The efficient transportation system of Singapore was able to take us quickly to the far east of the island, where we had breakfast before boarding one of the bumboats providing transportation across the straits to Pulau Ubin. We had both been to the small island before, but wanted to give it another try. Sure enough, when we walked the streets of the village, the images I still had in my mind of a quiet backwater village had to be updated; the village has become pretty lively, choke full of shops renting out bikes. That is the best way to explore the island, and after some negotiations we rode our rickety bikes out of the village, heading west. To my surprise, we did so on a good asphalt road on which vans were shuttling people back and forth - not what I had in my mind. After a while, we parked our bikes at the foot of a hill, and hiked up for a view of one of the many abandoned quarry lakes below. Actually, Pulau Ubin means Granite Island in Malay, the island has lots of crater-like depressions filled with water that once were quarries.
Continuing west, we finally came to the relatively new mountain bike area, and were happy with our bikes, that were just strong enough to support the bumpy roads. We reached the yellow Shrine of the German Girl, where an urn holds the remains of the unfortunate girl who escaped British troops in 1914, and fell off a cliff, to her death. Walking towards the nearby trash-filled beach, we saw some of the house boats off the coast, with Malaysia behind. Cycling some of the narrow biking trails was fun, and we continued to the northwest of the island, with an old Chinese cemetery next to the road. From here, we had to turn around, and after drinking a refreshing coconut, we cycled to the Wei Tuo Fa Gong temple in the middle of the island of Pulau Ubin. Stray dogs are taken care of here, and the place proved a peaceful retreat in the jungle with a laughing golden Buddha, several shrines, and a pleasant smell of incense. Outside, an older couple were harvesting coconuts in a peculiar way - the man handling some kind of giant knife reaching all the way into the trees, while the woman was trailing behind, kicking ahead the coconuts that her man had cut.
Cycling further east, we eventually reached the eastern side of the island, the Chek Jawa wetlands area. We had to park our bikes here, and continued walking through the dense forest. While the sun had been burning on us the entire morning, clouds had appeared, and now heard thunder closing in. I climbed a look-out tower from which I had a great view of the approaching tropical thunderstorm. It seemed wiser not to be on top of a tower, so I went down, and we continued to walk around the Chek Jawa wetlands. Rain was coming down when we reached the mangrove forest at the coast; it was time to take shelter; after half an hour, we continued our walk, on the boardwalk that has been constructed around the cape of Chek Jawa. It offers great views of this side of Pulau Ubin and the coastal forest with reddish rocks sticking out into the sea. The dark grey clouds above the island now only added drama to the view, and we ended up by the Swiss Cottage, where we walked the pier jutting out into the straits. Here, you fully realize the precarious location of Pulau Ubin: look east, and you have the impression of being in untouched nature; turn around, and not only do you see the skyline of Johor Bahru across the water, but also large jets make their final approach for landing at Changi International Airport that is really only a few kilometres away. The sun was coming through the clouds again when we cycled back to the village, seeing one of the traditional kampong houses, more quarry lakes and a beach on the northern side of Pulau Ubin, before we handed in our bikes, walked around the village, and had a well-deserved drink while the sun was slowly setting behind the island, casting a soft light over the wooden houses of Pulau Ubin.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Pulau Ubin (Singapore). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Pulau Ubin.
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