Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Photo: William Cho (Chek Jawa, Singapore  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: William Cho (Chek Jawa, Singapore Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Singapore is a perfect destination for city lovers. The Southeast Asian city-state is known for its luxury hotels, endless shopping, fusion cuisine, and vibrant nightlife. Between all the bright lights and the construction though, it’s hard to really decompress on the island. But there must be one quiet spot here.

There is. It’s just on a separate island. Pulau Ubin, a four-square-mile island, sits northeast of the city along the Malaysian border. It was the site of a granite quarry—the rocks were used to make floor tiles—in the 1960s. It’s now a rural area preserved from urban development. Less than 100 people live on the island. A conservation area protects birds, some of which are endangered. There are no concrete buildings, electricity, or running water. The roads are mostly gravel. While it’s just a 10-minute boat ride from Changi Village.

After crossing the Ketam Sea, arrive at the Chek Jawa dock on Pulau Ubin. The southeast coast has a rocky shore, a sandy beach, kelongs (fishing huts), and extensive wetlands. Walk along the boardwalk through the dense mangroves. Continue to the tidal flats, if it’s low tide. Find sponges, crabs, and maybe a starfish on the beach. And listen for loud oriental pied hornbills. You’ll easily spot their yellow bills once you hear them.

Photo: Huaiwei [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Huaiwei [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Then follow the nature trails through the rest of the island. Pass traditional wooden kampong houses. Keep an eye out for endangered Nordmann’s greenshanks, collared kingfishers, and Chinese egrets. The limbs of nipa palms and flowering jambu bols intertwine with bamboo. Ponds are filled with lotuses. Dragonflies buzz above your head. Plus, wild boars grunt in the distance.

Hike Puaka Hill, the highest point on Pulau Ubin. You find an amazing view of the quarry below and the city on the horizon. Stop at the temples on your way back down. The Wei Tuo Fa Gong Temple sits on a small hill overlooking a pond filled with turtles and carp. The German Girl Shrine is filled with toys and possibly a ghost. And continue to the Ketam Mountain Bike Park, where you follow the clay track along the side of the quarry.

Back by the dock, sip a Tiger Beer as you wait to board the ferry back to the city. You’ve enjoyed the gorgeous scenery, the singing birds, and the peaceful spots on Pulau Ubin all day. It was the perfect escape from the craziness. You’re almost tempted to let the boat leave without you.

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