Pulau Ubin is a little island off the north coast of Singapore. You can get there via a bumboat (not a group sex position) from Changi Village for a mere S$2. The bumboats should give you an idea of what’s to come. The boats appear to be made from beer crates, plastic bottles and corrugated iron all held together with wire coat-hangers and insulation tape. Surprisingly the bumboats actually float, and they even go forward after a cough, a wheeze and a splutter.
If you are surprised that the boats can safely whisk you to the island in about fifteen minutes then you’ll be equally amazed to find the same methods of construction are used for most of the buildings on the island itself. Indeed, as the bits fall off the boats they wash ashore and then get used to build a new house. Nothing is wasted on Pulau Ubin.
Once you disembark you’ll be faced with the choice of hiring a bike or walking. You’ll see more by walking as the delights are in the detail on Pulau Ubin. It will only take you an hour to walk from the landing stage to the northern beaches. From there you can get view of Malaysia across the water. You can also see the fence they’ve put in the water, presumably to keep the Malays from sneaking into Singapore with snorkels.
As you follow the road from south to north you’ll see heaps of rusting metal and mountains of plastic drums looking surprisingly at home among the coconut palms and banana trees. Lizards and birds, like the humans, use these new additions to the landscape as shelters and hiding places. You’ll also see creeks with mudskippers, trees with hornbills and beaches with fiddler crabs. The latter are neither musicians nor benefits cheats.
Look out for marauding monitor lizards as they have been known to eat a tourist whole. Monitor lizards shouldn’t be provoked. However, if you really can’t resist it, then the best way is to run into the forest with a clip-board shouting that you are the monitor lizard monitor. They hate being monitored, as they like to do all the monitoring.
Pulau Ubin is probably the only place that you’ll get an idea of what Singapore might have looked like before Raffles got his planning permission from the Malay princes. However, given the speed at which Singapore likes to build smart new skyscrapers you should go see it quick…before it becomes yet another Citibank regional office.
For my other guides to Singapore click here.