Located at the mangrove area between Yishun Ave 1 (or commonly known as Yishun dam) and Pulau Punggol Barat, Seletar Fishing Village is probably one of the last places in Singapore where you can find local fishermen making a living by the sea.
There are several huts located along the shore, and each has its own wooden boardwalk stretched into the open waters. The fishing village is said to be owned by an old fisherman who used to live nearby at Pulau Punggol Barat, but his former village ceased to exist due to the development and building of roads to the island.
Long before Sir Stamford Raffles landed on Singapore, there were native aboriginal coastal dwellers living at the mangroves areas at the mouth of the former Seletar River (now Lower Seletar Reservoir). The natives were known as orang laut, and ones living at Seletar were called orang seletar. When Singapore was part of Malaya, these orang seletar roamed freely in the Johor Straits, between Pulau Seletar and the southern coast of Johor. When Seletar became inhabited by other locals, orang seletar were shifted to Sungai Pulai of southwest Johor by Sultan Abu Bakar.
Most of the fishermen, a mixture of Chinese and Malay, at Seletar fishing village do not actually live there. The little kampong-styled huts are more like a working place for them, where fishing nets, buckets and fuels for the boats are stored. Nevertheless, many are attracted by the rustic and rural feel of this place, where they can also buy fresh seafood from the fishermen at affordable prices.
One of the fishing spots at Seletar fishing village is named by one of the Malay fishermen as Jenal Jetty, which becomes more famous than its original name.
The conditions of the fishing village may not be ideal for a city dweller though. The wooden boardwalks, and some huts, are built on stilts on the swampy lands infested by mosquitoes and filled with garbage and animal carcasses.
Here is an interesting video clip of Seletar fishing village (Mandarin):
With plans to expand the connectivity between Yishun and the new Seletar Aerospace Park by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Yishun dam is expected to be developed into a dual-lanes road by 2015 to cater for heavier traffic.
In the nineties, Yishun dam was one of the check points of the route marches planned for the recruits at Nee Soon Camp. Today, it is a popular hangout for car enthusiasts, cycling groups, lovers and families having a break from the busy city life. It is not uncommon to see cars of the same model having gatherings here at nights during the weekends.
With the roadworks to expand the lanes, the peaceful ambience of Yishun dam will definitely be disrupted, but it remains unclear whether Singapore’s last fishing village will be affected by the rapid changes at Seletar.
Published: 11 March 2011