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Rustic charm of a village where bumboats thrive

True to its early beginnings as a kampung, Changi Village has retained some of its rustic charm over the years. Growing up in the Mata Ikan kampung in Changi, retired fisherman and bumboat owner Tan Boon Hee, 69, revels in the proximity of the ocean.
Bumboat owner Tan Boon Hee, 69, making payment after refuelling his bumboat from the tanker, which is anchored beside Pulau Ubin jetty. He will top up fuel when it is half-empty as being stuck in the middle of the sea with no fuel can be dangerous. M
Bumboat owner Tan Boon Hee, 69, making payment after refuelling his bumboat from the tanker, which is anchored beside Pulau Ubin jetty. He will top up fuel when it is half-empty as being stuck in the middle of the sea with no fuel can be dangerous. Mr Tan lived in Changi Village from 1965 to 2005 before moving to Tampines. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Mr Tan preparing to sail out on his bumboat. These hardy craft transport residents and visitors from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin.
Mr Tan preparing to sail out on his bumboat. These hardy craft transport residents and visitors from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Mr Tan drying salted fish from the stash given to him by fishing enthusiasts who charter his boat. He will give the dried salted fish to friends and family.
Mr Tan drying salted fish from the stash given to him by fishing enthusiasts who charter his boat. He will give the dried salted fish to friends and family. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
Mr Tan removing sand from the seabed at the pier so that his bumboat can sail out during low tide. The boat needs a clearance depth of 1.5m to 1.8m.
Mr Tan removing sand from the seabed at the pier so that his bumboat can sail out during low tide. The boat needs a clearance depth of 1.5m to 1.8m. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR
It is berthed at the T-shaped mooring base (above) beside Changi Beach Carpark 1. The mooring base is where fishermen and boat charterers park their vessels.
It is berthed at the T-shaped mooring base (above) beside Changi Beach Carpark 1. The mooring base is where fishermen and boat charterers park their vessels. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

True to its early beginnings as a kampung, Changi Village has retained some of that rustic charm over the years.

The hawker centre there has undergone several revamps in the past two decades but continues to provide cheap popular fare such as nasi lemak in a laid-back atmosphere.

Bumboats are another interesting feature, transporting residents and visitors from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin.

These hardy craft have provided a livelihood on the waters off Changi Village for the weather-beaten boatmen and fishermen.

Retired fisherman and bumboat owner Tan Boon Hee, 69, revels in the proximity of the sea.

He says: "Since I was a young boy, I have lived near the sea.

"I didn't have much of an education, so I started fishing with friends. I made some money and then started my own business catching seafood such as pomfret, crabs and lobsters."

His family relocated from the Mata Ikan kampung in Changi to a low-rise HDB block in Changi Village when land was being cleared to build Changi Airport.

Mr Tan and his family lived in Changi Village from 1965 to 2005, before moving to Tampines.

 

He still heads out to Changi Village whenever people charter his boat for fishing trips.

"I've worked on the sea all my life, never on land. Without the sea, I won't be able to make a living," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2019, with the headline 'Rustic charm of a village where bumboats thrive'. Print Edition | Subscribe