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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fujinon 35mm F2