Go back in time to a simpler life at Pulau Ubin, the last village or “kampong” in Singapore. A visit here is like taking a time warp back to the 1960s when things were much simpler, as you’ll notice from the old wooden houses. Located off Singapore’s north east coast, the best way to get here is to take a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Check out the video below for directions!
Pulau Ubin Hot
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Singapore as it was
Pulau Ubin (population around 100) has never disappointed me. I love going there. It is not so much that there is so much to do there that is exciting, but because there is so little to do there, but what you can do is laid back, bucolic, rural and totally pleasant.
Granted, some of the boat captains can be a grumpy lot, and the bicycle rental shops can be a tad overwhelming, but once past them you can just wander round the islands quiet roads and tracks to your heart's content. Walk or cycle. Both are great. The roads and paths are mostly well shaded.
Of course you could hire a dilapidated 'taxi' for a small fortune and ride to the northern shore or to what remains of the old temples in the hills on the western half of the island, or visit Cek Jawa wetlands and the amazing Tudor folly with Singapore's only operational fireplace! I kid you not!
Or you could ride there or walk to all these places, and both choices are equally rewarding. If only cyclists did not feel that they had the right of way!
Then when you have wandered round, viewed the derelict granite quarries, now turquoise lakes, pottered round the Malay cemeteries, enjoyed looking at Malaysia from a reasonably pleasant beach whilst sipping a fresh coconut or gone further afield and walked to the western tip of the island where outward bound trainees are put through their paces, it is time to relax. Enjoy some fresh seafood at Ubin town. There are several good restaurants in the main village. And ice for the necessary cold drinks. A couple of village houses have also set up stalls for drinks and snacks, so you can really feel that you are in a kampung. Why? Because you are.
When it’s time to return to Singapore, all you have to do is wait for a boat. If there is one annoying thing about Ubin, it is wondering why boats that bring you over to the island cannot take you back. If a boat does come over and disgorges another twelve passengers (that is the limit per boat) then returns empty, you have to wait till there are twelve waiting to go back before the island based boats will deign to take you. Annoying. But, hey, the purpose of going to an idyllic backwater is not to be hassled by an infrequent bus/boat/train service. I think.
be prepared to rough it out
I love Pulau Ubin! I have been there quite a couple of times already, and I still have a good impression of it. However, it definitely is not for the strawberry generation of today; in other words, if you are the type that cannot stand getting dirty and roughing it out for a day or two (thus strawberry, tough on the outside, wimpy on the inside), then do not even bother about thinking of having a trip here!
Firstly, I really love the culture of the locals. They have wayang performances regularly, they cook their own food (their honey lemon tea is a must try, I drank several jugs of it at one go!), thus it has the authenticity, and they are quite a close-knitted bunch. The best of all, it is situated away from the hustle and bustle of this green city's busy life; great for relaxing! Nevertheless, I must reiterate that you must not expect services that of a five-star hotel, and you are pretty much required to rough it out!
By roughing it out, i mean having to go through the dirt tracks, fend of the blood thirsty mosquitoes and be cautious of wild animals like wild boars (they really are not tamed). Nevertheless, it is really an enriching experience.
Do not be afraid to approach the locals for help! After all, there really isn't anybody left there to help you out. Do beware of stray dogs though, they will not harm you and pretty much mind their own business, but they may not be of interest to some.
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A Short Getaway
Pulau Ubin used to remind me of the terrible times I went through during Outward Bound School back in 2012, such as trekking for 10km with a heavy backpack the weight of an obese elephant. Let’s just say I was not a happy camper. But when I went back recently with my friends, I realised that Pulau Ubin can actually be really fun if you explore the island at your own leisure.
There are tons of things to do on Pulau Ubin, and cycling and hiking are just some of the few options. Chek Jawa was also very interesting, however be sure to check which days the tide will be low enough for you to see the marine life.
Nostalgic; moments and memories
Pulau Ubin, one of the largest off-shore islands and home to quite a handful. To get there, you can take a bumboat at S$2.50 per person from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
Explore this island by foot or bicycle. Although there are alternatives such as hired mini vans to take you to the different places of attraction in Pulau Ubin, I would recommend you to take a leisure stroll or rent a bicycle for as low as S$2 per day. You probably will not lose your way, so not to worry as there are signboards and the roads are well-marked. Before you set off, you can head to the information kiosk to get yourself a map.
Some slopes might be quite steep. There are rocks as well as uneven grounds present. Cyclists should take note and not go too fast, safety first. By bicycle, you will take about an hour or so to arrive at Chek Jawa, one of my favourite places, especially the costal boardwalk. You can sit along the boardwalk and enjoy the breeze or just admire what nature has to offer. When the tide is lower, you can spot hermit crabs and other small creatures. They have got guided tours however as Chek Jawa is closed from now till the end of January next year for upgrading works, the guides are currently doing guided tours for the Pasir Ris Mangroves as an alternative. Feel free to join at 5 P.M. every Saturday from today till the end of December.
Another one of my favourite spot at Pulau Ubin will be Bukit Puaka. It is no wonder why there are no signs placed at the entrance up the trail as apparently visits are not encouraged. Hike up the highest hill and at the peak, I assure you the view there will be amazing. It will seem like a portion off another portrait. However, the hike up can get a bit tiring as it is steep and its path is up uneven too.
Bring along water, sunblock, caps, insect repellent and raincoat. The weather can be unpredictable sometimes and it is always good to be prepared for it. Although it is advisable to bring your own, there are stores that sell water and snacks if you are looking to buy there. You can stop any of the stores and most sell fresh coconuts to cool you down after a long day.
Home to many species of plants and animals, spot the different types available such as wild boars or the oriental pied hornbill. Plan and make a trip down to Pulau Ubin before it turns into another victim of gentrification. A trip that will bring you closer to nature and allows you to appreciate what nature provides. Just walk or cycle and allow your senses to take over.
Totally for nature- lovers! :)
If you don’t mind mosquitoes, sand flies, mud and dirt, this is the place for you! :) I love to go to Pulau Ubin for cycling trips, but that’s after I have sprayed myself wet with mosquito repellent and sunscreen lotion. There are bike rental shops located once you set foot on the island, and are extremely affordable.
My family and I cycled around the whole island, and after that, we were covered in scraps, cuts and bruises. But it was a day well spent. We cycled through forest paths and coastal areas, stopping only when we wanted to enjoy the scenery offered by the sea.
We actually wanted to head over to Chek Jawa, a place where land reclamation used to be carried out. Many sea creatures can be seen over there, and if the tide is high, you might even spot a sea otter! As it was, we wanted a guided tour, but bookings were required beforehand. Furthermore, the sky was growing dark and we didn't have enough time, thus my family and I did not have an opportunity to visit Chek Jawa.
However, I am certain that I will get to check out Chek Jawa one day!:)
Pulau Ubin provides a short getaway from the hustle bustle of city life. I usually head there to get my doses of green as well as to cycle! Visitors are greeted by bicycle shops the minute they arrive and prices are quite cheap, ranging at $5-$10 for a rental that lasts you all day! With an additional $2.50 required for the round trip by bum-boat, you get a day’s worth of fun under $12.50!
Pulau Ubin somewhat acts as a living memory to many people’s childhood, with their old-style kampong huts and plantations. However, be sure to come armed with cans of insect repellent before you fall prey to really thirsty mosquitoes!
Grab the last scent from the past
I was the youngest generation to grow up there and my grandparents are still living there up till this day. Pulau Ubin has the last taste of everything you can get in the 1960s. It is the only place left for people to have a taste of the past. Where electricity is generated by man-made generator and water is still collected from wells. Where else can you experience that in Singapore these days?
A small tour can be made by renting bicycles or by hiring your own ' chauffeur ' to travel around the small island in an air-conditioned van just by spending a small fortune. Who knows when you might be able to get a sight of a herd of wild boars or Long-tailed Macaque along the adventure? Afraid of mossies? No problem, there are shops there owned by villagers who sell insect repellent and other tidbits and drinks that you can bring along the journey.
No need to worry about dehydration or starvation there! Go on an adventure to find the multiple temples and agriculture there, not to mention the abandoned chalet and the miniature zoo. Talk to the friendly locals to find out interesting stories of the past.
After a long day, you can choose to have dinner at various restaurants while watching the beautiful orange sun set by the beach. You can finish your day off by either camping beside the beach or by staying at the resort. This place is also a training ground for cyclists and a fun fair for people who like to fish. My grandparents have already received notification to leave the island soon as the Singapore government is taking over the island. Villagers will soon leave the island and perhaps we might not be able to get a taste of what Pulau Ubin have for us now in the future.
I strongly recommend anyone and everyone to take the opportunity to visit this place while the 'kampong' feel is still there. Overall it does not cost much and it is ideal for people who want a simple day for a small adventure on a small island. Do not be afraid to approach the locals for help and for interesting stories of the past. They will be more than willing to help and to share their experience on the island.
The last Kampong in Singapore
Ubin is truly Singapore's last Kampong. Over here you can see zinc roofed houses with no gates where you can just walk right on in - neighborhood Kampong style. Its nice to think back to the time where people lived simple lives like that. Its only 15 mins away from Singapore but it offers a glimpse into the life of Singaporeans some 60 years ago. Too bad all you have now are cyclists and the residential population has dwindled down to a low two figure amount since the granite quarries have ceased operations.
While we were there, we also found some great tenting spots. Was so tempted to swim in the beautiful turquoise colored quarry but thankfully we did not. Please do not attempt this, its very dangerous due to 1) deep freezing waters 2) industrial waste / toxic water 3) sea snakes
I would give it a higher rating but there just isn't that much to do here apart from cycling, kayaking and exploring Chek Jawa. Maybe the government could do something, like clearing up the quarry and sanctioning it safe to swim in or having more than one beach resort that actually has good service. Celestial Resort really turned me off and they have monopoly of the island's accommodation so don't imagine them improving.
I also read there were plans to build an underground MRT and start building HDBs on ubin should the need arise. Please don't ever do that!
Singapore one & only rustic island resort....
A trip to Pulau Ubin is like a trip back S'pore 20 years back. It's the last place where time has somewhat crawled at a snail pace and visitors can expect a "village' experience. The entry point to the island is via Changi Ferry Terminal where you can board a small ferry (12 pax max) at S$2.50/each way, and arrive at the venue after a 15min "cruise". Entry to the island is free.
Other than a "adventure" sort of resort on the island, there's little else to do, except enjoy what the island laid-back charms has to offer. The main activities include cycling, hiking, seafood dining and checking out the famed Chek Jawa (a stretch of coastal marine life). Do google the island tide table as it's lowest at the early and late of the day with certain days of the month suitable only to get down close to check out marine denizens. I understand payment is required for a guided romp).
Access to Chek Jawa is via 1) cycling 2) walking 3) Van ($6/pax for a 2 way trip, 4 pax min. for taxi). Honestly, walking may not be a good option as the van ride takes 15min each way. So it's going to quite a hike.
There's also a complimentary Sensory Trail near the island notice booth where you can see various herbs and plants.Of course, the seafood restaurants should not be missed when your hunger dictates. A cluster of them are located near the jetty where bicycle rental shops proliferate. Which is the best? Judge by the crowd level....
For a great day back to nature, this is it, in concrete jungle Singapore.
Away from the city
I stayed at Pulau Ubin for 2 days 1 night after buying a deal for cheap accomodation at Celestial Resort.
We started the day by cycling around Pulau Ubin , which was a refreshing change from the normal activities we do on the main Singapore island (Shopping, Catching a show etc.). I highly recommend sunblock and mosquito repellant.
There was also much to see that's different from what we see everyday. Greenery, old school provision shops, kelong looking seafood restaurants!
The stay at Celestial Resort met expectations. We didn't expect too much - it was more of a chalet and had a rustic feel to it. Grass wasn't cut and was rather unkempt and had mosquitoes in the room! However, I feel that it gelled with the overall Pulau Ubin experience.
There was scuba diving at the lagoon which was green and looked dirty. The place is desserted and thus not advisable to go out at night. It was really very dark though.
Overall, I recommend that Singaporeans should try it out once !
Rustic charm threatens to be ruined by an overpriced resort.
My friends and I had planned a little weekend getaway here, and were naively optimistic about our experience. Taken slightly aback to find out that a room at Celestial Resort costs $100/night, nevertheless we still paid and were determined to have a great time.
The room was only partially cleaned upon our arrival with toilet stains and an overall dirty bathroom, and even after repeated calls for housekeeping no one ever came. The staff in the restaurant were clearly very friendly and relaxed, however they didn't know much about the menu or customer service.
The only highlight of my getaway was the fact that I got to snorkel with stingrays and even feed them. This is the only reason I would come back to Pulau Ubin.
Beware Of Mozzies
If you need a brief getaway or just a great day spend with friends and family cycling this can't be the wrong place. Just a short ferry ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal will get you there, as simple as that. Even before stepping into Palau Ubin, you are already enjoying nature's sweetness with fleeting good moments like sea breezes and incredible scenery.
At Palau Ubin bicycle rental comes at a highly affordable rate, in fact cheap. Do take note of bringing your own insect repellant as mosquitoes as they are out to feast, and I mean it. But even if you forgot to, not to worry, you should be able to get them from bicycle rental shops at a great bargain.
If you're keen on an education trip rather than just simple sightseeing and cycling, feel free to sign up for a guided tour to enrich your knowledge and history of Pulau Ubin.