Exploring: Pulau Ubin

If there’s any place to get away from the concrete jungle that is Singapore, Pulau Ubin is the place to be, and this is exactly what we did this past weekend. Of course my camera decides to konk out the minute we reached the island (I had checked the batteries to be full in the morning, but by the afternoon there wasn’t enough juice to take one photo. Perhaps turning off the camera is a good idea too), so all that remains are iPhone pictures.

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We took bumboats from the Changi Ferry Terminal (accessible by bus 29 from Tampines MRT station) which cost S$2.50 per ride. The boat ride was an adventure itself: boats left at the operators discretion, so there was no set schedule. If there weren’t enough passengers, you could always buy out the entire boat? Lucky for us, we barely waited 5 minutes before boarding; no tickets were issued and payment was collected on the boat. The boat ride wasn’t longer than 10 minutes.

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It seems tenacious property developers have not reached Pulau Ubin (thankfully) and what we found were remnants of kampung livin’ in Singapore. The island is peppered with old-style kampung homes surrounded by nature, a picture of a quieter and idyllic life before the all the hustlin’ and bustlin’. Apparently, weekends are a busy time on the island, but it wasn’t overly populated with nature-seeking city dwellers on this occasion. Cycling is probably the most favoured activity on the island, and there are a number of trails to choose from. Bike rentals are available everywhere and this is clear the minute you get off the boat. We paid S$20 in total for 2 cruisers and 1 mountain bike.

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We ran into a wild boar (which was pretty scary, it may have been only 10 feet away from us) on a narrow path to Chek Jawa Wetlands, but there were some local dogs who tried to keep the boar at bay. We also spotted some monkeys hanging out in the trees. No bikes were allowed in the wetlands, so a lock would have been useful, but we made like other bike renters and left our bikes with crossed fingers to walk along the wetlands boardwalk. The mangrove loop was part of the route and we caught a few glimpses of mud crustaceans. Since the recent lack of rains, the water levels were probably lower than usual and several plants looked dried up, much like the rest of the city plants. On the path, the Jejawi Tower is 21 meters high, and once you make it through the endless flight of stairs, is a breathtakingly gorgeous panoramic view of the greenery.

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The boardwalk included a Trash Loop. And what views! Eye-catching sights such as the great red plastic chair, the plastic bottle army and flying bags amongst other things. Our mangrove walk was accompanied by music, via styrofoam stuck along roots. Trash littering parts of such a beautiful place was sad to see: a reminder that taking care of the environment is everyone’s job!

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When our legs felt like jello from an excess of uphills, we ended our day with cold Tigers at one of the eateries before journeying home. Despite Singapore having a good amount of green lining the city, being at Ubin was different. It was refreshing to unplug and escape to all the flora, fauna and wild things running around. I will be back; next time with a camera full of charged batteries!

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