Technically, I already live on an island. A booming, crowded, metropolitan one- but nevertheless, an island. A getaway to a nearby Singaporean island, one much less populated and less developed, sounded like a perfect day trip to do with my friend Dan during Chinese New Year.
Only a ten minute and $3 bumboat ride away, we headed to the (almost) untouched oasis of Pulau Ubin. Upon embarking on the boat, we could already tell this was going to be much different than mainland Singapore.
Old, weathered boats most likely not up to safety standards, and drivers with less than proficient English shouting, “Money! Money! Money!”, it was definitely a step back from the extreme efficiency and often over the top organization that is mainland Singapore.
As it was Chinese New Year AND a weekend, it was packed with people that were also in need of a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Despite it being quite busy, it was still noticeably quieter than the mainland and had a more laid back atmosphere. Kind of like stepping into a time machine and seeing what Singapore would have been like years ago.
We rented some less than desirable bikes, that had clearly spent way too much time outside in the humid and rainy weather. Despite some rusty chains and semi-functioning brakes, we (carefully) peddled on to explore the island.
We stumbled upon a gorgeous waterfront campsite in the northern most part of the island, where you could see Malaysia in the distance.
Prepare to have your bag (and body) put through a scanner on the way back to the mainland (even though you never technically left Singapore. I guess being so close to Malaysia, they are quite strict when it comes to potential smugglers? (Hence the marine fence?) *These are all just guesses*.
Spoiler Alert: There were no cold drinks.
The highlight of our time spent on Pulau Ubin (well, mine at least) was “hiking” Puaka Hill. Probably the closest I’ll get to hiking in Singapore! We trekked all the way to the top in about 15 minutes (hence the word hill), and it offered amazing views and a perfect photo op.
Despite our smiles, we were a hot and sweaty mess.
It felt so good to climb something, and get rewarded with a nice view for your efforts. (The stair-master at the gym can only do so much).You could actually see some high-rise apartments in the distance! Can you spot them in the photo below?
When we weren’t biking around or “hiking” the hill, we spent time at one of the two “restaurants” on the island (I use that term loosely), drinking from coconuts, and dodging monkeys. While my friend Dan was having an excellent time photographing the monkeys, I simply had no choice but to bike right through them while chanting, “oh my god, oh my god,” to myself on repeat. Literal CROWDS of monkey families on the paths. Still petrified from my previous monkey encounter, I think you can understand why there are no photos of these monkeys.
It’s hard to believe this little gem of an island is part of Singapore, and only a ten minute ferry ride away. I hope it forever stays “untouched”, and continues to serve as a nearby respite from the busy city life of Singapore.