A Day at Pulau Ubin: where burbur CYCLED

We weren’t able to make any plans for Bali or Bintan as it was kinda last minute when we made up out minds. So with the long National Day weekend, we decided to get a room at Changi Village hotel and spend the day at Pulau Ubin. For the longest time my pal Rachel has been bugging me to go Ubin with her but I’m far from the outdoorsy shit. I don’t go out in the sun coz I’d melt (yes sometimes I’d scream in pain if the sunlight does hit me) and I’m only at my best at 2am.

IMG_6032-Copy.jpg picture by burbur

So at Bryan’s insistence we headed down to Pulau Ubin. It’s a quick 10mon boat ride across the waters. The boatman only leaves when there are 12 people to ferry across at $2.50 each. On the return trip, the boatman actually went out a few metres to sea before stalling the motor to collect money from people. I wondered what he did to people who didn’t have enough spare change. Make them swim back?


Pulau Ubin is an idyllic little island filled with locals and tourists on a holiday weekend. It’s also holds the last visages of mangrove swamp found in these regions. Many student groups can be found over crawling over rocks inspecting marine life or simply clearing the trash that wash up to shore. It’s like a brownie badge to some, earth lover or something. I can almost imagine a line drawing of a crab pinned smartly onto a proud chest.


When we got there we walked through the really tiny village of 10 huts, of which 8 of them were bicycle rentals. I was surprised by the number of foreigners. There were the caucasians who were lobster red from the heat, Chinese who were chattering about rental prices and lost Indians who couldn’t decide between the 4 of them if they should get 4 bikes or 2 tandem.


The lady got me a short bike so while Bryan tested his for height, I straddled mine and tried to look as if I haven’t not been cycling for 20 years. When Bryan asked if I’ve tested my bike, I rung my bell cautiously. Yes it works. At least if I go careening into people, I can warn them out of the way first.

I guess cycling is lik having sex. Once you’ve learnt it, you don’t really forget. I propped my right foot on the pedal and paused for what seemed like infinite seconds before I lifted my left foot and slammed it against the other pedal. My bike wobbled precariously as my hands gripped tightly onto the handlebars for my dear life. And then off I go! The crowd sighed a huge breath of relief. The wind started to blow again. The air rushed in as the world started to move again. Calamity Jane didn’t kill anyone in her attempt to rejoin the cycling world.

We made a stop at the info kiosk to get directions. Apparently the place to go at Ubin was Chek Jawa. Coz frankly there really isn’t anywhere else to go on that teeny island. Chek Jawa is a carefully preserved site of mangrove swamp teeming with life. It’s like the must (only) see of Ubin. And there are only 2 ways to get there, on foot or by bike.


So off we went cycling amongst nature. I wish I could be more poetic about being one with nature and singing birds and all that crap shit but seriously, look at whose journal are you reading. I was panting like mad, my make-up was melting (that’s how long I’ve not been outdoors that I forget you don’t wear make-up to Ubin) and my hair was in my face. I was cursing and swearing and at some point along the way I ran out of swear words (I only have an arsenal in English and Hokkien. Oh hell I shoulda shouted diu lei lou mou). So I stared hissing like Bryan’s Satan cat Grey. As I pedalled uphill, I was hissing like a steam train going up the Himalayas. It was THAT bad.


By the time we got to Chek Jawa, I ran out of enthusiasm to get excited. The area was on foot only, although you get the one or two angmohs with their SPG friends who cannot read the NO BICYCLES sign.


The place was rather nice, not quite serene because of the chatter. There were 3 different routes to take; the boardwalk, the pier and the mangrove trail. We took the boardwalk which stretches out and around the coast. At low tide you’re supposed to see all sorts of shit. Like sea grass and crabs and rocks. While I spent most of the time trying to hide in Bryan’s shadow, he was busy getting excited about EVERYTHING, but i guess that comes from being a geog teacher The killer comment he made was “oh! Fallen rock formation!” and he spun around to take a picture of it. To me, it’d have been oh rocks displaced by gravity. Hey looks like shape of rabbit.


We were lucky coz it was low tide so we saw a lot of stuff crawling out to play. There’s the grass I mentioned, and many teeny fiddler crabs, where the males are marked by their one huge pincer. Which technically does nothing except that they can wave it about to attract females and warn off other males.


This is where everyone thanks God for inventing zoom function. actually we have to thank Clilie C Allen who invented zoom, otherwise Bryan would have made me climb into the mud to take close up shots of said crabs.


There are 3 types of mangrove trees. for detailed explanation, please ask Bryan.


after trekking through Chek Jawa which ended in an hour, i was quite disappointed that it was rather small and short. perhaps if the sun hadn’t been so hot i’d have stood out there longer to admire the serenity and blue sea. but we went through the boardwalk and the mangrove walk and then we were done. i almost kicked a fit when Bryan said we had to go back coz I felt like I had to stay longer and enjoy the moment considering the effort it took to get there!

anyway the trip back to the main village was torturous. we had taken the longer but easier path to Chek Jawa but decided to take the proper route back. the proper route entailed going up and down 3 steep hills, so steep that there were signs posted along the way to dismount and push. this is me dismounted and pushing. not a pretty sight.


when we reached, I had mostly mastered how to stay on a bicycle. except that I still didn’t have strong control of my balance and tend to weave from left to right. so when an idiot girl suddenly jumped into my path to take a photo of a friend, I couldn’t swing past her gracefully and had to jerk to a stop. major eyeball rolling here but her back was facing me so the effect was lost. But I hope she still felt a burning sensation at the back of her head.

we ended the day with seafood dinner at the one and only seafood restaurant, where we inevitably ordered expensive steam fish coz our command of mandarin was so poor that when she said some chinese word, we thought she meant sea bass (cheap fish) when it was actually soon hock (expensive $45 fish). despite that, it was a lovely end to an exciting yet tiring day. our stomachs full on zi char and beer (okay i drank Kickapoo instead) with the sea breeze (and super powered fans) blowing in our hair.

a once in a lifetime experience. once. my kind of adventures are those found in front of a computer trying to figure out where Guybrush Threepwood should go next on Monkey Island.


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