Five million people crammed into an area four times smaller than my hometown Dunedin (which has a population of around 120,000). People everywhere, all the time. This place has energy, a stir-fried charm that clings to your skin and makes you feel alive and exhausted at the same time. Every now and again, to stop from exploding, the valve has to be released; you need to escape the city – and a day trip to Pulau Ubin is just the answer.
Pulau Ubin is Singapore in a time-warp. Mangrove swamps meet beaches (sort of) and seafood restaurants; the languid Kampong (village) life sways to a beat far different from the mainland which is only a 10 minute boat ride away. Well, that is true unless you visit on a weekend or public holiday, when the Singaporean masses forego their air-conditioned malls for a taste of nature. The streets are suddenly bursting with bicycles and that same energy you tried to escape ends up stowing away with you. It’s not all bad though, get out of the main town (about 5 bicycle-hire shops and a few restaurants) and it’s easy to find some peace no matter which day you visit.
Bicycles are the main mode of transport on Pulau Ubin and are the perfect way to see the island. It used to be famous for its quarries, which sounds dull, until you see the lakes that have been left behind with their varying shades of blue and green. The roads also take visitors past a Chinese temple (probably the least impressive I’ve ever seen) a viewing platform, a coastal boardwalk and some nice could-be-anywhere-in-Asia countryside. Just when you think you really are somewhere exotic the sound of an airplane overhead brings you down to earth, but this place is pretty special considering Singapore is one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
Pulau Ubin wildlife
While you won’t see tigers or leopards, it is possible to get your wild animal fix. There are a few monkeys, which are always cool to see, and some wild boars. I’ve been twice; the first time I saw a family with some cute spotted boarlets, the second time I think I saw the same ones, but they weren’t so cute – they were rummaging through trash and one seemed to be eating somebody’s bike.
Getting to Pulau Ubin
Changi Village is the gateway to Pulau Ubin but it’s not that well connected to the rest of Singapore. There is no MRT station but a few buses make it there. It’s a 15-20 minute taxi ride from the airport and from Changi Village small boats make the 5-10 minute voyage to the island.
Whether you are a tourist, a local or something in between, a day trip to Pulau Ubin should be edging its way to the top of your Singapore bucket list. Have you been before? Did you expect to see a place like this in Singapore? Let me know!
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