Archive for the ‘Travelexperience’ Category

Pulau Ubin, or the Tile Island is probably the last place in Singapore where you can get a feel of some village life. (Technically it’s an offshore island, so it’s not really on Singapore mainland,but it’s still part of Singapore).

We decided to check it out on Singapore’s National Day, Aug 9,2012.  Us being a group of seven guys, and the rendezvous time at Changi Point ferry terminal was at 9:30 am. Since, four of us shared a flat, we were first to reach at 9:30 am. However, the rest of them didn’t turn up till 10:30 am owing to some unforeseen circumstances like getting up late, not getting a cab on time etc. etc. After venting our feelings when they finally arrived, we started on the queue.

After about a short wait , we boarded a bumboat towards Ubin, which is about 10 min away from mainland. After taking turns at posing and hunting for that perfect Facebook profile pic, we reached the island without further ado.

Once on the island, we were greeted by lots of bicycle shops and some restaurants.  We were forewarned , so we booked quite good-looking, new bicycles with full suspension at 20$ apiece. Unfortunately, the baskets had run out, so we were left to carry our backpacks on our backs. I also got hold of a map, which however, didn’t prove to be of much use, as there are neat instructions, all across the island.

After cycling about 800m from the shop, there was a split in the road,one which took us to the Chek Jawa wetlands(far east), and the other to Ketam Mountain Bike Park, (north-west). Since, the time was around 11:30 already, and the low tide time had gone by,  we decided to ride straight to the bike park.

Another ride for 10 min, and we all got thirsty as soon as we saw a shop selling coconut water. We had our fill , clicked some more pics and then rode till the bike park.

The bike park is huge, about 8-9 Km and has several paths for beginners, intermediates (blue square),experts(black diamond) and super experts(double black diamonds). We decided to stick to a blue intermediate trail, about 900m in length. The bike park is just next to the sea-shore, so you catch glimpses of the sea in between. After the first trail was covered,  we paused to catch our breath. One amongst us had recently been back to home in  India, and had brought some goodies. We had an amazing snacks break, and clicked some more.

From that spot onwards there were 3 marks: a blue, a black and a double black. Buoyed by a sudden flush of adrenaline, no doubt by the food we just had, the consensus was to try out a double D. However, since none of us could even see the path through the trees and boulders, we decided to give it a miss. Goals readjusted, we ventured for the single D. The climb was steep, narrow, and frankly too much for us. But we powered on, only this time,not on our bikes. The entire track(barring the first 10 metres or so) was covered on foot, with our head (and bikes) held high.

Finally, we came to a gentler slope and since the sea-shore was just beckoning us, we decided to take a dip. The water was not very clean, but nevertheless the swim was refreshing. After some more hilarious photo shoots, as can only happen if there are seven guys in their pants, we decided it was time to move on.

After another coconut water/beer break , we decided to ride back to the jetty. There are some excellent slopes coming back from the park towards the jetty and we had a great time absolutely zapping through the descents with gay abandon. Soon, the time to take a decision was again upon us. Towards the left, was Chek Jawa, a 2.4 Km journey, while the jetty lay close by , on the right , invitingly within a km. The last slope seemed to have raised everyone’s spirits for the majority of us agreed to go towards Chek Jawa. There were a few murmurs among some of them, but they were nipped in the bud as a couple of us quickly started cycling.

This 2.4 Km is the most difficult part of the journey with rocky roads, and seemingly endless inclines. However, the journey is well worth the destination. After docking our bikes at Punai Hut, we walked the last few yards. We were soon greeted by a family of wild boars .

There are 3 spots at Chek Jawa: 2 board walks and an observation tower overlooking the sea. The tower is pretty high, and our legs felt like lead, when we had to drag ourselves up. But once up, you get some amazing views and , yes you guessed it right, some great photo-ops.

We also managed to go to the board walks, but since it was a high tide then, there was very little on view. The sea creatures are on view during the low tides, since Chek Jawa is an intertidal wetland. Since, by this time, we were really feeling hungry, owing to the prolonged cycling, we decided to ride straight back to the jetty and catch the boat back to the mainlands. The track back from Chek Jawa is way easier than the one which goes to it.

Finally, we returned back our bikes, boarded the bumboat back to the mainland. We had a quite filling lunch at a restaurant in Changi Point, the quality of food on offer no doubt enhanced with our ravenous hunger.  That was the end to an extremely nice outing, and for a change, it didn’t burn a hole in our pockets in Singapore.

P.S: We went for an hour of table tennis, followed by an hour of swimming when we came back. Yes, you can call us crazy!! 🙂

How to go there ? Go to Changi Point, board a bumboat, rent a bike, have fun.

Pointers : Can carry the following:

  • Extra pair of footwear/clothing to change into for the journey home.
  • Get a hat/cap.
  • Get some water, though there are plenty of coconut water stalls.
  • umbrella (u never know when it rains in Singapore)
  • Sunscreen: if u don’t fancy sunburns
  • Some food(Nothing Indian/vegetarian) – plus the only restaurants are at the jetty.

We spent 3 nights and 4 days in Ubud, Bali in Indonesia for our honeymoon and here’s me trying to etch them on electronically. 🙂

Hotel stay: While Google searched for our accommodation and what to do for ‘3 days in Ubud’ , somebody on one of the search pages came up with a gem , suggesting that exotic beaches or mountains are best kept for later vacations as you would mostly be exploring your partner during the honeymoon, and hence spending most of the time in the hotels 🙂

Even though we courted for about 8 years, this thought stuck and Tripadvisor came up with Viceroy Bali as the most romantic hotel/resort in Ubud.

We chose the honeymoon package in a Terrace Villa including a full 5 course romantic dinner at Cascades and a 2 hour couples spa at Lembah, their in-house restaurants and spa centres respectively. The resort and our villa was very pretty with all the ingredients to make the stay worthwhile including a private dip pool overlooking the Ayung river gorge. The service was excellent, and the views exotic from the room.

viceroy bali terrace villa

Day 0 : We board a Silk Air flight from Kolkata to Singapore where we reach early morning and halt for about 2 hours. We then proceed to Denpasar on a Singapore Airlines flight. The flight is exceedingly cold and we shiver inspite of a couple of blankets.

Day 1: We reach Denpasar in the afternoon, and are greeted by a hotel employee,Nyoman as was agreed.

Immigration is a breeze, when assisted by Nyoman. Ubud is about an hours drive and we sit back and relax.  The hotel is exceedingly beautiful and the views from our rooms stunning.

Our hotel is about 3 km from the town centre and the hotel car takes us there in about 10 min. We visit Murni’s Warung. I had read so much about it, it almost appears like a historical visit. Murni’s is the oldest restaurant in Ubud and we are seated in the second storey. I try out the satee and the smoked duck.

 

Duck sauce is really yummy. The duck itself appeared to have been overdone. I wanted to have the babi guling, but my wife forbids me, so I stick to the chicken.

smoked duck @ Murni

Tip : Go during the day to catch the views around the warung. 

 Day 2 : Wake up and rush for breakfast at Cascades. The ala carte breakfast consists of monstrous servings of eggs . I go for a salmon-2 eggs – caviare combo while my wife settles for the less adventurous traditional omelette with 3 eggs. We book a car from the hotel and go for a trip to the Pura Kehen temple, in Bangli regency (Ubud is in Gianyar) about 1 hour  from the hotel. Our driver, Margi also serves as the guide and explains the various stories.

Bali is mostly Hindu and many stone sculptures point to Ramayana and Mahabharata, the two Hindu epics. Pura Kehen is very beautiful and mostly devoid of tourists. We were the only ones in the entire compound.

While coming back, we visited Tirta Empul / Tampak Siring, the famous hot water spring temple. Legend has it that Indra, the Hindu God created this hot water spring to bring his soldiers back to life. Mayadanawa, the evil king had prohibited all religious offerings and proclaimed himself as God. To restore parity, there ensued a war during which the evil king poisoned the waters of the holy army which drank it and died.

Till this day, many Balinese men and women bathe there to sanctify themselves and pray. The main hot water spring is however closed to public. Beautiful but a tourist hotspot, so a bit on the crowded side.

We finish dinner with a full 5 course meal at Cascades. Good food , though could have been better. The prices are exorbitant, but I believe the views from the restaurant should definitely make up for some of it.Since, this was included in our original package and since it was dinner time, it was a split choice for us. The desert however almost makes up for any blemishes.

Day 3: We wake up early morning , have breakfast and rush to raft at the Ayung river. Sobek is the organizing party and provides for an excellent guide and buffet lunch at the end of the trip .The rafting is awesome, pretty sedate, but fun nevertheless. Have to climb down about 200 steep steps to get to the river and climb up some fewer. Thankfully, the lunch happens in between, so makes the up trot easy. Definitely need to carry extra pair of clothing and slippers during rafting.

 Our guide is really funny and we enjoy the whole show. Our boat is brought under a waterfall for a few moments and the water falls with a deafening force. Very beautiful sceneries all along the 11 km stretch along with lots of stone carvings on the way.

After we come back , we have spa at the Lembah. The spa is quite good, and the flower bath is the creme de la creme.

In the evening, the hotel car again drops us to the town center and we meander along the Monkey Forest Road, looking for some souvenirs.A Buddha bust catches our eyes and we buy three bronze pieces at 70 USD after some haggling.

Have dinner at a non-descript restaurant on the Monkey Forest Road. The food turns out to be quite good. My wife,however doesn’t like it much , and sticks to some vegetarian side dish.

Day 4 : Have another flower bath in the morning, this time in the villa, after breakfast. We then go to the airport and lol around for an hour before boarding another super cold Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore.

In Singapore. we have a transit gap of about 5 hours. We visit the butterfly garden in Terminal 3. Very pretty indeed with loads of butterflies

butterfly garden Singapore airport

Girls love to shop and my wife indulges in some at the Singapore airport. Finally, we board another Singapore Airlines flight to Kolkata, with tired limbs but memories of a lifetime!!