TEN THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT PULAU TEKONG

<Source: Cyberpioneer Magazine Oct 2015>

1. Pulau Tekong first appeared in the Franklin and Jackson's 1828 map as Po. Tukang. Tukang means "merchant" - the island used to serve as a trading station for Pulau Ubin and the state of Johor. Tekong means "an obstacle", and this could have been because the island blocks the mouth of Johor River.

2. Found off Singapore's northeastern coast, Pulau Tekong is actually nearer to Johor than to the Singapore main island.

3. The Pulau Tekong we know today originally comprised two islands. The 24.4 sq km Pulau Tekong, known as Pulau Tekong Besar in Malay, known as Pulau Tekong Besar in Malay, meaning "Big Tekong Island", and the 0.89 sq km Pulau Tekong Kechil, Malay for "Small Tekong Island". Th e two were merged in the mid-1990s.

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4. In the 1940s, the 17th Dogra Regiment and the Sphinx Battery were stationed on Pulau Tekong as part of the Changi Fire Command, a series of gun defences covering a possible Japanese approach from the east during World War II. Their legacy lives on with the Dogra and Sphinx bridges on the island.

5. Historically, Pulau Tekong was occupied by the mainly Malays and a few Teochews and Hakkas, with the population peaking at nearly 8,000 in the 1980s. Most were farmers, fishermen and shop owners selling sundry goods.

6. Today, Pulau Tekong is used exclusively as a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training base, and is home to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC). BMTC consists of two camps - Ladang and Rocky Hill - and 28 companies to train newly conscripted recruits.

7. Though Pulau Tekong is no longer inhabited by civilians, the memory of kampong life lives on as training areas such as Permatang, Selabin, and Sanyongkong were named after the villages that used to be on the island.

8. On 29 May 1990, national servicemen spotted three Asian elephants which had apparantly swum 1.5 km across the Straits of Johor to the island. A joint effort by the Singapore Zoo and Malaysian Wildlife Department eventually recaptured the elephants and they were relocated back to the forests of Johor by 10 Jun.

9. On 18 Mar 2004, Pulau Tekong was the hiding place for one Malaysiana and Two Indonesian armed robbers who fled there from Johor on a morotised boat. After an intensive three-day manhunt by the SAF and Singapore Police Force, all three were caught and charged with illegal entry and poessession of firearms.

10. Pulau Tekong is home to one of Singapore's hot springs. Located in the northern area known as Unum, it features warm water and a boardwalk with a "Pulau Tekong Hot Spring" sign.

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