Singapore Islands - St. John's
Raffles Was Here. So Were The Opium Addicts.
Singapore Islands have their own little secrets, don't they?
St. John's probably has the biggest. Let's go back in time for a moment, though.
Palm Tree Graffitti - Raffles Was Here
I told you about the Raffles landing site on the river, right across from the CBD, right?
Well, I lied.
Do forgive me - it's a little bit like Columbus landing in the Carribean and 'discovering' America, I guess.
This island is where Raffles actually set foot first when he came to these waters and wanted to 'check the scene'.
It was also here that he placed a guy to signal the traders in the area that the new port of Singapore had opened for business and was free of taxes.
St. John's is part of the Southern Islands - those Singapore islands accessible via the Marina South Pier boat tours.
And like those other Singapore islands I spoke about already, it ain't the biggest or the most beautiful, but is probably the most interesting.
Secret Numero Uno: Cholera, Convicts, Camp
Now in all honesty: you can spend a whole day here, but I wouldn't advise it.
A few hours will give you plenty of time to see it all, including neighboring Lazarus island, reachable by the causeway.
Lazarus island is another of those Singapore islands being prepped as the next big thing in exclusive waterfront living for the millionaire in the making, so go now to still catch a little bit of the 'old charm'.
Back to St. Johns: the first thing you see when you arrive is the barbed wire all over.
Barbed wire? yep.
This whole island is a former detention center, and a detention -center-in-waiting for the next national emergency in Singapore. As such, the buildings are all enclosed in high fences, barbed wire and even watch towers.
That is spooky, to say the least. Behind you the looming tower and searchlight, in front the barbed wire and view of the skyline of a modern Asian city.
My favorite icon on this island: the basketball court. Don't shoot too high! That ball may just get spiked.
The buildings that you see all around used to house sick people. Lots of them. Cholera, leprosy, beri-beri, the who's who of diseases. Don't touch anything!
Later on, it was the opium and other drug addicts who were kept here to be made clean, and still later, political detainees to be made clean.
The irony of it all - sit behind bars on an island and watch the city move on without you.
Today, you can rent out cottages and dormitories from the 'resort' - although why you would want to spend the night behind fences and bars beats me.
Secret Numero Dos: Evil Fish Scientists?
All that being said, there is a swimming lagoon with a few picnic sites, which is actually not too bad to wait for the next ferry.
If you go along the mangroves and cross the causeway to Lazarus island, head through the trees on the right and you will reach a very nice beach - almost wild looking - where you can spend some time swimming.
Beware the rubbish yet again - that scourge of Asia.
Back on St John's: the path uphill - it's the only one - takes you to the marine research center where government scientists experiment with fish farming.
It's all pretty innocuous except for the signs warning visitors away under dire consequences.....hmm, what ever might they be breeding here?
That same path goes through a small valley filled with very senatorial trees. Check the crowns for eagles and have a look out at the sparkling waters and the distant islands of Indonesia.
If you are into wildlife, you can actually find monitor lizards, starfish, anemones,snails, crabs, prawns, fishes, etc. if you look hard enough around the rocks and kelp.
amazed at what you can find here.
Oh: turn off your cell phone - that signal just may be from IndoTel and cost you some bucks in roaming fees.
Here is the somewhat primitive
Singapore Islands - St. John's map
to orient you.
Hmm - did I just see a fish with feet????
Lets go see more of Sinagpore!