the Tortoise Sanctuary houses hundreds of
It was a last minute decision for me to join my 2 LZB sisters (Irene and Lina), Irene’s husband and daughter, our sister-in-law and her 2-year-old daughter on this trip. They wanted to go there to pray for the well-being of their families and asked me to join them. I thought it was a good opportunity to get some pictures of the island for the blog so off I went with them on Saturday morning.
Hubby dropped us off at Marina Cruise Centre where we took the shuttle bus to Marina South Pier. It was raining very heavily then and we worried that the water would be choppy. The ferry ride would take us about 30 minutes to reach Kusu, which is only 5.6km from the main island of Singapore.
Since it is the pilgrimage month (9th month of the lunar calendar), there are many volunteers around to render help to people going to the island by directing them to ticketing booths to get ferry tickets (S$16 for adults), and helping passengers to board the ferry. Chairs were set up in the waiting area of the pier and it wasn’t as crowded as we expected it to be. Anyway, we decided to visit the Maritime Port Gallery on the second level of the pier building to wait out the rain.
– Some statistics about our ports
– The stuff we import
– Little niece trying her hand at steering a ship
– Ship Ahoy!
– Twisted in a knot…or two
The ride to the island was uneventful despite the light drizzle which miraculously stopped when we got to the island.
– The jetty at mainland
– The jetty at Kusu Island
– Welcome to Kusu Island!
– The Chinese Temple
– Food centre with only a few stalls open
The first thing we did was to find a table at the food centre so that little niece can have her lunch. Strangely not many stalls were open even though the island is only active during this time of the year and only for one month. That should’ve attracted hawkers to go there and earn some quick bucks for the period by setting up stalls but that wasn’t the case. Many stalls were left empty.
While I stayed with my sister-in-law as she fed her child with porridge brought from home, the others trekked up the 152 steps to the kramats (shrines) to pray. It was a big mistake feeding my niece so soon upon disembarkation because she threw up. Guess she was affected by the boat ride which caused her to feel queasy. So aunty me had to find some empty bottles to fill with water to wash away the mess on the floor of the food centre. Despite that little mishap, she did eventually finish her porridge and we had our lunch.
When the other group came back down it was me and Sis-in-law’s turn to trek up the steps to take a look at the shrines up there. I had only been to the island once before and I never prayed up there and not even this time. My mission was to take pictures for this blog 🙂
– The trek up to the kramats begins here…
Part of the stone wall was painted yellow and as you can see in the picture below, people wrote numbers on it hoping that the gods will make their numbers lucky and let them strike lottery. Yes, we Chinese are a bunch of gamblers who would gamble on almost anything and in Singapore, lottery is big business, with the government running the lottery board and regulating gambling.
Not everyone who went up there to pray are praying for wealth. Some, like Irene, bring their children there to pray for good health and good exams results. Others pray for the well-being of loved ones. The devotees will be given a yellow ribbon to tie on the wrist. I suppose that acts like sort of a charm. There’s a saying that if you’ve prayed at Kusu Island, you must return to pray for three years consecutively.
– Yellow stone wall with ‘lucky’ numbers scribbled on it.
– One of the 3 shrines
– Plants decorated with strips of ribbons that contain wishes of the devotees.
– The ‘altar’ at the yellow stone wall. Put a token sum of money in the yellow box, light some joss sticks and pray for good luck.
– Heading back down from the other side of the hill.
This time around I did pray at the Chinese Temple, Da Ba Gong Temple (or Temple of the Merchant God) for the wellness of my family. The temple houses 2 main deities, the Da Bo Gong (the Merchant God) and Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). The former is highly regarded as having the power to confer prosperity, cure diseases, calm the sea and avert danger, while Guan Yin is known as the ‘giver of sons’. (source: Wikipedia)
– Tortoise sculptures outside the Chinese Temple
– What’s Kusu Island without the tortoises?
– The temple ground
– The temple
– Giant tortoise sculpture to commemorate the legendary tortoise that saved the lives of 2 sailors (niece wasn’t happy, can you tell?)
– The pristine beaches of the island is part of its attraction. You can see the mainland in the backdrop.
– Wishing Well…throw a coin at one of the bells in the middle of the lotus and make a wish. Mine didn’t come true 😦
– The ferry that took us back to mainland.
– Lina with the windmill toy I bought for niece who upon arriving back at mainland, fell into a slumber.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip to one of our southern island 🙂