Keeping with the theme of “back to nature Singapore” (because apparently I’m a wild horse or something that needs open space to run around in now), my next excursion saw me to Pulau Ubin (“Tile Island”), a small island that used to be used to mine granite for tiling off the Northeast coast of the main island of Singapore.
Pulau Ubin remains one of the few areas in Singapore that has been untouched by recent redevelopment projects due to its unique Chek Jawa wetlands. The 45 families living on the island enjoy a more traditional lifestyle and the island itself seems much more like Malaysia than Singapore.
Basically, the island is a cute little stay-cation for Singaporeans looking to get away from the city. While the majority of visitors just come for the day, I lucked out and found a great deal on www.deal.sg (basically a better version of the Singaporean Groupon – they often have the exact same deal, but for a cheaper price, its actually kind of hilarious to compare sometimes). I got a night at the Celestial Ubin Beach Resort complete with overnight bike and kayak rentals. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped to take a break from exams (which I was in the middle of completing) and head out on my island escape (I don’t know if I can actually call it that, since Singapore itself is already an island, but whatever).
After all of the intensive planning I did for Vietnam and Cambodia, I was also psyched to just book my reservation online and show up. No hassle, no finicky details, no worries. Carefree lack of planning has a flipside though, and although I wanted to get to the island early so my inner horse would have a full day of romping, the trek to the island was more of a mission than I assumed. To be fair, I should have seen coming, I was assuming after all, and we all know what happens when you assume (in case you’re not part of “everybody”, you make an ass out of u and me – ass/u/me). Since I literally packed that morning, I forgot my wallet and didn’t realize until half an hour after I left, then had to take a detour to stop and pick up my replacement student visa which I lost in Cambodia – which is a mission to do, you need a police report, statement from the school confirming you’re actually enrolled, 100SGD (payable only with a NETS card, not cash) and a couple hours to spend in immigration waiting to get everything processed. Then, the bus ride to the Changi Jetty, which takes you to Pulau Ubin, took about an hour (after spending another hour on the MRT).
When I finally got to the jetty, I assumed I was home free as you can see the island from across the water it’s so close. However, I assumed again and now I’m sure everybody knows what happens when you assume this time around.
As it turns out, boats to the island have no scheduled departure time and just leave whenever there are 12 people waiting to get on. Since most people visit the island during the day, there weren’t a lot looking to make the trek over in the early evening. After watching 4 boatloads return from Pulau Ubin and eating several packages of honey roasted cuttlefish (which tasted like fish food and peanuts – its still strange no matter how much you eat), my friend and I came to the realization that there probably wouldn’t be 12 people showing up to get there before morning.
Luckily, we spoke with 2 other older men who were also waiting to go over and decided to hire a boat for ourselves at a slightly higher fee – it was either that, or go home disappointed, and wild-horse Judi was having none of that.
So after spending more time than what it takes to fly to Indonesia and back, I was on the island!