A couple of months ago, Hayley and I were in Singapore for a weekend. It is a country which we visited quite a few times and this time we decided to explore a different part of the country. So we checked out Pulau Ubin, which is an island east of Singapore.
Many people would call Pulau Ubin the “wild Singapore” because the island is one of the few national parks in the country and it is the only place where the islanders do not get electricity directly from the grid. They need to use a generator. This is something that we had never imagined given how technologically advanced and how economically developed the country is when comparing to many of its neighbours in the region.
Travelling to the Island
Exploring the Singaporean History By Bike
In theory, it was possible to explore the island on foot, but it was much more fun to do this by bike. Once you get off the ferry, just turn left and you would see a whole lot of bike rental places. In fact on one end of the island there are dedicated mountain bike trails, which are all colour coded based on their difficulty.
On the day we were there, it was the last day of the Singapore Heritage Fest and we were given a map by their staff near the bike rental shops. Wow, we certainly did not expect there were so much history to the island, in particularly their mining history. Rocks were mined in the quarries in the early colonial history to build the city of Singapore. Apparently the bricks of many British colonial buildings were quarried from this island.
In addition to the quarries, one corner of the island is a botanical garden where the local council showcase many of the commercial crops that Singaporeans used to grow and trade. These included many tropical fruits such as pineapples, papayas, coffee beans, various herbs typically used in Malay and Indian cooking. Of course they had the infamous durian trees – even though we had helmets on us we didn’t bother standing underneath one for safety reasons. After all Hayley used to be a Newton whose (possible distant) ancestor discovered gravity by sitting underneath an apple tree. We didn’t fancy rediscovering it again with a durian!
The German Girl Shrine
Apart of many of these quarries, there were many Chinese temples dotted around the island. However, there was one particular template on the map caught our attention and we were determined to find it. It was called the German Girl Shrine. (Yes, I’m serious, many people on the island actually consider this German girl as a deity and worship her)
The words “German Girl” and “Shrine” do not normally come together, but this shrine is built in a style of German/Swiss chalet and with Chinese writing and Chinese temple layout in the inside.
Legend has it, that there were a German family lived on the island on the late 1800s and early 1900s. The family owned some coffee plantations on the island, but when the Brits declared war on Germany in 1914, the Brits confiscated all the properties belonging to the Germans as well as rounding all of them up and placed them in detention centres. The daughter of that family, whose identity is still unknown today, managed to escape but accidentally fell to her death at a nearby quarry.
To cut the story short, the local priest put her ashes into a urn and hidden it somewhere on the island. When the war ended her parents tried to find her body but failed as little did they knew she was already buried. It was later, the villager built a shrine for this girl for they believe this little girl would give them a lot of good luck.
The Wetland Park
The island is famous for the wetland ecosystem and this was the main reasons we came for. Beyond the main village of the island, one can easily see many marshland around the island.
Along the north east coast of the island, there was large area of mangroves. They are trees that grow literally by the seaside and get submerged into the salt water when the tide is high. They are vital to the ecosystem as the trees are capable of absorbing a lot of heavy metals present in the environment. They also offer shelter to many of the young fish before the learn how to fend for themselves in the open sea.
In the wetland area, they had built a boardwalk for the tourists. Just leave your bikes at the bike racks outside and walk through the gate. We were able to get closer to nature and look at the storks standing on the marshland during low tide.
There was even a viewing platform in that area. We climbed to the top and we were above the canopy of the forest. What a great view to the seaside!
Have you been to Palau Ubin? Have you visited a less travelled part of a country? Comment below!