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Published June 26th 2017
Explore a little known part of Singapore
When people talk about Singapore, images of air conditioned shopping malls and high rise apartment blocks come to mind.
It's a great place for a stop-over on the way to or from their 'real' holiday people say. But although there are some great big name attractions such as Gardens By The Bay, Singapore Zoo and Sentosa, it is still possible to get off the beaten track.
One thing most people don't think about when they go to Singapore is mountain biking, yet Singapore does boast its own Mountain Bike Park on Pulau Ubin. "Where?" I hear you ask.
A little known part of Singapore is the island of Pulau Ubin. The island can be reached by taking a short 'bum boat' ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal – about 1.5 hours by MRT and bus from central Singapore. There are various bus connections from stations along the East West MRT line. We travelled all the way to Pasir Ris which is a very busy transport hub. There are several buses from Pasir Ris travelling to the ferry terminal so you won't have to wait long. We took the 109 bus.
The 'bum boat' is a quaint remnant of old Singapore and they definitely don't operate on the same time scale or efficiency scale as residents and visitors to Singapore would be familiar with. Instead you must wait until enough passengers arrive for the ferryman to take you across and they only operate during the day. We were charged SG$3 per person, each way. If you are taking your own bike across, it is extra.
Once you get to the island you arrive at the village – often referred to as the last village or 'kampung' in Singapore. There are only around 50 people living permanently on the island and the buildings give the impression of Singapore as it was pre 1960s rather than the modern day, with generators, corrugated iron and dirt roads on display. There are no modern shops here and no ATMs so make sure you bring cash. There are a few eating establishments on the island so you can get a meal and even a beer, which you might feel you've earned after cycling in the tropical heat.
The village has multiple businesses hiring bikes to ride around the island and, depending on the style (and age) of the bike you are after, hiring for the day will set you back between SG$10 and SG$30.
It is very humid in Singapore year round so do make sure you take plenty of water. Sun-cream and insect repellent are also very important. You may pass a couple of roadside stalls selling drinks but it really is best to take your own with you and buy extra if required.
The island is easy to circumnavigate in a very short space of time, but you will see some lovely scenery and even an old colonial home. One of the main draw cards of Pulau Ubin is the Chek Jawa Wetlands which boasts a 1km boardwalk along the mangrove coastline. Here you can get some nice coastal views across the water to Singapore.
The second draw card of the island is the Ketam Mountain Bike Park. Whilst certainly not extensive, it does boast a black diamond run as well as much more sedate trails. It wasn't the peak season when we visited and the park didn't appear to be heavily used by Australian standards. Let's face it, Singapore is very hot and steamy for mountain biking. Mountain bikers will appreciate the chance to tick Ketam off on their list though. It's certainly not something that the majority of visitors to Singapore will do.
It is possible to pre-book various activities for Pulau Ubin but it is easy (and cheaper) to do it yourself as we did, and while it is possible to camp on Pulau Ubin, for most visitors a day trip will satisfy all needs.