Browsing Tag


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The charm of Pulau Ubin


A familiar haunt for Singaporeans, Pulau Ubin is a green idyllic space a hop and a skip from the mainland. I was there a few weeks ago with my artist/curator friend, Jacquelyn Soo, to view its vegetable, herb and spice garden and other nature spaces as inspiration for our upcoming joint exhibition project for Sum > Parts: When Artists Meet the Public.

There’s a carefree vibe on the island, and the sensible pace of life there made time seem slower, giving us time to appreciate each moment we had. There are more bicycles than cars and people, and the dogs here are so friendly and seem so happy, they look like they are smiling.


There’s greenery everywhere, and even on the roof of boats.


The island recently began test bedding a microgrid of solar panels and generators using biofuel, meaning lower and cleaner emissions. Solar panels can be seen on a few buildings.


We leased a couple of bicycles from the bicycle kiosk and  got on our way. For $5, you get a bicycle for the day.


Our first stop was the Artists’ Village rental kampung (or village) house. We put down some of our non essentials to take the weight off our backs.

P1210548P1210567It’s a cool space with its own veggie garden and a jackfruit tree. This is my first time inside a kampung house, and it was good to see and experience how people used to live in Singapore. It’s very basic, and all we need, really. Although it could do with some mosquito nets on the windows, as mosquitoes were feasting on us inside the house.

P1210551P1210550P1210554P1210552P1210555P1210561P1210560P1210558Fortunately, there was mosquito repellent on the dining table – Wormwood Essence! This worked pretty well, I didn’t get bitten on the areas that I had applied it to. I’d missed some spots like my lower shoulder and upper leg, and got bitten there. Incidentally, The Artist’s Village have Wormwood growing in their garden. I have a lot growing in my Singapore garden too, but we don’t do much with it. Through our research, we found that we can steep its leaves in apple cider vinegar using a 1:1 ratio, and upon straining, it can be used as a bug repellent. I’m now keen to give this a try.


Cute birds’ nest near the front entrance.


We were soon back on our bicycles, hunting for wild plants, and doing some nature spotting and sticky-beaking. We found this. It’s a type of ground cover, and it looks like a mini Orchid, or a much whiter version of the Australian Violet. We also saw some Mimosa and Lalang, which we are hoping to feature as part of our art project.


We came across a relaxing cafe, and an incredible Lotus and Lily pond. We spent some time by the pond, admiring its flowers, and mainly feeling Lotus flower (and root) envy. I have a lotus plant in Australia which has not bloomed yet. Dan and I are hoping it will finally flower in Spring this year, now that it is around two years old.


Our last stop of exploration was the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden, which is part of the Sensory Trail, a 1.5km track developed for the visually impaired, as a means for them to experience Pulau Ubin using smell, sound, taste and touch.

The entrance of the garden featured some Winged-Bean plants, which had attracted lots of red ants. The rest of the garden featured a mix of vegetables and herbs commonly used in Asian cuisine, and also medicinal plants, which many might not know about.


It was nice to see their veggie patch, where they are growing Ceylon Spinach, Soybean (edamame), Sweet Potatoes, Sawtooth Coriander, as well as some herbs.


I love their Aloe Vera patch. I am pretty envious of the whole space, really.


My Singapore garden is full of Elephant’s Foot, which I had regarded as a weed. but no longer now. I found out that it can can be used to treat indigestion, swollen legs, and a loss of appetite.

A little fella on the fence.


Outside the Vegetables, Herbs & Spices Garden was a fruit orchard. Trees included Musa Bananas, Starfruit and and Jackfruit.


There was more to see, but by this point I felt that it was getting late and had to begin heading back to the mainland, although Jacquelyn was happy to just be. I was also getting pretty tired, admittedly, it’s been awhile since I did a bit of exercise. I will have to come back again soon, to see the mangroves and more.

As we were cycling, Jacquelyn spotted a hornbill. We had to stop and watch. It’s too beautiful not to. Can you spot it in the tree?


Before we left, we enjoyed some chilled coconuts at the coffee shop. After riding past so many coconut trees along the way, I had to have one. We also paid a visit to the talking parrot in the convenience store. The snacks that they sold and the way it displayed its wares was a blast from the past for me. It reminded me of when I was in secondary school.

P1210651P1210648P1210650If you haven’t visited in a while, please do! Take a break from city life, and bring your friends and/or family over for a day trip, or even camping (or glamping). Don’t forget your hat(s), sunscreen, and most of all, mosquito repellent! For those who haven’t yet been, it costs $2.50 per person each way, and the boat departs from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Each boat needs 12 to travel, so expect a slight wait each way.

See if you can spot this bicycle while you are there!



Ten green places to check out in Singapore

If you’re looking for a place in nature to sit or wander through, or if you have overseas guests and wish to bedazzle them with our greenery, here are ten places to consider.

Some time ago I submitted a similar article which was carried by PARKROYAL on Pickering as part of their local guides special. This is an updated version which features only green spaces, here’s my pick of the bunch!

Green Corridor

1. Rail Corridor: A former railway route between Singapore and Malaysia, these tracks have since been removed and what remains is a 26 km stretch of continuous greenery from Tanjong Pagar to Woodlands. Rich in biodiversity, it is not uncommon to spot several butterflies and birds during your visit. To find out more, visit

Botanical Gardens

2. Singapore Botanic Gardens: A green lung in the city, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a graceful, sprawling garden containing a collection of plants native to the tropics, as well as heritage trees. It’s the perfect place for a picnic with friends, family and even the dog, and a great setting for recreational activities such playing frisbee, or taking a walk. Visit their website for more details.


3. Bukit Brown: Home to more than 100,000 traditional Chinese tombs, Bukit Brown is a charming cemetery off Lornie Road which holds a lot of historic value. Unfortunately it might not be around by 2030, as the Singapore government has plans to develop the land for transport and housing, even though it was recently placed on the 2014 World Monuments Watch list. Brimming with wildlife, Bukit Brown has a magical feel about it, and a sense of serenity pervades the premises. A must visit before construction works begin, there are regular tours, usually every weekend. Do check out Post-Museum’s Facebook page or for details on upcoming walking tours.

Sungei Buloh

4. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve: Gazetted by the government as a nature reserve, and regarded as an place of importance for migratory birds, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve features mangroves, plenty of plant life, insects, and animals including crocodiles. It is located in the Kranji countryside, tours are available and there are educational activities held there from time to time. To find out more, visit

5. Central Catchment Nature Reserve: Spanning 2880 hectares, this gazetted nature reserve is rich in biodiversity. Wonderful animals such as the Sunda Pangolin, Crab-eating macaque and banded leaf monkeys reside here, as well as a wide variety of birds and butterflies. Be sure to walk the trails and do the treetop walk. If you wish to find out more, visit NParks here. Also Green Drinks Singapore has organised a talk centred around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve for 23 October, details here.

Gardens by the Bay

6. Gardens By the Bay: This is a scenic 101-hectare plot of land which includes the Bay Central Gardens, Bay South Gardens, and Bay East Gardens. Visit The Flower Dome, which houses plants from all over the world, and the Supertree Grove, and  if you don’t mind heights, you could take a walk on the Skyway. For more details, visit their website.

Bollywood Veggies

7. Bollywood Veggies: Located in Kranji, this organic farm is a restful space that promotes the importance of greenery, with witty slogans on signage posts positioned around the premises. Visitors should dine at Poison Ivy, where the food is affordable and tasty, and the restaurant sources its ingredients locally where possible. Plants are also available for purchase near the entrance to the farm. View their website for more details.

Sustainable Living Kampung

8. Sustainable Living Kampung:  Situated in Bottle Tree Park in Yishun, the Sustainable Living Kampung is run by non-profit group Ground-Up Initiative. Each weekend from 9am to around noon, the public is welcome to join their community in various activities, such as yoga and gardening. Make sure to also pop by the Sustainable Living Lab (SL2) to view their innovative products. For updates, visit their Facebook page.

 Southern Ridges

9. Southern Ridges: The Southern Ridges consists of HortPark, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Mount Faber Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserve, spanning a total distance of 10km. My favourite parts are the Forest Walk and Canopy Walk. Download the DIY guides or join a tour, see this NParks webpage for more information.

10. Chek Jawa Wetlands:  A short boat ride away, these wetlands span 100 hectares and can be found at the far eastern end of Pulau Ubin. Make your way to the intertidal flats at low tide to experience its rich marine life such as mudskippers, sea cucumbers and starfish, also take the boardwalk through the mangrove forest to view its extraordinary range of plant and marine life. For November and December walking schedules on the 1.1km boardwalk, see this blog post by Naked Hermit Crabs. To find out how to get to Chek Jawa, and more details, check out this NParks web page. is also a wonderful resource of information, with lots of great photos.