As we’ve met and chatted with more Singapore residents (locals and expats alike), it’s become clear that people really love it here. A friend back home (hi Amanda!) sent me a link to a newbie expat facebook group before we moved. In their feature post, they wrote “We look forward to laughing and fumbling along with you through the next ‘two-to-three’ years (that’s what everyone says. Then they stay for ten).” Every day it becomes more apparent that the people that take a chance on living here end up really enjoying themselves. So far, we feel the same!
The most common complaint we’ve heard has been that the city feels small and you end up getting bored of mainland Singapore. Luckily for everyone here, Singapore is a perfect springboard to so many other places. Traveling to and from SG is a breeze. Flights are cheap and short, and there are so many places in Southeast Asia worth exploring.
While we’re certainly not bored yet, we had our first exploring adventure to Pulau Ubin this past weekend. Pulau means ‘island’ in the Malay language. There are so many small islands within a reasonable boating distance from Singapore. A few dollars and some travel and you’re there!
We took the MRT train to a bus which took us to Changi Beach Park in the northeast of the city. From there, we sought out a bumboat to Pulau Ubin. The boats are small little things that hold 12 people. There is no timed schedule of when they depart – you wait in the waiting area until the boat captain can amass 12 people to fill his boat and then you leave. You hand him $3 SGD per person when you board the boat and then nothing more is said until 20 minutes later, he backs the boat into the dock – a staircase leading right into the water – and he flicks his arm to dismiss you from the boat. Voila – we’re here.
Pula Ubin is a relatively large island with a very small feel. You can walk around and explore, or join in with everyone else and rent a bike for the day! There are maybe 8 bike rental shops all vying for your business when you first step off the boat. They’re all pretty much the same price – $10-$15 to have the bike until 6pm. They have upright bikes with high handlebars for leisurely riding, regular bikes, or heavy duty mountain bikes with thick tires and aggressive helmets.
TT and I opted for regular bikes but while we were taking inventory of the different shops, we stopped at a small little place touting fresh coconut ice cream. We opted for the Thai coconut instead of the local Ubin coconut because the coconut man said the Thai one was the tastier, sweeter option. He brought us the chilled coconut cracked open, filled with coconut ice cream, with the coconut water from inside the coconut in pint glasses on the side with a straw. DELECTABLE.
Is there anything more deliciously refreshing than fresh coconut water? Not to mention it’s basically the best hangover cure you can find. We thanked him for the treat and before we set off, he advised us to keep our belongings within reach so that the monkeys wouldn’t steal anything. MONKEYS!!!!!
Pulau Ubin is known as one of the last surviving kampongs (or traditional villages) in Singapore. A few locals do still reside on the island and they seem to be kept very busy by the throngs of daytrippers looking to take advantage of the abundant nature, bird watching, and sporting activities the island has to offer. Aside from bicycling, there are mountain biking trails, hiking trails, and kayaking options. There is a butterfly sanctuary, wetlands to explore, and delicious seafood to eat.
We spent the day exploring the island on our bicycles. Two wild boar trotted across the road as we were passing. We saw a few others amongst the trees but those ones were our closest encounter! There were “wild” dogs roaming around as well. Although….how wild can they really be when the locals were feeding them? It was a little unnerving, though, to come face to face with a giant “wild” german shepherd in the middle of our bike tour with absolutely no one around to help us if the dog were to attack…
The day was beautiful. It was sunny but the island was shrouded in trees so the bike ride was really lovely. We went to the west side of the island first to see the Chek Jawa wetlands. Bikes weren’t allowed in the wetlands so we left them outside and went to peek around on foot.
Everywhere was covered in lush greenery with streams and little ponds throughout. There were informational stands all along the boardwalk that taught you about the history of the island and gave lots of tidbits of information about the different plants and animals you might find during your walk! There was also an observation deck 20 meters high at the top of Jejawi Tower that we climbed up for a killer view of the island with SG in the distance.
We stopped for lunch at Cheong Lian Yuen and sat at a table on the beach overlooking the water. We ordered a bit of everything. We were super excited about having some local crab but unfortunately they were sold out by the time we got there 🙁 Instead, we ordered Sambal Chili Prawns, Fried Chicken, Baby Kailan with Garlic, and Seafood Fried Rice.
A true feast that we deserved after our miles of bike riding. Everything was great but the fried chicken really stole the show. The prawns were delicious and definitely gave us our seafood fix but honestly, I am not the biggest fan of the seafood slathered in chili sauce that seems so common here. I do enjoy it but would really much rather have simple grilled seafood or some added garlic and lemon. Oh well – does it look like I’m in the position to be complaining?
We had originally planned to watch the sunset from the island as we had heard it was an incredible sunset watching spot. But by the end of the day we were so exhausted we just couldn’t fathom sitting there for another two hours waiting for the sun to set! We will definitely be back for the sunset and kayaking.
There are no ATMs on Pulau Ubin and cards are not accepted anywhere. Cash is required for the bumboat ride, bike rentals, and any food or trinkets you might want to purchase so make sure you head there with enough in your pockets to last you the day!