When you spend most days caught up in the hustle and bustle of urban life, it’s easy to forget how rejuvenating the outdoors can be. I did. Luckily, one successful adventure is all it takes to jog your memory. Mine happened to be an impromptu escape to the island of Pulau Ubin.
Pulau Ubin is only a 15-minute bumboat ride from the Changi Point jetty in Singapore’s northeast corner, but travelling to the island is a bit like stepping back in time. The island is currently off-limits to developers, which means no paved roads, concrete buildings or urban construction of any sort. Instead, visitors are afforded a glimpse of life in pre-industrial Singapore. There are aging wooden houses, abandoned plantations and an abundance of flora and fauna. Wild animal sightings— monkeys, otters, and even boars—are a frequent occurrence.
One of the first things you see when you walk into the main village is a bicycle. Actually, make that hundreds of bicycles. A bike is a great way to get around the island and dozens of renters have opened shop since Pulau Ubin became a popular tourist destination. Rentals are cheap too; my friend Melissa and I adopted a baby blue tandem for S$6/hour and set off on a self-guided bike tour of Pulau Ubin.
We had great time riding around the island, pedaling our rusty single-gear uphill and coasting down “steep” slopes—yep, there were warning signs screaming danger—that reminded me more of a suburban driveway than a black diamond ski run. A quiet lake, an empty shack and a giant tree trunk provided backdrops for photo ops.
I hadn't ridden a bicycle or been in the woods in over five months. Feeling the wind in my face and hearing the sounds of wildlife reminded me just how much I love being in the great outdoors. There’s nothing quite like spending time with Mother Nature, even if it’s only for a day. Melissa and I ended our excursion with a delicious seafood dinner in the village, a must for anyone visiting Pulau Ubin.
Getting away from the high-rise buildings and high-speed connectivity of Singapore city without leaving the country was a pretty special experience. I’ve made a mental note to re-visit Pulau Ubin for a second round of R&R, hopefully sooner than later.