V-Day Without The Crap

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and I was rather pleased that it was a non-event for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a bitter old curmudgeon and I do like my knights in shining armour, but the blatant advertising weeks in advance from restaurants and florists, clogging up my in-box and FaceBook feeds was just a leetle bit irritating. Only 3 days left to order your $150 bouquet of a dozen roses! Last chance to sign up for $500++ dinner for two at a so-and-so restaurant!

Are you kidding me?

Better to save those good ones for Mo’s *Sparklies* account than fall prey to all this!

It’s ironic that a saint’s day been turned, like Christmas, into a crazy circus of consumerism. So maybe I’m an old coot, but Love shouldn’t be defined just by how much you blow on V-day, right? It should be defined by how much you give of yourself 365 days in a year to your other half.

So this year, I decided to marry my resolution of being more active with a nice early V-day mountain-bike outing to Pulau Ubin with Le Hubs. Ubin is significant because it is where we first met, on mountain bikes, 20 years ago. I thought it would be a nice touch to see how much the island has changed since then.

We went on a work day, hopeful that it would be less busy. We were not disappointed. The uncles plying the bumboats were hard pressed to round up the 12 passengers they needed to make up their ride.  When we finally made our dirty dozen, the only other people on our boat were the boys serving their National Service as police guards on the island, plus one or two hardcore nature lover types.

photo (6)When we stepped off the jetty to the dusty little street, free-wandering mongrels and ramshackle shophouses plying rickety bikes for hire, we knew that we had hit slow-mo mode.  Not too much had changed in 20 years. The tracks were now roads but the slow, lazy, kampung vibe of the island was still very much there.

Ten dollars each for our rental bicycles and we were off checking out our old trails.  Incredible, my bike also had the old “krok-kreek” whine as mangled gears struggled with each revolution, i.e. I would be cycling twice as much to go half the distance. Aiyah. But yes, this is all part of the charm that is Ubin.

We cycled over to Ketam Quarry, the largest one on the island. Back in the day, it was where we could go swimming in the cool, still waters and because it was a granite quarry with no outlet, there was no bottom for our feet.  Not a place for weak swimmers.  Sadly, everything had been fenced up in the name of safety, so we could only gaze over the fence at the quiet beauty below.

Next stop – Chek Jawa, a mangrove sanctuary that I had not seen before. It was apparently a mere 2.4km away, but to me seemed to stretch an eternity with each hill I had to bike up. Many wise tourists sailed by in mini-vans as I struggled on. Le Hubs, the intrepid runner, could only wait patiently as wife expletived her way to the destination.

photo (7)The pain was worth it, though. Chek Jawa is not only home to many species of sea life, a family of friendly wild boar were hanging about too.  Like the rest of the island, they lolled about in the same “relak, tidak apa” attitude and one even slept right next to a visitor’s bike at the station. Life is good on this little isle.

Almost noon and too hot for these wusses, so we made our way back to the mainland. V-day date lunch comprised the best that Changi Village Hawker Centre had to offer. Goreng Pisang and Goreng Chempedak, Beef Noodles, fried Or Luak (oyster omelette) and sugar cane juice.  The food of champions.

The grand total for our date that took place one week early? $50 including parking.  Happy Valentine’s Day, folks!

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