Short ride to a bygone era from Singapore

RUARI REID finds a tropical island from long ago

Marina Bay Sands, Little India, Chinatown, Gardens by the Bay — almost everyone who has been to Singapore has some knowledge of these aspects of the bustling city. However, less than 20 minutes from Changi airport lies an island that can take you back to what Singapore was like about 50 years ago.

This is not a tourist hotspot — there are no shopping centres, air-conditioned buildings or food courts. Pulau Ubin is quiet. It feels remote. It has a character that defies its location — just a 10-minute bumboat ride from Changi Village jetty.

At the end of the jetty there are several bike hire stalls, ranging from $S8 to $S14 depending on age and equipment (a bell and a carrier), or you can walk the roads and tracks if you are feeling particularly energetic.

The monkeys are somewhat different, and the local advice is not to let them jump from the trees on to you. Staying in the middle of the road is a good idea.

The jungle is all-encompassing, the steamy climate typical of the tropics but somehow enhanced here. It is a delicious feeling to step out of the sun and into the shadows of the rainforest, watching butterflies as they flit in and out of vine roots as they descend from on high.

Conservation is key here — wetland restoration schemes are now under way, and the Chek Jawa wetlands are the jewel in Pulau Ubin’s crown.

You get a feeling for what Singapore was like before the transformation to the hustle and bustle of today. Pay the S$3 per person and take the ferry and step back in time.

This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.

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