Thursday, May 14, 2015

Pulau Ubin, Singapore

I didn’t know my skin could talk until I heard it screaming at me one day. After a week being ultra-urbanized in Singapore, I must have bathed my hide thoroughly with carbon dioxide, monoxide and matters of such. Seabreeze, it demanded. After hearing its plea, my boyfriend brought a map of Pulau Ubin back from work. I clapped excitedly like a teenager receiving a creditcard. And, off we went to Pulau Ubin that Saturday.

Pulau Ubin means granite island in Malay, situated at the north east of Singapore
How we got there
·           Our journey started from Jurong East MRT station directly to Tanah Merah station using the Green Line. The journey took approximately 30 minutes.
·           After alighting at Tanah Merah station, we took exit B which led us to the bus stop for bus number 2 to Changi Village which is the last stop of the route.
·           We searched for Changi Village Hawker Stall and walked a little to reach Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
·           We followed the sign to Pulau Ubin and queued for our bumboat ride which costs 2.50 SGD per person per ride to the island. On the way, we saw people equipped with bicycles. An extra 2.00 SGD was collected for every bicycle. The whole journey took approximately one hour.

Changi Point Ferry Terminal
The bumboat ride was a prelude for what was in store. The fisherman’s boat that seated 12 equally excited people offered a 15-minute joy ride across the Straights of Johor. Some were seen infusing themselves with sunblock, some started assembling cameras and some, like my boyfriend, whipped out their sunnies to embrace the adventure. We were sprayed with a salty scent of the sea before arriving at the jetty like how a perfume prepares the mood before a candlelight dinner.

Enjoying the scent of the sea
When we arrived, a massive sight of metal welcomed us. There were tangles of bicycles that could outnumber the ones in Amsterdam parked along the entrance of the main road. There was not much thought needed on what to do next. We followed one of the friendly bicycle vendors and immediately rented our vehicle for 6.00 SGD per day. Cycling is the most popular mode of transportation on the island.

Pulau Ubin is a bicycle land
Armed with a brief pre-trip homework, we headed to Chek Jawa Wetlands first. Chek Jawa is a little cape and located at the east of the island. At last, it was neither cobblestones nor tar- the terrain was raw laterite with stones! The terrain was steep downwards. There were signs that constantly encouraged us to dismount bike and push. As we rode deeper into the island, there was no escape from fresh air and sights of vegetation. It was green everywhere. We were often surrounded by peace orchestrated by chirping crickets. Only occasionally, silence was broken by the blurting of human conversation and the sounds of dustbins opening and closing. Which in a good way, indicated that visitors were observing cleanliness on the island.
Lush greenary
Cycling in Pulau Ubin
In our mission to hunt for nature, we stumbled upon a pleasant surprise! A family of wild boars decided to make their presence felt as we rode to the entrance of the Chek Jawa Wetlands. Being lack of such organic sights, I immediately dismounted my bike and took pictures of them. The piglets were exceptionally cute which made me consider one as my next pet.

Wild boars making their presence felt
Pulau Ubin took us away from the thoughts of the daily humdrum. There were sights of an abandoned granite quarry so serene despite its danger. Monkeys teased us as we rode by their district and oxygen continued to comb our hair. However, one thing that was also in nature’s package was the heat from the sun. I won’t deny that we had a total body workout that day, having to add bicycle weight to our own at slopes. The sun may turn our skins a shade darker but the activity definitely made our butts a little tighter. Cans of isotonic drinks were consumed. Luckily there were huts set up for rests. Along the way also were quaint drink stalls that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The rusticity of the drink stalls were inviting and satisfied the trademark feeling of ‘kampung’ life. We chose a stall to quench our thirst and snack on junk food which makes the adventure all the more fun. We continued cycling till we reached the other end of the island which took approximately 2 hours before we retired and returned to the vicinity of the public jetty.

An old quarry
Quaint drink stall
Taking a breather with soft drinks and junk food
After returning our bicycles, we decided to reward ourselves with some fresh seafood from the island. At the public jetty, there were seafood restaurants .We chose seafood fried rice, fragrant stir-fried prawns with garlic and fresh steamed fish which totaled to a decent price of 38 SGD. We had a weekend away from the city and our stress nursed by Mother-nature. Pulau Ubin is a good choice for a weekend getaway for those who find going to the movies too mainstream. In my humble opinion, it is a great venue for team-building to connect and mend ties.

By sunset, we made our way back to the city-state in the air-conditioned MRT.

9th May 2015, Saturday