Pulau Ubin is a small Singapore offshore island. From the Changi Ferry Terminal it takes some 10 minutes by a bumboat to cross over to the island.
As soon as one sets one’s feet on the island it seems that one is drawn back by a time machine some 50 years to the 1960s: No excessive noise, no skyscrapers, no hustle bustle. But instead one finds wooden huts with corrugated iron roofs, just a few old cars, calmness and serenity. Here time has come to a standstill. The Singaporeans fancy the rural atmosphere, the so called Kampung living.
Kampung is a Malay word and describes the living in a small village with simple houses, simple equipment and close relationship to the neighbours. For some people Kampung also defines a backward, traditionalist way of life. Once Singapore used to have many Kampung villages. The urban development over the past 60 years has erased most of these Kampongs.
On Pulau Ubin, people live a serene, peaceful life in the slow lane. Some 130 people still reside on the island, which lacks a general supply of electricity, running water and a modern sewage system. Visitors who come to the island find an authentic way of life. A typical Kampung dweller lives a life that’s self-sustaining. They collect fruits and edible plants, make their own fishing equipment and go fishing, collect crabs and sell them to the restaurants at the boat launch. They gather things which float ashore and make use of them. The houses are made by themselves and are kept in good repair.
A Kampung life is not a passive life, on the contrary, it’s a very active one. It’s not a life which is dedicated to earning a great fortune but to earning one’s daily sustenance.
At one of the bicycle rental shops close to the wharf, we rented bicycles by which we travelled around the island. Already after some 100 meters we had our first Ubin experience: Unexpectedly, a hoard of wild boars broke through the bushes and gruntingly crossed the road, immediately in front of us. We had to brake abruptly in order not to collide with one of the boar piglets. We know very well how aggressive boars may get when they see their piglets threatened. But it would become even more adventurous. In order to take some photos we stopped. Jacob and his friend Keita posed in the middle of the road. Suddenly, they let go of their bicycles and both kids dashed away helter-skelter. A group of macaques were after the snack stored in the baskets of the kids’ bicycles. With loud shouts and energetic hand gestures we tried to chase away the cheeky food robbers. But each time we approached, they snarled aggressively and showed off their pointed teeth. We gave in and quickly the monkeys brought their loot to safety high up into the trees. There we watched them consuming with pleasure our snacks and drinks.
Warned by this brazen attack we stowed the rest of our snacks in a small backpack which I placed in front of me in my bicycle’s basket. But we haven’t reckoned with the monkey’s continued brazenness. Already at the next photo stop we faced another monkey attack. This time they were after the backpack. Highest alert! If the macaques succeeded in getting hold of the backpack, we would have lost not only our snacks but also our money and ID cards, which we kept in the backpack. With the utmost determination we screamed and brandished arms and stocks. In the face of this unexpected resistance the monkeys withdrew in order to organise another assault. At this moment some hoars strolled along the way. In view of the additional opponents, the monkeys withdrew farther into the forest. We seized the opportunity, grasped our belongings and pedalled off quickly on our bikes.
Luckily, for the rest of the day we were spared from further monkey attacks. Hence, we were able to enjoy the retro-atmosphere, which carried us back to long gone times, on an island which is only a few minutes away by boat from the hyper-modern, avantgarde Singapore with its hustle and bustle.
Click on the link in order to watch a short youtube video about Pulau Ubin: https://youtu.be/KmQR74Lpkbo