Since the opening of Coney Island, Singaporeans’ imagination of the great outdoors has been recaptured, or at least, meticulously captured on their Instagram feeds. Rather than roughing it out with the increasing number of visitors to the island off Punggol Promenade, take time to slow down and wind down from the daily grind in the rustic charms of Pulau Ubin.
From 14 May to 11 June 2016, Singapore’s little kampong island will be hosting “Pesta Ubin” (pronounced “pays-ta”), a five-week open house to celebrate all things Ubin.
From discovering little-known spaces, chomping on lontong to movies under the stars, we’ve got you covered with these five ways to live it up by first slowing down:
1. Catch a film
As part of the Singapore Heritage Fest 2016, two local films borrowing inspiration from the island itself will be screened at the Ubin Wayang Stage. Bring a picnic mat, or borrow a chair from the friendly residents as you relive the days of old, when quarry coolies and island residents watched moving images under a canopy of stars.
If you’re the kind that needs films to wear laurels before you watch them – well, Kirsten Tan’s Dahdi fits the bill perfectly, having won Best Southeast Asian Short Film at the 25th Singapore International Film Fest. It is a poignant telling of what happens when the worlds, languages and cultures of an elderly ah ma and an asylum-seeking girl collide.
But if you’re looking for something even newer, how does world premiere sound? Royston Tan’s new short film on Pulau Ubin, Homecoming, will be making its debut, featuring personal stories of former and current Pulau Ubin residents.
2. Breathe art
If the films have piqued your interest in the island’s heritage, continue the expedition into history with Juria Toramae’s exhibition of nostalgic photographs of all things Ubin, from the past till present day.
Held between 14 May and 12 June, the exhibition will be held at Uncle Lim’s shop, where the colourful umbrellas are, opposite the iconic Wayang Stage.
3. Involve the kids!
For those planning to make visiting the island a family affair, it’s best to find a way to ditch entertain the kids. They’ll probably be happy colouring the 15-year-old Pulau Ubin Fun Map in Uncle Lim’s shop.
Kids can also make animal puppets of the animals they will (hopefully) meet. Choose from these Ubin animals: the otter, hornbill bird, macaque monkey, wild boar and mousedeer! If your family is more the adventurous sort, bring your children “musang”-spotting at night! Also known as the Common Palm Civets, these little critters are probably more well-known for what can be found in their dung—partially digested coffee cherries prized for their aroma.
3. Do your bit for future generations
If you’re eco-conscious citizen of the world, you might want to make your visit to Ubin less hands-off tourist and more hao gong ming (‘model citizen’ in Chinese). Why not volunteer to help out in coastal and forest cleanups? By removing all those debris and waste, you can look forward to some gorgeous coastlines and mangroves preserved for decades to come.
4. Wander deeper, discover more
An open house is the perfect time to try new things. Learn as much as you can about the Ubin residents’ way of life through guided walks and cycles; these are great ways to wander deeper into Ubin while uncovering little known secrets. We’ve got our eye on special walks by Strix Wildlife Consultancy, led by Subaraj Rajathurai (pictured below), the foremost nature guide in Singapore.
5. Get fit
Whether you are into kayaking, biking or running, Pesta Ubin’s ready for you. Learn the ropes of mountain biking safely, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with Singapore’s very own Mountain Bike Association against the idyllic backdrop of Pulau Ubin. Learn basics like riding a mountain bike on easy off-road trails, bike handling on up-slopes and down-slopes, gear use and braking techniques.
The kayaking scene on mainland Singapore largely revolves around cityscapes. Break out of the mould and go kayaking in the serenity of Pulau Ubin’s lush mangroves with experienced guides. Bonus: cruise up close to wildlife like the collared kingfisher and gold-spotted mudskipper.
Pesta Ubin takes place from 14 May to 11 June 2016. For more information on dates and registration, visit here. Instructions on how to get to Ubin can be found here. For more Ubin stories, check this out.
Banner image © Ria Tan