A few weeks ago, on the spur of a moment I decided to join a tour to Chek Jawa organized by Naked Hermit Crabs, mostly because I wanted to see the intertidal area. The guided portion of the tour was to start at around 9:30, so I figured that gave me plenty time in the morning to walk there on foot from Ubin Jetty.
This fantastically designed sign greets you at the Changi Point Ferry Terminal
It was real easy to get there. I left the house early to go to Tanah Merah, took bus 2 to Changi Village and had a leisurely breakfast there, and then I got on a boat to Ubin at 8am, almost immediately. It was a good thing I went so early, because if you are slow like me then you might take more than the 45 minutes it apparently takes to walk from the Jetty to Chek Jawa, as proscribed by sources on the internet. In the end it took me over an hour to walk there...
A short boat ride away
Approaching Ubin Jetty
After this point, I started walking to Chek Jawa on foot. I could not see ANY other people walking. It seems that everyone else was on a bike or traveling there in a van. One van even kindly stopped to ask me if i needed a ride (probably with the assumption that I must be suffering from having to walk so far to Chek Jawa BUT I TOLD THEM NO! I WAS HAVING A DECIDEDLY GOOD TIME WALKING ON MY OWN!!!). The best way to travel around Ubin has to be by foot. Whenever I hire a bike on Ubin, I end up "exercising" rather than "exploring", and I really hate anything that resembles "organized exercise". Also if you are cycling you will have to stop to catch your breath and a billion mosquitoes will take advantage of your being still and bite you. This does not happen when one is constantly moving and walking. HA! TAKE THAT, ALL YOU NON-WALKERS!
A Guide to Pulau Ubin Tree Trail
NParks has marked out a tree walk along the way to Chek Jawa, however, I am slightly disappointed to say that it only points out the most recognizable trees in their latin names. I was already familiar with most of the trees on this list and could identify them on my own without having to look at this signboard, so if you had asked me it might have been better to go one step further in identifying more of these exciting tropical plants instead of superficially identifying the common trees. (I believe there is never such a thing as "too much information", I always enjoy reading more information on these signboards...)
Oho, I recognize the sign of JKFoo...
A series of bucolic shots of life on Ubin...
Finally, some sign pointing to Chek Jawa.
Along the way I saw many sticks with tiny saplings sticking out of the ground. They all had some ribbon tied to them.
Turns out that the ribbon has the name of the plant species next to it.
I was freaked out when I saw what appeared to be a GIANT ARACHNID crawling back into one of these mounds. Later I realized they were only mangrove lobsters. Somehow, on learning that, I was less alarmed, knowing they were simply lobsters. I wonder why are spiders this bit more shocking than lobsters?
Common Pulai Tree
Boars have been sighted in this location
The gates of Chek Jawa open at 8.30am
We met up with our friendly tour guide, and were joined by a bunch of older people who had randomly come to Ubin for a leisurely morning walk. They decided to join us on our boardwalk tour of Chek Jawa…
The view from Jejawi Tower
Jejawi Tower is named after the Jejawi or Malayan Banyan tree. (See, this is precisely why I think that for a Tree walk we should always be told the Malay/local names of plants rather than only the Latin names)
This is the Nipah plant, a common mangrove plant from which the Attap Chee fruit comes from.
Closeup of Nipah Plant.
On the boardwalk...
Pneumatophores (Aerial Roots)
Fruit of the Mengkudu tree (Morinda citrifolia, aka Cheese Fruit)
If this fruit looks a bit familiar, it might be because there is also a Mengkudu tree at the Armenian Church which frequently sheds its excitingly squishy and stinky fruit on the pavement opposite the Substation. I always walk past the tree and find its horrifying fruit rolling about everywhere...
Mangrove tree with stilt roots
Pneumatophores (Aerial Roots)
Clear skies and waters
Intertidal Zone. The white spots in this photo are oysters.
It looks like someone or something has eaten all the oysters! Hrmm...
Information board about intertidal crustaceans
Information board about Seagrass Meadows
Map of Chek Jawa
Our guide explaining something to us on the boardwalk.
I think she was telling us about Pulau Sekudu (of which I don't have a clear photo) which is a brocoli shaped islet in visible sight from Chek Jawa. The legend goes that a pig, elephant and frog were trying to swim from Singapore to Johor. All 3 animals had problems swimming the entire length and the pig and elephant turned into the rock that formed Pulau Ubin, whereas the frog turned into Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island). As the tiny island of Sekudu was previously badly polluted by people/sailors who stopped by the island and littered all over it, access to the island is now restricted so as to allow it to exist as a nature reserve.
Low tide at the intertidal zone
Our guide pointing out a TONGKAT ALI plant to us. Guys, wink wink, you should know what this plant is for...
As we retreated into the forested parts, we were being shown a man-made birdhouse. Whilst looking at the birdhouse, we also saw this strange tombstone-like structure in the undergrowth. A bit of concrete, like a tombstone for something...
But in reality it was a marker for something very urban.
I haven't figured out what this is yet but surely I will eventually figure it out.
(It was flanked by a 1/750 marker)
Finally we got to the final section of the boardwalk...
Picture of the Perepat Tree
The Actual Perepat Tree
House no. 1
Information on House No. 1
At the end of our tour the guides asked us to draw our impressions of Chek Jawa for them, so I obliged...
...which brings us to THE END OF THE CHEK JAWA COASTAL BOARDWALK TOUR!
BUT WAIT. The adventure to Ubin did not end there. After a lunch at the jetty, me and my friend Alex decided that since there was a bit of time (I just wanted to go home to work before the sun set), that we should try to find The Artists Village house on Ubin. Neither of us had seen it before. Unfortunately, we got completely lost cycling about and found something else instead...
THE OTHER ADVENTURE IN WHICH WE ATTEMPT TO FIND THE ARTISTS VILLAGE HOUSE (BUT FAIL MISERABLY)
Rented some el cheapo bike...
After too much cycling - this mostly consisted of Alex cycling a few miles down the road while I slowly pushed my bike up a small hill and then rolled slowly down the small hill, and then Alex cycling back to find me still having not progressing very far, repeated many times, because oh my god I apparently have zero stamina for any prolonged sort of cycling activity - well after what seemed like far too much cycling for me, eventually based on a map found online, we got to an old house with a sign that was almost falling off.
Behold, it looked like a sign for The Artists Village???
It looked like it COULD be the place, so I texted Mike to ask him if this was the place but he was like "NO!!!!!" Haha. Alright, I get the picture, it was the wrong house. Sadly, I suppose its like one of those things that always seems to happens in Singapore. You end up having two statues of Raffles and then wonder WHY it is that everytime you tell someone to meet you at the Raffles Statue, you or the other person always ends up at the wrong one. And never the twain shall meet...
Yeah, it looked like it could be the house for The Artists Village, but apparently it was not the house that was currently in use. Which was a great relief since it looked quite unused and I was worried about termites. Oh and for the curious who like opening up closed boxes and closed containers (that you knew you should NEVER have attempted to open), get ready for lots of SURPRISE INSECTS BURSTING OUT OF EVERYTHING! Endless horror and abjection (in the Kristevan sense) for hapless city slickers.
On the house next door, there was this disturbing letter.
Close up of letter. What a confusing letter. If even I cannot understand what is going on here, how will Ubin's residents (some of whom are illiterate) know what is going on? It just sounds like they are wanting to clear the original residents in order to build another obnoxious and unnecessary "adventure park". Or were they just doing a census? Which is it? There has been lots of debate on this lately and what the letter means.
Images of Ubin Life
I also met a sweet old man who asked me to take his picture.
How did the search for The Artists Village house go in the end? Well soon after that I gave up and we all went home. I guess I'll have to find it again next time I go to Ubin. Also, I've finally run out of writing juice now so ABRUPTLY THIS IS THE END OF THE POST.
(Thanks to Naked Hermit Crabs for organising these free tours to Chek Jawa!)
More pictures of Pulau Ubin on Flickr