May Day is a public holiday in SIngapore so we make a very Singaporean outing to local island Pulau Ubin. Cheated and got a taxi to Changi ferry terminal then queued up for 5 minutes or so before we hopped on to one of the many bumboats that plough the waterway between the two islands. Journey time about 10 minutes; cost $2.50.
On arrival we hire a couple of mountain bike look-alikes ($13 for the day). Brakes good (important after I broke my toe last year in Kerala due to faulty brakes and a resulting crash into the back of Husband’s bike) but gears challenging. It was blisteringly hot and humid and the island surprisingly hilly, so by the time we reached the nature trail – a boardwalk over the swampy mangrove area – we are both dripping.
Tide was out and we spotted several salamanders and crabs with huge lobster claws; amazed to come across a herd of wild pigs with nine piglets just by the bike park! It’s pretty wild – tropical forest – for somewhere so close to busy Singapore.
If you read my Bali blog, you will recall I was daunted by the scooter mayhem that is ubiquitous. Here in Singapore it costs $50,000 to get a licence to own a car, and there are very few scooters or motorbikes and no-one cycles – too hot. As a result there are comparatively few people who have passed a driving test or have any road sense.
So when the crowds flock to Ubin for a day out and hire bikes by the hundreds, it is truly terrifying. Whole families cycle side by side, babies front and back, chatting, looking at the scenery, picnics precariously balanced on the handlebars. It is quite obvious that many have never ridden a bike before: they come at you face on, no notion of keeping left; they park their bikes broadside, to make an adjustment to the chain or whatever, no pulling over; they come to a grinding halt at the merest incline, wherever they happen to be. We saw a nasty spill on a flat piece of road (lots of blood) and surmised that the injured party had simply ridden into one of her friends! Another girl fainted at the crest of a tiny hillock as she tried to get off her bike! It was worse than Bali as at least there you felt there were unwritten rules and a kind of highway code of conduct.
After 2 plus hours of this in the baking hot sun, nerves shattered, decided enough was enough, and we repaired to a local seafront restaurant for a Tiger beer and a steamed fish. Shared our table with five delightful elderly Singaporeans who had come just for the food – no cycling (bravo!). The jolly man loved a good acronym: when he heard we are going to india on Friday he said, ‘Ah India, terrible place, I N D I A – I’ll never do it again!’
This afternoon we bought the guide book – Hyderabad here we come!