Establishment: Pulau Ubin
Editor’s note: Pulau Ubin may not be on most visitors’ checklist of “must visit” on the island. If you are looking for a green oasis however, Pulau Ubin, with its rustic kampong feel would be a great place to spend an afternoon,hiking or cycling. Ling Tan shares with us a bike ride around the island with her 6yo son – who rode around the island on a trainer bike.
A throw-back to the Singapore of yesteryears, a trip to Pulau Ubin will take you right back to the 60s. Often referred to as the last kampong of Singapore, there are still villagers, as well as wild boars, living on the island today. For visitors looking for a slice of old Singapore, Pulau Ubin is worth a visit.
For the family, it’s a great place for leisurely bike rides. A few taxis and vans ply the roads, ferrying visitors around, but this is one (only?) place in Singapore where bicycles rule the road.
Bikes can be rented easily from one of the many rental shops near the jetty, for S$6 – S$30 per day, depending on the bikes you choose. There are bikes with training wheels available too, for the little ones, which was helpful for our not-so-confident-on-two-wheels boys. Helmets are available for rent too.
Just note that the bikes here are not exactly top of the line. I’d also say that most are not very well-maintained. So look, and choose carefully, and test ride it around the jetty before settling for your ride. Alternatively, bring your own – the bumboat uncles will charge you accordingly but you get peace of mind over your equipment.
It’s pretty easy to navigate around the island. The “landmarks”, such as old granite quarries, temples, old colonial house, Chek Jawa etc are well signposted – keep to the paths and somehow, you’d never be too far away from the jetty, which is the “centre of town”.
There are some flat stretches that make for easy cycling for the kids, but there also lots of slopes, so keep an eye out and remind the kids to brake when going downhill! My kids got carried away and both fell at various bits of their rides. Nothing too drastic, but enough to remind them to slow down. On that note: bring handiplast and some wet wipes!
On busy days, when many cyclists are around, it is all the more important to keep the kids in check.
Chek Jawa, an ecosystem comprising of a mangrove swamp, is worth a visit, for the diversity in wildlife you would encounter. We spotted giant monitor lizards, beautiful birds, mudskippers and tree-climbing crabs, amongst others. A family of otters calls Chek Jawa home, and we wish we had more time to explore the area.
Dotted around the island too, we came across make-shift drinks stores selling chilled canned drinks, bottled water and coconut. Look out for them!
There are also several seafood restaurants and kopi tiams near the jetty. The busiest was Seasons Live Seafood. This is a nice place to grab an early dinner (or a late lunch) after cycling and walking about. Fresh seafood and ice-cold beers, a rustic setting with picturesque views of the straits – bliss!
Get to Changi Point jetty and take a bumboat ride (S$3 per adult one way, extra for bikes) to Pulau Ubin. The bumboat will depart when there are 12 passengers. Or charter the boat for S$24, though the queue usually moves fast enough. The bumboat service operates daily from 6.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.
My younger son loved the bumboat ride to the island – to him, it was very fun! In his own words, “cycling was a bit difficult at first but once I got used to it, it was fun too!” For me – this beats him staring at his DS or iPad any day!
We like Pulau Ubin for it’s slower pace, it’s rustic charms. If you have visited Singapore multiple times are and looking for a new corner of our island to explore, come on over for a glimpse of Singapore as it might have been, 50 – 60 years ago!
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