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  Straits Times 8 Oct 07
Kusu spiffs up ahead of annual pilgrimage
Food court set up; Taoist temple and Malay shrine ready for visitors
By Lim Wei Chean

THE annual buzz at Kusu Island - spring cleaning and repainting - has started anew, and the food court is taking shape again.

Starting this Thursday, thousands will make trips to the island to pray for good luck, prosperity and fertility, during the Chinese lunar ninth month.

Last year, 95,000 visitors thronged Kusu Island during the pilgrimage season.

Kusu's residents have been busy since last week.

Mr Hussain Hashim, caretaker of the island's keramat (a Malay shrine), organised an annual spring cleaning.

He told The Straits Times: 'We want to make it all nice and clean so visitors can come and see how beautiful it is.'

Aged 60 but still youthful-looking, Mr Hussain has roped in over 50 members of his extended family from the mainland to spruce up the shrine, which gets a stream of visitors from the various religious groups.

When The Straits Times visited the shrine last Wednesday, family members were hammering nails into the floor boards, to ensure that there would be no loose planks.

Others were armed with paint brushes and pots of bright yellow paint. Bales of carpet were piled in a corner waiting to be replaced.

Four female relatives were specially tasked with the cooking, using fresh ingredients from the mainland.

Mr Hussain's wife, Madam Jamaliah Ibrahim, 45, said it was a good time for the family to gather too.

Meanwhile, at the foot of the knoll where the keramat sits, a makeshift food court was taking shape. Supervisor Lim Kian Chuan, 41, was keeping a watchful eye, as workers put up the canopy.

More than 10 stalls will open for business during the pilgrimage month, to ensure that visitors do not go hungry or thirsty.

On days outside the pilgrimage month, visitors to the island will have to bring their own food and snacks.

Mr Lim, who has been in charge of putting up the temporary food court for the past six years, said it takes two to three days to finish the work.

To feed his workers, Mr Lim made special arrangements to buy food from the caretaker of the island's Tua Pek Kong temple, which is dedicated to the Taoist god of prosperity.

Madam Teo Suat Hoon, 61, the caretaker's wife, said the temple is ready for visitors, including the early ones who are expected to turn up on Wednesday night.

These devotees charter their own boat to get to the temple before midnight, in a bid to be among the first to pray.

It is believed that the first to put the joss sticks at the altar will be the luckiest.

50-cent discount for early bookings

From Thursday until Nov 9, the first ferry bound for Kusu Island will depart from Marina South Pier at 7am and last ferry will leave Kusu Island at 7pm. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $7.50 for children between Mondays and Fridays. On weekends and public holidays, tickets are $13.50 for adults and $8.50 for children. Those who book in advance get a 50-cent discount. For enquiries call the Sentosa hotline 1800-736-8672.

Transport to Marina South Pier

From MPA PORT MARINE NOTICE NO. 137 of 2007

During this period, some 100,000 devotees and visitors are expected to make their way to MSP to take part in the pilgrimage. Hence, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), in co-operation with relevant agencies, will be implementing additional measures to ensure a smooth flow of vehicle and passenger traffic to and from MSP, throughout the pilgrimage season.

These include:

Increased Frequency of SBS Transit Bus Service 402 The frequency of SBS Transit Bus Service 402, which plies between MSP and Apex Tower at Anson Road (via Marina Bay MRT Station), will be increased during the Kusu Pilgrimage Season to accommodate the enlarged passenger volume.

Free Shuttle Bus Service The MPA will be engaging a private operator to provide a free shuttle bus service plying between Car Park B at Marina South and MSP. The free service is provided on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays during the Kusu Pilgrimage season from 6 am to 7.30 pm.

Road Closure To facilitate traffic movement, Marina Coastal Drive, which leads right up to MSP, will be closed to traffic (except authorized vehicles) from 6am to 3pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays during the Kusu Pilgrimage Season. The public is advised to park at Car Park B and transfer to the free shuttle service to MSP during these road closure times.

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