Photo credits: BaldHiker
Singapore, celebrated globally for its modern architecture, cutting-edge technology, and bustling urban environment, is a sight to behold. But just a stone’s throw away, a world apart from the metropolis, lies Pulau Ubin. The antithesis of the city’s rapid urbanisation, Pulau Ubin offers a nostalgic journey back to the Singapore of yesteryear—a serene, green, and wonderfully untouched slice of history from the 1960s.
Stepping onto Pulau Ubin’s shores, it’s evident that the island’s charm lies in its preserved natural beauty and stillness. Gone is the familiar hum of city traffic, replaced by nature’s own orchestra of bird songs, insect melodies, and the whispering of the wind through dense foliage. Spread expansively across 1,020 hectares, the island is a tapestry of lush mangroves, shimmering lakes, and an array of wildlife. For those weary of city life, Pulau Ubin is the balm to soothe one’s soul, offering vast open spaces and air that’s fragrant with the aroma of wild blooms.
Arguably the crown jewel of Pulau Ubin is the Chek Jawa Wetlands. This expansive 100-hectare ecosystem boasts an incredibly diverse range of habitats, from its sandy shores and rocky beaches to its seagrass lagoons, mangroves, and coral rubble. The carefully constructed boardwalk, keeping in mind the delicate nature of the ecosystem, ensures visitors can explore without leaving a footprint. As you tread softly, look out for the kaleidoscope of marine life that calls the tidal flats home. You might spot sea stars, sponges, and even shy anemones. Venture deeper into the mangroves and forests, and you might encounter the watchful eyes of monitor lizards or hear the rustling of wild boars in the underbrush.
Pulau Ubin is more than just an ecological and gastronomical haven; it’s a living time capsule. As urban Singapore progresses rapidly, this island remains a testament to the nation’s Kampong (village) heritage. Stepping onto its shores is akin to travelling back in time, offering visitors a rare glimpse into Singapore’s rustic past.
The island’s architecture is distinctively nostalgic. Wooden houses on stilts with zinc roofs line the paths. Vibrant colours adorn these homes, each telling tales of the families that have resided there for generations. The rhythmic sound of the Ong Teng Cheong, a type of traditional wind chime, provides a melodious backdrop, creating an atmosphere of serenity.
Wandering through the village, you’ll encounter residents who have called the island home for decades. Engaging in conversations, you’ll hear stories of a bygone era—tales of life before the hustle and bustle of urbanisation, of shared community values, and of festivals celebrated with unmatched fervor. Their narratives aren’t just personal memories; they are vital threads in the tapestry of Singapore’s rich history.
But perhaps the most evocative of these historical experiences are the village paths. These winding trails, surrounded by dense greenery, were once the primary routes of communication and transport for residents. Walking them, one can’t help but imagine the generations before: children running down these paths, playing traditional games, or fishermen returning with their day’s catch.
To truly appreciate Singapore’s evolution, one must understand its roots. And Pulau Ubin, with its Kampong legacy, provides that precious insight. It’s not just an island; it’s a living museum, celebrating a vibrant facet of Singaporean culture.
Pulau Ubin is an explorer’s paradise. Many visitors choose the trusty bicycle as their steed, letting the island’s secrets unfold at their own pace. Multiple rental shops are dotted near the jetty, catering to both leisurely riders and mountain biking enthusiasts. Those seeking an adrenaline rush can head to the Ketam Mountain Bike Park, which offers varying degrees of challenges set against a picturesque backdrop.
However, if cycling isn’t your preferred mode of exploration, fear not. Pulau Ubin boasts a plethora of nature trails, each offering its own unique sights and experiences. One of the standout points is the Jejawi Tower, nestled along a serene trail. Climbing to its top rewards visitors with a breathtaking panoramic view, encompassing the island’s lush green and the shimmering waters beyond.
Exploring Pulau Ubin is not just a treat for the eyes but also a feast for the palate. This rustic island, though quaint in size, packs a punch when it comes to culinary delights that embody the essence of traditional Singaporean flavours.
The seafood dishes available on the island are particularly noteworthy. Visitors often rave about the delectable chilli crabs, where the tender meat of the crab is bathed in a tangy, slightly sweet sauce. Another crowd favourite is the grilled dishes—imagine fresh catch seasoned with aromatic spices, grilled to perfection, resulting in a smoky flavour that’s hard to resist. The juxtaposition of the charred crust against the tender insides promises a mouthful of textures and flavours with every bite.
For those who gravitate towards traditional dishes, the island does not disappoint. There’s a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk, accompanied by various sides that range from crispy delicacies to spicy concoctions. Each bite offers a symphony of flavours, from the rich creaminess of the coconut milk to the fiery kick of the spices.
And of course, no culinary journey on Pulau Ubin is complete without indulging in the island’s favourite beverage, fresh coconut water. Chilled to perfection and served right from the shell, this drink is nature’s way of rejuvenating weary travellers. As you sip on this refreshing beverage, taking in the serene surroundings, you’re reminded of the simple pleasures that Pulau Ubin offers. It’s not just about sightseeing or activities; it’s about experiences, and the island’s culinary offerings are an integral part of that narrative.
The beauty of Pulau Ubin lies not just in its natural wonders but in the timelessness it offers. In an age where rapid urbanisation is the norm, the island stands as a gentle reminder of simpler times and the joys of unhurried living.
For explorers eager to uncover more facets of Singapore, from its bustling urban corners to tranquil hideaways like Pulau Ubin, DEI is the platform to turn to. With an extensive collection of tips, guides, news, and more, DEI ensures you’ll always have the inside track on what’s happening in and around the city. Dive into Singapore’s rich tapestry with DEI and discover the many stories waiting to be told.