Coney Island? Isn’t that in New York City?
Formally known as Pulau Serangoon, the 50 ha (size of about 70 football fields) island originally shared its nickname with another island called Pulau Satumu (and reportedly several others), where Raffles Lighthouse is located, as our colonial masters couldn’t seem to make up their minds. Hugging the north-east coast of Singapore facing Pulau Ubin, the island was bought over by the Haw Par brothers in the 1930s, who then proceeded to build a beach villa there. World War II came, and it fell into disrepair, but Indian businessman Ghulam Mahmood swooped in and purchased the place with the intention of turning it into a resort. However, plans to imitate Brooklyn’s world-renowned tourist destination failed spectacularly, and the place was, once again, left to rot. Before it was slated for redevelopment in recent times, Coney Island was a popular destination for activities such as boating, water skiing, fishing, and family picnics.
A sucker for (relatively) unknown places, I first went to explore the island back in April during my stay in Little Texas, but it was sadly closed then. When the MSM confirmed of its re-opening about a week ago, I grabbed my friend Haziq and went forth to visit the place once again.
Getting to Coney Island is quite straightforward. Simply take bus 84 from Punggol Temporary Interchange, alight at Punggol Road End bus stop, and walk for about 15 mins towards the island’s West entrance.
I’ve taken the liberty to note down some Insta-worthy places on the island during my time there. In the following list, I’ll also briefly offer suggestions on how to position yourself, where to place your camera, the optimal angles you should capture from, and some important tips to help make your visit a safer (and more enjoyable) one. For my Singapore friends, I sincerely hope it’ll entice you to make the trip down, and for my international viewers, here’s a look at Singapore’s version of Coney Island. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.
1. Sidewalk @ Beach Area A
There are a total of five mini-beaches on Coney Island, creatively named A, B, C, D, and E. While they look mostly identical to each other, I thought it was a great idea splitting them up instead of combining the beaches into one, long sandy stretch. It feels more intimate and allows island-goers some privacy while admiring the scenery (if any).
Beach Area A stands out because of the sidewalk that takes you around the border of the island. Somewhat reminiscent of the steps alongside the Singapore River at Clarke Quay, it’s the perfect place for you to lepak with your friends and enjoy the windy breeze. Also an ideal location for you to be alone, the fading and almost desaturated sea provides an excellent backdrop (or front-drop) to let your friends know how ‘deep-in-thought’ you are.
2. Lalang Field @ Shelter 2
While there are numerous lalang fields (like, 20?) of various sizes scattered across Coney Island, the one at Shelter 2 is the vast-est and most appealing in my opinion. There are also a number of trees with crooked trunks located at the ‘start’ of the field that makes for an interesting frame. Great news for those travelling alone as well – you can easily place your smartphone or camera on one of the benches and set the self-timer. Be prepared to run fast and get your shoes dirty though, as it’s highly unlikely you can gingerly run to the above position in under 10 seconds (I should know, having tried it at least a dozen times).
The lalangs, however, are quite high, as you can see infer from the picture below (I’m 1.7m). Unless you’re planning a medium close-up or close-up shot, I think the one at Punggol Waterway Park is a more viable option (there seems to be a thing between Punggol and lalang fields…).
3. Canopy @ Shelter 2
Located a few metres from the lalang field is a gorgeous wooden canopy that is practical for just about anything – wedding shoots, jump shots, graduation photos etc. I chanced upon two other canopies while exploring the island, but I chose the feature the one at Shelter 2 as it has the most orgasmic lighting and general ambience. The other two are painfully average, with flat lighting and unflattering foliage surrounding them.
4. S-Curve @ Shelter 2
If you continue down further, you should see this S-curve road. This area is great for ‘wandering’ photos, and I would suggest donning a suitable color palette (white tee, brown backpack, and matching pants and shoes) to complement the shot.
The Broadwalk offers more of a reservoir-sque (MacRitchie, Lower Pierce etc.) setting, with different types of trees girdling around a 100m-long wooden platform. It’ll make for an interesting profile picture against such a dense backdrop, or you can choose to be like me and look up for an immersive wide shot.
6. Sanctuary @ Beach Area E
At the end of the Broadwalk, you should come across this zen-looking area. Get one of your friends to snap you standing at the guy’s location, then throw on a high-contrast black-and-white filter afterwards to make it look real deep. Pair it with a pretentious quote for added effect.
Limbo feels anyone?
The Broadwalk also leads us to our next destination…
7. Bike Trail @ Beach Area E
The trees in this area are extremely tall and relatively dense, which makes for an excellent portrait shot. It also lends you some perspective on how small and insignificant we are when compared to the world around us. Make sure to go for a low-angle shot to fully capture the vibe of the location. It’s not a sight you get to see everyday.
Bonus: Silent Hill Road @ OTW to Broadwalk
This particular stretch of road the haziest part of the entire island, which was why I coined it “Silent Hill Road”. Contrary to what you might expect, the effects of the haze isn’t quite visible when you’re on Coney Island itself. Sure, the backgrounds in your pictures might end up a little fuzzy, but the island looks (almost) perfectly fine when viewing through your naked eyes. However, this open area is so hazy that my camera has trouble auto-focusing. I’ve edited the featured photo extensively, but you can see from the lack of clarity and details that the haze is really problematic. What I like about this path, though, is how it’s usually deserted (save for the odd cycling gang), and the towering trees provide a nice symmetry for one to exercise their creative juices.
Bonus #2: Funky Droopy Tree @ 600m from Restroom
If anyone knows the name of this plant, please let me know. Till then, this is called the Funky Droopy Tree, and it can be located about 600m away from the washrooms. It’s quite easy to locate this conspicuous specimen – on your right if you’re walking to the toilets; on the left if you’re returning from it. There are also a couple more photo opportunities if you trek further in around the area.
There are way more Insta-worthy spots than what’s listed above, but I’d rather let ya’ll explore and find them out on your own. The entire place is unbelievably photogenic, and, quite frankly, doesn’t resemble Singapore in the slightest bit. Left nearly untouched for the longest time possible, Coney Island’s rustic setting allows for images that don’t look like they were taken in Singapore. Look up, bend down and cover your sides – a photo opportunity will inevitably present itself. I’ve given you a list of locations, along with pictures of how your shot could possibly turn out. Hopefully, this will save you guys some time, and help you mightily with sprucing up your social media feeds.
On a sidenote, I find it ironic how our government had been spending billions of dollars building shiny new tourist attractions, when all they had to do was look in their own backyard. Coney Island is the real McCoy and an absolute gem, with sights you won’t get to enjoy on mainland Singapore. It was a great experience trudging through one of Singapore’s best kept secrets, and I can’t wait to discover more when I revisit in the near future.
Things to take note:
- There is only one toilet (a self-sustained one, how cool is that?) on the entire island, and you have to walk over 2.5km under the sweltering heat to get there. The water’s non-potable as well, so you’re basically screwed if you don’t stock up on enough water before passing the gates.
- There is an abundance of insects, including mosquitoes, sand flies (oh god), and leeches. Please ensure you marinate yourself with insect repellent before entering. Don’t complain, because
70% of ya’ll voted for itwe’re technically invading their homes.
- You might encounter animals such as lizards, wild boars, and even a Brahman bull which, against common logic, somehow ended up on this island. Please follow the warnings on the signboards and do not approach them. Exercise not only your body, but common sense as well.
- The monkeys turn fairly violent if they see you with a plastic bag or backpack. They ‘hunt’ in groups of 4 or 5, so again, do not approach them.
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