At breakfast this morning along with my usual yoghurt and fruit I sampled some fried carrot cake. This tasted quite good but I’m unsure how it gets its name as it is neither a cake nor does it contain carrots! It bears no resemblance to the sweet carrot cake popular in the west but is a savoury dish made from large white winter radishes, onion, rice flour, eggs and garlic.
Breakfast completed, we set off for Pulau Ubin, a small island located off the north east coast of Singapore. Getting there was very easy as we took the MRT to Tanah Merah, leaving at Exit B to take Bus No.2 to its terminus at Changi village which took approximately 20 minutes. Do remember when using buses in Singapore to tap out as you alight from the bus to avoid being overcharged. We travelled on a double decker bus and managed to secure front seats on the upper deck for the best views. The journey was interesting as it took us through smart residential neighbourhoods and alongside the notorious Changi high security prison complex which covers a huge area and was the last prison to be built by the British under colonial rule in 1936.
After leaving the bus it was just a five minute walk to the Changi Point ferry terminal from where small bum boats depart for Pulau Ubin. The bum boats don’t run to a timetable but instead depart when there are sufficient passengers (usually 10). Single fares are SG$3 (£1.70) and are collected in cash on the boat.
It only takes 12 minutes to reach the island and sitting out on deck we enjoyed the cooling breeze as the boat sped along.
From the wooden jetty visitors can reach the Chek Jawa wetlands boardwalk trail by either renting one of the many bicycles from the small village or, like us, opt for a pleasant stroll. To reach the start of the boardwalk it’s a 3.4km signposted walk with a National Park information board showing the way.
The paths are slightly uneven and hilly in places with the occasional monkey crossing the trail. To reach the wetlands boardwalk it took us around 45 minutes including several short stops to take photos and look around. As it was mid-week not many people were about and of the few cyclists we came across, some were having to get off and push their bicycles up the steeper sections.
Reaching the National Park visitor centre which sits at the entrance to the Chek Jawa trail we wondered why the park warden was wielding a large stick until we looked around and spotted a large wild boar and some monkeys on the path.
We weren’t expecting to come face to face with a wild boar but we walked calmly past, hoping for the best. Around the visitor centre were several more monkeys but as it is illegal to feed them in Singapore, they are not a nuisance and just ignore people unlike the ones we encountered in Malaysia.
The visitor centre overlooks the shore and is housed in a Tudor style 1930’s building which was refurbished and converted into a visitor centre in 2003 retaining its brick chimney and original fireplace. Stepping indoors we found a series of useful information boards about the Chek Jawa wetlands and their unique coastal and mangrove eco systems.
Jutting our into the azure blue sea is an observation pier from which there are some fine views looking back towards the island’s rocky shore. The visitor centre has toilets but only a vending machine for drinks so I recommend taking bottles of water onto the island when visiting.
Cyclists need to dismount before continuing on foot along the well maintained boardwalk which follows the water’s edge alongside the mangrove swamps where we were able to get close to the plants and marine life. It was a delightful walk with so much to take our interest, especially the large numbers of tiny fiddler crabs, monitor lizards and pistol shrimps visible in the part submerged seagrass lagoons.
To be honest, I’d never heard of pistol shrimps until I arrived at Chek Jawa but after reading about them on a nearby information board and watching their antics, I was captivated. These tiny creatures are only one inch long but have enlarged claws which, when snapped shut, make an ear splitting loud noise stunning their prey and giving the pistol shrimps enough time to use their powerful claws to kill.
Continuing along the boardwalk we arrived at the seven storey Jejawi viewing tower, a 20 metre high tower built above the tree canopy. Climbing all the way up to the top was worthwhile as we were rewarded with some fine views above the tree canopy and across the wetlands. The viewing tower was also an ideal vantage point for plane spotting to and from the nearby Changi international airport.
Having followed both the coastal and mangrove boardwalk loops we set off back towards the village centre. On our way we came across several more wild boar, one of which was standing on the path directly in front of us. With no park warden around to protect us and with the wild boar staring us in the eye, I was naturally concerned so I grabbed my son’s arm and scurried past as calmly as I could, thankfully without incident.
Back at the jetty we sat on a bench for around ten minutes until enough people had gathered for a return bum boat back to the mainland. It had been a splendid day out and despite Pulau Ubin only being 12 minutes from the Singapore mainland it felt like a million miles away with its traditional homes, unspoilt natural beauty and tranquil environment.
On disembarking the small ferry we were surprised to have to pass our belongings through a security scanner in the Changi ferry terminal as if we had arrived from overseas!
Before catching a bus back to the metro station we enjoyed refreshing glasses of iced coconut water from the nearby Changi hawker centre. We were back in our hotel in just under an hour and on checking my phone it was unsurprising that my feet were beginning to ache as we had covered 11.6 km so far that day.
After a well earned rest we dined on roasted duck near Raffles Place and then strolled across to Marina Bay, arriving just before 9.00 p.m. in time to watch the Spectra Light and Music Show. This free show takes place twice nightly at Events Plaza, just outside the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands.
The show lasts 15 minutes and reflects Singapore’s journey to becoming a cosmopolitan city. The extravaganza includes dancing water jets, colourful lasers and mist effects co-ordinated to the sounds of an orchestral soundtrack.
We very much enjoyed viewing the light and music show but we ended up getting very wet. Having found what we thought was the perfect viewing point at the water’s edge we hadn’t realised there was an onshore breeze with the spray from the fountains directed towards us. It didn’t take too long to dry out in the warm evening air and after our obligatory late evening ice cream cones we returned to the hotel feeling exhausted.
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