Off the Beaten Path to the Oil Spill

On Sunday, J and I ventured out to Pulau Ubin, a small island off of Singapore’s northeast coast.  It’s a bit of a haul to get there from here: the trip requires a long cab or bus ride along much of the length of Singapore, followed by a bumboat ride to Pulau Ubin itself.  But people like to go there because it’s quiet and undeveloped and old-timey — as unlike Singapore as you can get while still being within Singapore’s borders.

When you finally arrive on Pulau Ubin, the best way to get around is by bicycle (even when it’s fantastically hot, as it was on Sunday).  The bikes for rent are in terrible shape — our gears operated only when they felt like it, and J was riding with only one real brake — but it’s still nice to be out on the roads through the jungle.  Our first destination was the Chek Jawa (sounds like a Star Wars character) nature park.  There’s a huge boardwalk there that stretches far out over the sea.



I’ve been to Pulau Ubin once before, and the boardwalk was empty.  This time, however, you could see clusters of yellow bins at the far end:


If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll also see what looks to be a raised white ring in the water spreading out from the end of the boardwalk.  The bins on the boardwalk all say “oil spill,” and the white ring is an oil spill boom meant to protect the shoreline from the oil flowing quickly toward it.


Last week, a ship in the Straits between Malaysia and Singapore lost power as it was moving forward.  That ship then ran into an oil tanker, and 300 tons of oil spilled into the Straits.  This closed down fish farms, endangered one of Singapore’s more unspoiled natural areas.  But it’s impossible to keep oil from reaching the shore, and the evidence of this was all over the place.


The black stuff on those rocks is oil.  The white stuff appears to be remnants of the absorbent paper that cleaning crews are wiping all over the shoreline in attempt to get as much of the oil out of the ecosystem as possible.

This was not your average nature walk, but we still found lovely things to admire.


The walk continues into the mangrove swamp:


And we found this giant and beautiful palm seed pod:img_9488

We then got back on our bikes and headed up to an old quarry area …


… where we found well over a dozen monkeys!


Our bike trip took us over a good bit of the islands, past Muslim cemeteries and a Chinese shrine, tall trees and dilapidated shacks, fishermen and bird watchers.  We saw over twenty herons on one pond, including one in flight with a twig in its mouth right over our heads, and J got her first look at mudskippers hopping on the banks of a river.

By the time we got returned our bikes, we were both hot and dehydrated.  We sat down at a nearby stall that served coconut ice cream inside of young coconuts (with glasses of the coconuts’ water on the side) and became the two happiest people in Singapore.img_9520

There’s a great hawker stall just on the Singapore side of the ferry terminal, so after our bumboat ride back, J continued her foray into trying local foods with her first plate of chicken rice.  We then stumbled on a place that sells cendol melaka, a Malay shave ice dish with palm sugar syrup and cendol worms.  So yummy!!!


I also tried a piece of kueh salat, a very green glutinous rice/coconut milk/pandan snack.


For our evening outing, we traded our athletic wear in for fancy dresses and went to have drinks at Spago, which is up on the fifty-seventh floor of the Marina Bay Sands hotel.  We managed to catch sunset over the infinity pool:


And we looked down over Gardens by the Bay (you can’t quite see it in the photo, but J notes that, from above, it looks exactly like a landscape architect’s rendering brought to life):


We ended the night at Din Tai Fung, a dim sum restaurant that’s beloved throughout Singapore.  If you’re ever in town, they have great food!




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