PULAU UBIN

Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Pulau Ubin is an island located in the North-East area of Singapore with an estimated population of thirty-eight people and a total area of 1,020-hectare. The official National Parks website which ‘Pulau Ubin’ is part of, describes the island as a ‘journey back in time’ where you´re able to observe Singapore last villages or ‘Kampong’. I’m not entirely sure how accurate this is, what I do know is that Pulau Ubin offers something that no other part of Singapore does.

I arrived at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal very early, just in time for the first boat of the day. Departures are based on the number of people present, there is no official time-table. The boat leaves when it has 12 people. A ticket costs three Singapore dollars one way, if there isn’t enough people you have the option of paying for the remaining seats.

 

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There aren’t many options available once you arrive at the island – either you walk or you rent a bike. The second option is the most obvious one. Just after the disembarking port you will find half a dozen rental stores with different types of bicycles. The rental process is very simple, no documents or signatures needed, only cash and off you go. Before you decide to go, just do a quick ‘pre-trip’ inspection of your bicycle. It can make all the difference. Unfortunately I skipped the inspection and took a bicycle with the most uncomfortable seat that I can remember. The scenery did however made my lower back pains, worth it. Beautiful light, the most enjoyable bird singing and a real sense of proximity with nature.

 

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Chek Jawa is probably one of the highlights of Pulau Ubin. It’s a preserved area with rich biodiversity. You have to hike since cycling is not allowed in this part of the island. But the hiking can be quite pleasant due to the constant scenery change –  dense coastal forest, mangroves,  coral rubble and sandy beach can all be seen during the hour and a half hike.

 

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Just before I went back to the Jetty point I stopped at the The Wei Tuo Fa Gong Temple. It looks more like a small farm converted into a Worship place. Its full of buddhist and chinese paraphernalia and around five people doing some sort maintenance. There are also two ponds filled with turtles and huge lizards (Water monitor lizards, I think).

The temple itself is somehow underwhelming with some garbage lying around, especially near the pounds, and has a ‘bizarre’ atmosphere. At least when I visited on an early Tuesday morning.

 

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I left Pulau Ubin just around lunch time after seven hours of cycling and hiking. If you want to visit Pulau Ubin keep in mind that this is, above everything else, a natural park destination and not exactly a sample of the old Singapore. As a natural park it can be exciting (and challenging) but as cultural destination a little bit underwhelming.

Some final tips:

. Bring your mosquito patch, in fact bring all the mosquito repellent you can find.

. Test your bicycle before you pay for it.

. Bring snacks and water. During the week most of the road food stalls are closed.

. Bring a light rain jacket. I was lucky (or not) to visit the island on a sunny day.

. Use sunscreen and a hat

. Bring cash. Not sure if there is any ATM available.

 

 

Pulau Ubin Singapore

Arriving at Changi Point Ferry Station

 


Fujifilm X-T2

Fujinon 35mm F2


 

光明山 (Bright Hill)

Bishan, Singapore

This week I went to visit a place that is rather unknown to a lot of people in Singapore, the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (KMSPKS). Located in the North-East region, the KMSPKS is the largest Buddhist Monastery in the Lion City. It covers more than seventy-four thousand square meters, the equivalent of almost eleven football pitches!

It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t come up in most of the city guides especially because of its size and characteristics. Just as an example, I opened the two touristic guides that I have at home about Singapore – a Rough Guide from 2016 and a Lonely Planet from 2013 – and none of them make any reference to KMSPKS Monastery.

The fact that it is not well-known and promoted as a tourist attraction contributes to the atmosphere here.

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The KMSPKS Monastery has several different halls and buildings, all of them very distinct and with different purposes. You can read more about it on their website. But one of the most impressive buildings is the Hall of No Form. It’s a massive meditation hall that houses a Giant Buddha made of bronze with almost fourteen meters tall.

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The Hall of No Form

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The evening gathering 

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Singapore is densely populated, finding a place like this is always good, it tends to slow things down a little, it makes you stop to take everything in. I know that Monasteries, Temples or other sacred places are not exactly the typical weekend afternoon destination, but it is worth the trip if you’re only free on the weekend, they’re places of worship, seclusion and mostly quiet, so regardless of your religion, you´re sure to find some calmness from a visit to the KMSPKS Monastery.


光明山 (Bright Hill)

Fujifilm X-T2

Fujinon 35mm F2

Samyang 12mm F2