Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pulau Ubin

On Saturday, Bryan and I went on a little excursion. We took the MRT to Pasir Ris (the end of the line) and then got a taxi to the Changi Village Ferry Station, where we got on a bumboat to Pulau Ubin, a nearby island. Public transportation is insanely cheap here- it was only S$2 to take the MRT from one side of Singapore to the other, and the boat ride was only S$2.50. Below are some pictures of the ride over.Pulau (Malay for island) Ubin is technically a part of Singapore, but it's very different. There's no electricity, so the few residents of the island use diesel generators. Most of the island is wilderness, and a lot of people rent bikes from the little village to explore the area. We decided to venture around on foot so that we would be more likely to see some of the resident wildlife. It was lucky that we decided to walk- we ended up walking through a pretty garden with name placards for all of the plants. We saw coffee, ginger, bananas, and something called "Midnight Horror". We also spotted this baby Malayan water monitor right away, perched on the side of an old well. Water monitors are different from the clouded monitors that Bryan and I have seen before. Water monitors can grow to over two meters long, and are among the largest lizards in the world. As their name implies, they spend a lot of time in the water, but like the much smaller clouded monitors, they're also excellent at climbing trees. This one was very young, so he wasn't that big, but it was still really exciting to see one of these guys in the wild. In the second picture, you can see his black forked tongue flicking out.After seeing some wildlife so early in our walk, we were pretty optimistic about our prospects for the rest of the day, and we weren't disappointed. We saw a skink shortly after this, and pretty soon we started catching sight of huge, brightly colored spiders that we later identified as golden wed spiders. The first time we found one it was because I walked directly into its home and ended up with a mouthful of spiderweb. Delicious. Before too long, we started hearing crashing sounds in the woods around us. Although we didn't see anything, we suspected that we might be near the wild boar that our guidebook had warned us about. Sure enough, before long, we caught sight of a huge mama with a bunch of piglets trailing along behind her. We didn't see them very well, as they were obscured by the dense foliage, but we thought it was pretty neat to have seen them at all. We emerged onto a wider path, and saw them standing a ways down- the mom with only two of her piglets. We froze for a second and Bryan snapped a couple of pictures, but when the mom took a couple of intimidating steps toward us, we thought it wise to get out of there. We ended up seeing wild boar two more times that day- once at the wetland reserve at the end of the island, and again on the walk back.On the way to the wetland, we stumbled upon something that I got very excited about...an abandoned building! On the road, someone had written some warnings in rather poor English ("Die Sure!!") with arrows pointing toward the building. Of course, we went and checked it out anyway. One of the things I really like about abandoned things is how nature starts to overtake them before long- plants start to grow through the cracks in the floor, vines climb the walls, etc. Here, in the middle of such lush wilderness, this house was certainly already being reclaimed by the surrounding forest, even though there was still furniture and even some clothes left inside. That's another reason I like forgotten places like this one- it's always interesting to think about why the building is there: Did someone live there? When? Why did they leave? Sometimes things are left behind- a little girls shoe or an old, tattered book- that give you hints about what the inhabitants of the building- it's like modern-day anthropology. Abandoned buildings are rare in Singapore, where space is such a commodity, so I took this one in for awhile, knowing that it might be the last one that I see for a bit.After taking a rather circuitous route, we finally got to the wetland reserve. The visitor center there was a beautiful old Tudor-style home from the era when Singapore was a British colony. The home boasted what a sign said is "likely the only working fireplace in Singapore." I had to wonder what the Brits were thinking. Just looking at it made me feel hotter. The visitor center had a great view of the ocean and we even found a snake (a striped brozeback- the first of two that we saw that day) hanging out in the backyard. The below pictures are the visitor center, the snake (obviously), and me and Bryan out on a walkway on the ocean, in back of the visitor center.Throught the day, we kept encountering these odd-looking creatures. Bryan thought they might be mudskippers, but said he's never seen ones this large before. I was totally baffled and halfway convinced that we'd discovered the evolutionary ancestor of the frog. Turns out Bryan was right (as usual haha). They were indeed mudskippers- giant mudskippers to be exact- and are actually a type of fish with some bizarre adaptations that enable them to breathe and get around out of water. Very strange.
We finally started to head back to the bumboat to go home. It was a long walk, but we saw some more wildlife on the way back, including this hornbill and this very vicious-looking (but dead) scorpion, so it was worth it. We thought about getting dinner on the island but the few open-air restaurants weren't exactly vegetarian-friendly (lots and lots of seafood), so we headed back to the mainland and got the first decent Mexican food we've had in Asia- at a place called Tequila Blue in Changi Village. It was quite a day, and after the long MRT ride, it was nice to finally get home and kick back.

1 comment:

  1. im very jealous of you guys and i miss you! i'll be reading this regularly in a vicarious manner.

    ps - that picture of the wild boar reminded me of how good they are to eat, haha. ive only had it in italy but im sure a wild boar is a wild boar anywhere. so i kno ur a veggie crystal, but bryan, do urself a favor and stick a fork in one bc they're delicous. better than wendys cheeseburgers, crystal!