I noticed there are many people who have an active lifestyle in Singapore. Every night I didn’t fail to spot one or more joggers in the street. A few bikers and some people I met regularly go to the gym after their work. But once in a while it can be a drag in the city. The concrete streets and buildings can never replace the rugged outdoors. I do know some friends of mine yearning for something different would head out of the city and go to Pulau Ubin, an Island getaway from urban Singapore and a famous hub for outdoor activities.
A day in a weekend is all that’s needed to visit the place as I found out. We rode the LRT going to Tampines Station which is opposite the East West Line opposite Changi Airport or the last station of the Eastern Region Line. From there, we took an SBS Transit Bus Number 29 heading to the Changi Village Bus Interchange. It took almost an hour passing by this subdivision and also the Changi Prison. From there we took a Bumboat to the Island. The 10-15 minutes bumboat ride to Pulau Ubin felt already arural as there is a conductor who will collect the SG$ 2.50 fee for each person. No swiping or topping-up of cards here.
From the Public Jetty to the nearest village, I already felt like I wasn’t in Singapore anymore. I’ve always heard that if I want to see how Sinapore like way back in the 1960’s I should go here. And yes, there are stilt houses and also villages with makeshift houses. Pulau Ubin is said to be the last “Kampung” village in Singapore. It’s where the way of life is slow and people are still used to the rural life.
For most visitors like us, the outdoor activities being offered here is the main draw. There are lots of bike rental shops here. But before we ride around that we made sure to eat our lunch first. Food at where we ate at is nothing to write home about. I even find it expensive with a meal costing SG$10. It’s better to bring your own food.
Bike Rental Fee ranges from SG$4 – $10 here depending on the type of bike and condition. Of course the more expensive ones are in much better condition. We got a bike for $6 not on the hardcore mountain biker type but is good enough for the rough terrain ahead. But of course, we did a few rounds nearby to get a handle of our bikes and if all the brakes and gears were working. We headed to the Information Kiosk to get a map of the place which is for free.
As expected, the initial and main roads here are paved but once you get to the inner roads, it gets rough. Our directions was westward first. We passed by Pekan Quarry, one of the quarry areas on the island. Nothing much to see there so we moved on to the bridge over Sungei Jelutong. This river is also popular for fishing.
Moving on, just a few meters from the bridge we took a left turn on a rough road to drop by Wei Tou Fa Gong Temple or the Lotus Pond Temple. It’s a fairly simple temple with lots of vegetation flowering plants surrounding the temple. At the foot of the stairs is a small pond. There weren’t many plants near the pond at that time though. It was said that under the flowers and vegetation near the temple are graves by the number of Chinese and Malay soldiers who died on the island.
We continued our ride past Celestial Resort until we reached Ketam Mountain Bike Park where the road turns rough and dusty. On the coastal trail I saw a few floating houses on the channel between the coast and the Pulau Ketam (Crab Island). It was interesting to see floating houses here as they are very similar to the floating houses at Tonle Sap in Cambodia.
The mountain bike park has different courses to challenge different levels of mountain bikers. Of course we didn’t go through them as the regular ones were already a challenge to casual bikers like me. We were on our way to explore the eastern side of the island but had to go back due to an unfortunate minor accident my friend had on his bike. We had to go back earlier.
There are still a few more places to explore on the island like the Chek Jawa beach and wetlands which is a nature reserve. For campers there are overnight camps to pitch tents as well. Aside from that there are nice landscape opportunities for photographers here as well. The beaches are really not that good but it’s natural. Probably next time I visit Singapore, I’ll drop by here again.
How to go to Pulau Ubin: Take the MRT to Tampines station, ride the SBS Transit Bus 29 to Changi Village Bus Interchange, ride the bumboats going to Ubin Public Ferry (SG$ 2.50/pax + SG$ 2.00 if you bring your own bike) The Bumboats operate as early as 6am until 8pm in the evening. There are no fixed departure schedule for the bumboats. They will leave when the boat is filled with 12 passengers. Entrance to Pulau Ubin is Free.
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Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.