What to do in Ubin during Pesta Ubin

SERENE LIM Today Online 14 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Fret not if you’re not among the ones who got the Singapore HeritageFest (SHF) Ubin Access Passes. You can still hop over to the island this weekend.

Take it free and easy: Embark on the Ubin Experience Self-Guided Tour with the new trail map given out at SHF Booth at Ubin. We also suggest leaving earlier before the crush starts when the movie screenings and concert end. Do note there are limited ferries operating after 7.30pm. Pesta Ubin has more than 50 activities lined up from now till June 12. The best way to decide what to do is to log on to Pesta Ubin’s website (http://pestaubin2016.blogspot.sg).

Also, stop by Pesta Ubin Central in Ubin Town (Shop No 42, opposite the Wayang stage). Over there are a photo booth, art exhibitions such as visual artist Julia Torame’s Islands of Memories — Pulau Ubin, and a colouring session of the Ubin Fun Map for kids. Some activities happening this weekend, such as Pesta Ubin Run, are already full but there are still others you can participate in. The Treasures Ubin (https://www.facebook.com/treasuresg) should be pretty fun — seek out 10 different treasure cards in Ubin Town to stand a chance to win illustrated books and vouchers.

Ria Tan also suggested dropping by on June 4, where there’ll be plenty of action including a free tour of Ubin mangroves, bird watching at Pekan Quarry near Ubin Town, nature sketching and a kampung tour.

Nature lovers can help with a coastal clean-up in the afternoon and end the day with a nature walk in the dark, a kampung BBQ, night kayaking and night cycling. A family outing to consider, since it’s the school holidays, is the Family Nature Camp with Cicada Tree Eco-Place happening on Friday night on June 3.

Ubin there, done that?
SERENE LIM Today Online 14 May 16;

SINGAPORE — The place to be this weekend isn’t in the city. Instead, take a boat out from Changi Jetty and head out to Pulau Ubin, as the once sleepy island takes centre stage. The island is choc-a-bloc with activities for both young and old.

And it’s not just your usual outdoor adventures such as nature trails either. For one, there’s the movie premiere of Royston Tan’s new film specially commissioned by the National Heritage Board (NHB) for the Singapore HeritageFest 2016 (SHF) on Saturday (May 14) night. It’s followed by a concert where artistes such as Inch Chua are rocking the stage while sharing her memories of the island — and there’s even a cooking class on Sunday.

These activities, which are part of SHF, tie in nicely with Pesta Ubin, a five-week long event also starting on Saturday. The event has evolved from Ubin Day held over the last two years.

“Ubin Day was such a huge success, with so many events. And we had many organising groups — such as Mountain Bike Association Singapore and Pulau Ubin Bird Lovers — involved in one day (2014) or one weekend (2015),” said Pesta Ubin’s organiser Ria Tan, who revived Ubin Day two years ago after volunteer Grant Pereira started it with the Singapore Environment Council in 2002. “I didn’t know of NHB’s plans when I was working with the organising groups on dates. But I was delighted to learn that the NHB planned Ubin events on the first weekend of Pesta Ubin. It’s a happy coincidence!”

You can definitely expect a crowd there as all 300 SHF-Ubin Access Passes are already sold out. That’s not to say you can’t catch the screening or the concert, but do be forewarned that there won’t be seats available.

“We are heartened by the overwhelming support from the community and strong interest by members of the public to discover the lesser-known and forgotten stories of our diverse heritage through the programmes organised at Pulau Ubin. We hope that this will encourage more Singaporeans to learn more about our shared heritage,” said an SHF spokesman.

Dealing with crowds is one reason Tan decided to make Pesta Ubin an extended five-week event. The energetic 55-year-old feels Ubin should be experienced at its own pace to best appreciate it.

“Many of the organising groups felt cramming so many events in a short time affected the experience for participants,” she explained, adding that there were long queues for bumboats, restaurants and toilets. Hence, a myriad of activities from night kayaking to a puppet-making workshop for kids have been planned throughout the five weeks “to allow participants to experience ‘normal’ Ubin life”. With more activities, it is also a chance for more members of the public to participate, added Tan.

Both the NHB and Tan hope such events would inspire the younger generation to keep Ubin vibrant. After all, the island is hardly a relic of the past. “Ubin is a thriving community — there are more than 130 residents living and working on Ubin,” revealed anthropologist Dr Vivienne Wee who finished a year-long cultural mapping project of the island, commissioned by the NHB. “And there are young people coming back to help out with the family businesses.”

One of them is Ewyn Lek. The 31-year-old left his job at an auditing firm three years ago and started helping his aunt run Comfort Bicycle Rental and Trading while doing a part-time degree.

“There’s freedom and flexibility here. It beats being cooped up in the office,” he said on his decision to continue working in Ubin even after finishing his studies. “Having grown up here, it’s nice to see how younger kids are coming to enjoy the island.”

Echoing his sentiments is fellow Ubin kid Emily Chia. The 26-year-old grew up playing in Ubin as her grandparents had lived there. Now she goes there thrice weekly to help with her family’s bicycle business. “I think it’s pretty great that events like Singapore HeritageFest and Pesta Ubin bring more people to Ubin,” the financial consultant said. “I’ve also seen the activities promoted on Facebook and it’s good that people seem to be interested. I’m excited to see how the events turn out.”

5 staycation options for Ubin day-trippers
You don’t need to go back home immediately after a trip to Pulau Ubin
SERENE LIM Today Online 13 May 16;

SINGAPORE — After a whole day of activities on Ubin, especially with the five-week Pesta Ubin kicking off tomorrow (May 14), do you really want to schlep back home (particularly if that home is on the other end of Singapore)?

While you can always camp out in Ubin — National Parks allows camping on the sites of Jelutong and Mamam without requiring permits — we know all too well we prefer comforts, like air-conditioning.

Just beside Changi Jetty is the Civil Service Club Changi. The club was relaunched with 20 new suites and five villas in October 2014 following a two-year renovation — and they look decidedly posher than the image of a chalet you might have in mind. The public is able to book these villas and suites; rates start from S$225 a night for non-members during off-peak periods. Non-members can only book via email (rooms@csc.sg) or in person.

“Yes, we do have a lot of guests who do staycations with us who they take the opportunity to visit Pulau Ubin,” shared its general manager Peter Chew, adding that multinational companies even hold retreats at the club, as it serves as a convenient location when they arrange for visits to Ubin for their foreign executives. If you’re a group of 12 staying at Civil Service Club Changi, you can also request for the club to arrange for a tour of Ubin.

Besides Changi Civil Service Club, here are four other options to book.

1. VILLAGE HOTEL CHANGI (http://villagehotelchangi.com.sg; 1 Netheravon Road; Tel: 6379 7111). Across the road from Civil Service Club is the well-loved Village Hotel Changi, known for its rooftop infinity pool looking out to the sea. Rooms are cosy and comfortable. Go for the club rooms which includes perks like lounge access for evening cocktails and free flow mini bar. The hotel, which is popular for staycations, also offers an Ubin Adventures weekend package priced at S$180 a night for a superior room that includes a three-hour bicycle ride through Pulau Ubin, complimentary Wifi and buffet breakfast for two and late check-out at 3pm.

2. CHANGI COVE HOTEL (http://www.changicove.com; 351 Cranwell Road; Tel: 6922 6122). Changi Cove may be better known for its event space but there’s also a hotel with 112 rooms here. Don’t expect too many frills — the rooms are sleek and simple although there are small luxuries like a Nepresso machine and L’Occitane toiletries. Rates start from S$180 a night for a double room.

3. RAINTR33 HOTEL (http://raintr33hotel.com; 33 Hendon Road; Tel: 6653 3833). Like every self-respecting colonial building turned boutique hotel, Raintr33 has restored its beautiful exteriors while doing up the interiors to ooze designer chic. Take your pick from the 42 rooms with a private balcony, or the larger eight suites equipped with a king-sized bed and bathtub. Rates start from S$130 a night for a superior room.

4. ALOHA CHANGI (https://www.aloharesorts.com.sg; 30 Netheravon Road; Tel: 6545 2343). There are 31 bungalows and terraces here with three to six bedrooms in each. It’s most ideal for a large party so feel free to get the grill going at the barbecue pits and kick-back old-school style. Rates start from S$140 a night for a Yacht Club Chalet.

Singapore has other islands for rustic adventures besides Ubin, you know
JOY FANG Today Online 14 May 16;

SINGAPORE — Okay, so we may not have pristine and white sandy beaches like Boracay’s, or have as large a variety as Indonesia or Thailand when it comes to island-hopping options. But our humble isles serve up a load of rustic fun and adventure as well. Best part is you don’t need a passport to enjoy a slice of rural charm. These islands, part of Singapore’s Southern Islands, are where you can head to.

Designated a marine park in 2014 and made up of two tranquil islands called Pulau Subar Laut (Big Sister’s) and Pulau Subar Darat (Little Sister’s), the pair are separated by a narrow but deep channel that cannot be swum across (don’t say we didn’t warn you!). Beaches are rocky but its clear blue waters are great for snorkelling, although you should keep to the sheltered bays when you do so.
Keep your eyes peeled for long-tailed macaques on land and coral reefs, fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and more, often buried deep in the sand, in water. Because there are a lot of shady palm trees, it’s a great spot for a lazy picnic.

If you are into underwater marine life (and have logged at least 20 dives with one local dive within the past two years), you can try Singapore’s first Dive Trail at Pulau Subar Laut, developed by NParks.

Two separate trails are available — the shallow trail will take divers around a loop to a maximum depth of 6m. The deep trail will reach a maximum depth of 15m.
Note: Overnight camping is no longer allowed on the island.

Formerly a quarantine station for cholera cases detected among immigrants, and eventually leprosy as well, this hilly island is now an idyllic getaway with swimming lagoons, beaches, trekking routes and soccer fields, as well as plenty of flora and fauna. It also houses several bungalow chalets. If you are a cat lover, this island will make you purr with its large stray cat population ambling about. To make your money’s worth (a boat ticket to Kusu and/or Saint John’s costs S$18), cross a paved bridge to get to Lazarus Island, where there’s a sandy beach a short stroll away. Li Guoli, a manager from Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services, said the beach is secluded and pretty. “It’s quite a clean beach compared with East Coast, which may be too commercialised,” he said. While these two spots are popular among anglers, like at Sisters’ Island, you are not allowed to camp overnight here.

Known as “Tortoise Island” in Mandarin, this spot boasts a rich heritage with a Chinese temple, the Da Bo Gong Temple built in 1923, and the shrines of three Malay saints located on the island. It receives scores of devotees during the ninth month of the lunar calendar (which falls between September and November), who go there for a pilgrimage. Li said during that month, his company runs continuous trips daily, “like a taxi”, and people need not keep to the scheduled times — they just turn up and queue. Trips begin from 5.30am to 5pm, but they head directly to Kusu Island and do not stop over at Saint John’s Island, he added. Hundreds of tortoises are housed at the island’s Tortoise Sanctuary, with dozens more at the Chinese temple. There are also two lagoons, beach shelters and barbecue pits for you to laze and snack your afternoon away. Overnight stays are not permitted here either.

Made up of two islets, Pulau Hantu Besar (Big Ghost Island) and Pulau Hantu Kechil (Little Ghost Island), here is a popular destination for fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling enthusiasts. Catch sight of mangroves, corals, and marine life such as clownfish, anemone shrimps and giant clams, or pull out a mat for a leisurely gathering at the shelters or picnic areas. You can walk across the shallow lagoon between the two islands at low tides, but make sure you head back before high-tide hits. Not afraid of the “hantus” (ghosts)? You can camp overnight here, with a permit.

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