Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Welcome to Paradise

IN Danny Wallace's Yes Man, he travels to Singapore and is taken to paradise by a man on a bumboat. It is an island called Pulau Ubin, where he picks up a poorly worded leaflet from an oversize tourist information centre, then hires a bike until he is chased by a lizard.

I did not come here to copy Danny. I, too, wanted to experience traditional Singapore, but I was willing to visit any of the 63 islands. I didn't necessarily want to hire a bicycle, nor did I want to be chased by a lizard. But when our receptionist at the Metro-Y said Pulau Ubin was by far the best to visit, and cycling was the way to see it, who was I to argue?

So yesterday we caught a bumboat from Changi Point and headed north to the wonderful, beautiful and utterly remarkable island of Pulau Ubin, or Granite Island in Malay. We disembarked, and headed to the tourist information hut (indeed a very large building for a man with a leaflet) but were given a very well worded leaflet about the island - it's geography, history and it's national park at the tip. A separate brochure about this park Chek Jawa, told us of it's mangrove swamps and rocky shores, it's coral beds and sea grasses. We got the first bicycles we saw (a mistake, as these were more expensive) and headed into the jungle. This, finally, felt like Asia. We were riding through a tropical jungle, swamps either side, with palms and creeping lianas. Strange sounding birds could be heard in the distance and insects were aiming for our faces. We passed kampongs, traditional villages, houses made of corrugated iron sheets and the people surviving on subsistence, fishing and hiring bicycles. Eventually, out of breath and with extremely sore backsides, we reached the haven of Chek Jawa.

And here I shall stop. It was too good to write about here and besides, I've got to have something to tell you when I get back! The only other thing you need to know was the island was sponsored by HSBC, the world's local bank.

No comments: