15 April 2012

Cycling at Ubin Island

Last 07 April, Saturday, I went to Pulau Ubin with a friend. I said that I wanted to go to Pulau Ubin, so a friend, a Singaporean, offered to bring me there. Of course I would agree if someone familiar to the place would take me there. So, the day of Pulau Ubin Trip came. I never thought I would be cycling again, and even rode a motorbike. That was a bizarre day travelling from west to east and back on a motorbike ride.

I was picked up by my friend on the bus stop near our place. From there, I had my first motorbike ride experience. I don't know how far was Bukit Panjang from Changi, but I guess it took us some 40minutes by bike.  We directly went to the Changi Village where the Changi Ferry Terminal was located. I've been there before but I never knew that there was a ferry terminal in the area. I never noticed that before.


We took a ferry to Pulau Ubin costing $2.50 per person. The ferry can accommodate 12 persons. From the terminal to Pulau Ubin, the travel would only take around 20 minutes or, I guess, even less. I thought that there would not be much people going to the island, but I'm wrong. There were actually a lot of people on the island who came earlier and still coming. Maybe because it was a Saturday, and it's long weekends? Or maybe because the island is getting popular especially for those health-conscious people.  I cannot be sure though. By the way, we reached the island around noon time.


Upon arrival we rented a bike first. I cannot ride a mountain bike, or I find it difficult to ride. So, I took a smaller, lower bike. I feel safer if my feet can touch the ground while riding a bicycle. I can control it better that way. While on the way not far from the port, his bike seems to be faulty, so he needed to send it back for exchange. The new one that he got cannot go on an upward slope, though. The next time I go to the island and rent a bike I will have to make sure to test it properly. I'm thankful that I got a good one.

It's been so long since I last rode a bicycle. At first I am struggling to keep it on a straight direction. I managed it at the end and I can even go at moderate, fast speeds in downward slopes. The feeling of the air against the skin is great! I feel so refreshed. I sweat a lot during and after cycling. I think we cycled around the island for 3 hours. I felt all sticky afterwards. I never brought an extra shirt because I DIDN'T know that we were going to cycle. I was never told about it. I am aware that Pulau Ubin is popular for cycling, though.


Our first destination was the west side of the island where most visitors go  - Chek Jawa Wetlands. We first visited the vacation-house-turned-into-an-exhibit-hall kind of place. It was a western-styled house. My friend says that it used to be a private property but now, the island is owned by the government and so is that house. The inside looks like the place where I had my training in the food and beverage department - an old English place. I actually love the house. I never get to see the second floor since it was a restricted area. The house was facing the sea so when you go to the back side, you can have a peaceful view of the sea given that there were no other visitors. There was a walkway on the sea going to a mini-port-like thing. I guess it was a view-point for the islet made of stones near the island.


Inside the house there were information boards about the sea creatures that could be found in the island. My friend showed me a shell of a crab-like thing that was on display. He says that it was not really crab nor was it related to it. However, it has a 'crab' on the name and it looks like some kinf of crab species. I cannot remember what the name was. What's amazing about this crab-like thing is that it has 'blue blood'. I thought that it must be royal since it has blue blood (It's a joke!)


There was actually a legend that Pulau Ubin originated from an elephant, a wild boar and a frog doing a race challenge. The story says that the Pulau Ubin was two smaller islands joined together now by unnatural means. These smaller island was actually the elephant and wild boar in the legend, and that the islet of stones was the frog.


While on the view-point port-like thing, I saw another walkway along the sea on the other side of the island. I asked my friend to go there.  It was just a walkway for mangroves viewing. Even if it was for that purpose, the people visiting the island never really payed any attention to the mangroves and it was far from the walkway too. We walked throughout the walkway under the blazing heat of the sun. On the far away sight, you can see the mainland of Singapore. You can even see that it was raining there.


Along the mangrove forest I saw a frog-looking creature which is actually a fish, some kind of lizard and small crabs. It's amazing that you can see strange creatures in a forest this small.


We reached the end of the walkway and was back to the shade of trees. We went up the watch tower which is very high. The rain's wind already reached the island and we can feel the watch tower shaking. I wonder how strong that tower is. On top of the watch tower, you can only see mostly trees, mangroves, birds flying, the mainland, and the rain approaching. We didn't stay there for too long because of the approaching rain.


We returned to where we left our bikes which is  near the information kiosk in the middle of a forest. Oh, we also saw a mother wild boar with its babies behind the information kiosk. I never realized how big a wild boar can be until today. The small ones are so cute!

We proceeded with our cycling and took the road opposite to where we came from. We reached campsite-looking place which is on another side of the island. We passed by a small Muslim cemetery, a well, a dam, a white dog, a few people taking photos of the wilds, and people taking a break from cycling. I think we reached the NPCC (National Cadet Corps Campsite) after seeing various things. There was a small group of guys discussing about how to make fire in the forest. I can see them holding some kind of metal but you wouldn't actually bring that metal anywhere, right? We only stayed there for a cold drink. Cycling can turn you into a human sponge.

I discovered another creature in the campsite. It's a frog with coin cheeks. I don't know if that was a weird creature but I think that was the origin of the frog figures with coins that was believed to bring good luck. There was also a rabbit eating old bread. I wonder since when rabbits started eating old bread. I thought they only eat leaves or carrots like Bugs Bunny.  There was also a lump of dried leaves ready to be set on fire, and a small boat. It was a very familiar setting of a far away house in an uncivilized village. My friend told me that there were only a number of families living in the island now. Around 6 to 10 I think.

We took a short cut through the forest to reach the main road. It was really a forest path with mud and rocks, and water puddle too. We reached the main road really quick and returned to the side where the port is. We decided to take the road where we have not been. It was a long bike ride on a flat ground which is good. It is a lot easier to pedal on flat asphalt ground rather than a rocky uphill road. I really thought that cycling would be a lot easier now but that wasn't very true though. We eventaully reached a road that is very roacky and even goes uphill. That was very difficult adn the sun was at its peak by that time.

We passed by a dam again, a spot where people are fishing, a store selling fresh coconut in green shell, a resort, a tower for a telephone company's reception, a blue house full of flowers, a biking trail for experienced cyclist, and a field or more like a cliff over-looking the other parts of the island.

I love the field-slash-cliff area. I mean, that was a good place for a photo session. It was far away from the port and on a high rocky area though. Hence, going there is difficult if I bring a female subject in a feminine dress with me. But I have a friedn who would definitely ride a bike in a feminine dress. If it's for a photoshoot, she will not hesitate to agree. The thing is, she was not on the same country as me at the moment.

Then, in the place of the dam was a wooden fence which I so love. It reminds me of a Taiwanese series that I used to watch before. I actually take a good photo with a couple taking a break. They don't know that they are in the photo though. It's like a lawn facing a lake rather than a fenced-dam. :)

The rocky road that we are cycling is actually leading to a dead-end because the cyclist who are passing by us are returning after a few minutes. I never proved that because we never proceeded to go there, we just made a turn and back to the port. That was the end of my cycling experience in Pulau Ubin. That was a good, tiring sport for me.

When we arrived in the island, the water was high because of the high tide. When we finished cycling, the water receded greatly. I'm amazed at how far the sea waters can reach during a high tide. And because the water receded, I managed to take photos in the coastal area of the port. A fishing boat, an old house, a bottle, and a dead fish...not bad.

Please be reminded. If you ever plan to try going to Pulau Ubin you should be wary of  a few things whether you plan to go there for cycling or just for fun.

My friend told me that the ferry would leave around 1800hrs. And if there weren't much people leaving the island, you should pay the amount that would suffice for 12 persons, however many there were on the ferry. I am not very sure for the schedule of the ferry though.

I recommend bringing a backpack which is easier to carry around, either while walking or on a bicycle. One that is not very big or too small will be good enough.

Have a change of shirt prepared because you will definitely sweat a lot. It is good to change at least your shirt after being perspired. Remember to keep your used shirt on a plastic before putting it on your bag. That way, you will avoid the foul smell that the wet shirt might cause you.

Bring a small towel to wipe yourself afterwards. Feeling refreshed is the best!

Bring a big bottle of water especially if you plan to go on cycling. There were various areas in the island where you can find cold drinks but bringing water with you is much cost-efficient. But you can also spend a few shillings for a fresh coconut juice in green shell. It's way more refreshing. :)

Bring snacks with you like sandwiches. It's just another cost saving technique though. There were some dining areas in the island which you might want to try. But I think that stopping for a long period only to eat is like a hassle? So just bring a snack and eat while you were taking a break anywhere on the island.

Bring a hat. First, because it look good. Second is becuse the sun is very hot, so wearing something to cover your head will at least protect you from the blazing heat. It will also lessen the dameged that the sun will cause your hair.

Most importantly, if you care about your looks, you should definitely wear a sunblock lotion before leaving your house. Bring it with you too so you can re-apply again while taking a break somwhere on the island.

behind the lens









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