On the eastern tip of Singapore lies Changi Village, a sleepy enclave that's barely changed since the 1940s, and a treasure trove for lovers of history, nature and sport.
For most visitors to Singapore, Changi Village is merely something they fly over when arriving at Changi Airport. From the airplane they'll probably catch a glimpse of a low-rise collection of old bungalows scattered on the hill-side of hugging the winding shoreline of this eastern tip of the island. The more observant may even spot some of the islands --- Pulau Ubin, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Tekong Kechil, Pulau Serangoon --- natural wildernesses barely touched by the passage of time, or even see some of the floating kelongs that lie just off the Changi coast.
On leaving the plane, almost all visitors head west to the city for their holiday, sadly missing the pleasures of exploring a piece of the island that retains the true flavour of old Singapore, and one that is full of fascinating keys to its history and development.
A still-sleepy village where the concrete high-rise development that has scarred much of Singapore has yet to make any inroads, Changi looks much like it did in the early part of the century when it was the headquarters of the British Army. Colonial bungalows, now holiday homes for government civil servants, line the coast or nestle in the forested hills. Walking or cycling down the leafy lanes, which are fairly vehicle-free, is a joy especially when one discovers stunning buildings like Fairly Point, the former residence of the commander of the British Forces.
During the second World War, Changi became a prisoner of war camp. Thousands were incarcerated at Changi Prison and this period is well-documented in Changi Museum, next door to the prison. Now enjoying happier days, Changi is popular with Singapore escaping from high-rise, high-pressure living who take time out at Changi Beach Park, join in the watersports available at the Changi Sailing Club or rent equipment from local suppliers. A handful of local golf clubs, from the upmarket Tanah Merah to the friendly Changi Golf Club keep golfers entertained. In addition, changi has numerous sport clubs --- some private, some built by companies for their staff --- offering everything from tennis, swimming to football.
Nature lovers flocks to Changi for its wild diversity of birdlife --- some 38 common species can be found in Changi Village alone --- and 25 different trees including the majestic rain trees which line the main street. More adventureous types take the regular bumboat ferries over to Pulau Ubin, thickly covered with virgin rainforest and home to some of Singapore's rarer species of wildlife. Mountain bikes can be hired but it is possible to explore on foot. Camping is allowed on Ubin and some chalets are available for overnight stays. Taxis take visitors to Ubin's two superb seafood restaurants where the chili crab is a treat not to be missed.
Food is one of Changi's other big attractions. Seafood is still prepared in traditional ways at two Chinese restaurants -- one is airconditioned -- and the hawker centre serves a huge variety of Singaporean favourites. Changi Sailing Club is also open to non-members mid-week for lunch and dinner or beach barbecues. Changi's only hotel is Le Meridien Changi, a comparatively low-rise structure that is now a well-established part of the village community. Just five minutes walk from the boat jetty to Pulau Ubin, Le Meridien Changi is perfectly positioned for guests who wish to explore the other side of Singapore. It has 280 charming rooms, a pool, three food and beverage outlets and extensive, newly renovated conference and banqueting facilities. Although only 30 minutes from the centre of Singapore -- and 10 minutes from the airport activities in Changi community includes various activities - Groups can enjoy barbecues on the beach, golf tournaments, excursions to Ubin, dining and tennis at the Changi Country Club (opposite the hotel), watersports at the Changi Sailing Club, and a variety of sports at Singapore Air-line's Sports Club. And with the launch of Ferrylink which sails three times a day from Changi to Tanjung Belungkor in Malaysia, the hotel can organise day or overnight trips to play golf, or just enjoy the beaches around Desaru.
GETTING THERE: Take the MRT to Tanah Merah (E9) and board SBS bus 2.
Changi International Airport
Singapore Airlines in Changi Airport