“What can we do with a 5 hour stop-over in Changi airport?” This was the question my friend Bevan asked me last week on while in transit through Singapore’s ultra-efficient Changi airport.
Bevan is a kiwi mate of mine whom I know from University days. He is currently based in Sydney but had previously spent three years working in Hanoi. I had visited him a number of times in Hanoi. My visits typically involved him picking me up on his 100cc plastic motorcycle then cruising off for 20 sphincter clinching minutes through the madness of Hanoi traffic until I could not take it anymore. Whereupon we would pull pull into the closest ‘beer hoi’ bar and I would begin to re-build my courage through downing 5 or 6 glasses of delicious, freshly brewed Vietnamese ‘beer hoi’. All the total price of about $1.50. Onwards we would then continue. I had such fond memories of these trips and always liked re-telling the stores to others about this crazy kiwi who would double me around the streets of Hanoi. This definitely classified as microadventure in my book.
I thought about the excitement that Bevan had introduced me to during our catch-ups in Hanoi. Then I thought about what I could do with him in Singapore? Meet on Boat quay or Clarke Quay? Have a beer and some over-priced chilli crab? Meet at Raffles Hotel for a $26 Singapore Sling? Take him up Marina Bay Sands for a look at the view and some more horrendously priced drinks? There is nothing wrong with doing any of these things. I have done most of them many times. But there is not a great deal of excitement or a sense of accomplishment in completing them. I also have found when I show visitors these sites they often get an impression that Singapore is a concrete jungle and full of high-rise buildings! Well it isn’t. I wanted to show him a different side of Singapore. A side very few people would ever get to see. I also wanted him to have an adventure.
So I decided to take Bevan on a microadventure. A microadventure is a simple adventure, close to home, that does not break the bank account and fits into your time-frame. We had 5 hours – that was plenty of time. The hard part was to convince Bevan to join me. I dropped him a message:
Me: “How about I meet you at Changi Airport at 5:30PM, and I take you for a sea kayaking micro adventure?”
This apparently did not sound to appealing to Bevan and his answer was:
“Umm, paddling might be pushing it a bit for me mate! If it’s easiest I can just meet you in town – shall I take the airport train in and meet you somewhere, I would like to eat some local food?”
I tried again: “This isn’t hard out at all, cruisy as…. we will paddle over to Pulau Ubin Island, just bring some shorts and a teeshirt – I will provide all the other gear – its where all the nice local food is (a slight lie) but if you prefer town that’s cool also”
This seemed to work I was rather happy to hear his reply: ” ok then, bear in mind I may have a slight hangover and don’t make me miss my flight!”
Superb – we were all set! I left work and raced out to Changi airport to pick up Bevan. 20 minutes later we were at Changi beach, unpacking and inflating the ‘Divorce Machine’ (my trusty Sea Eagle Fast Track inflatable kayak). At 6pm we were in the water and paddling across the Johor Strait to Pulau Ubin Island. We were headed for the small village on Pulau Ubin Island. Pulau Ubin Island is the last place in Singapore that still has traditional village (Malays call it ‘kampung’) life. It is only accessible by boat or kayak. It is a beautiful island where you can mountain bike, swim or enjoy some beautiful seafood in the small restaurants that line the shoreline in the tiny village.
We paddled slowly across the Johor Strait, talking and laughing as we dodged ferry boats and larger vessels. After 30 minutes we pulled into Pulau Ubin village just as the sun was beginning to set. The evening was beautiful, the water was mirror smooth and the village was almost empty of people. We wandered down the villages one small lane. A couple of island dogs lay sleeping in the last rays of the sun. They looked up at us disinterestedly as we wandered by. We found a small store which was open and bought a beer each. Bevan soon made friends with the lady who ran the store and quietly chatted away as we sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet of this tranquil location.
All too soon it was time to leave. The view out over the water as we began the paddle back was stunning. Bevan told me about his life in Sydney, the activities he gets up to with his children and how he enjoys living in Australia. The planes looked majestic and beautiful with their landing lights lighting up the sky as they glided in on their descent paths to Changi airport. Too far away for their engine noise to destroy the peace and quiet but close enough to enjoy their view.
We pulled back into Changi beach just as darkness fell at 7:20PM. 15 minutes later we had the Divorce machine packed up in the boot of the car and were sitting in the Changi Village Hawker centre eating plates of steaming noodles and rice. With an appetite that only physical exercise can bring on, the food always tastes so much better.
I dropped Bevan back at the airport at 9PM, with plenty of time to catch his onward flight home to Sydney. The total cost of the evening was $25 including the food and the beer. The only other thing it took was a little bit of time and effort. Bevan’s parting comment to me as I dropped him at Changi terminal 3 was “That was the highlight of my whole week”.
It made me grin all the way home.
The next time you have some guests in town, maybe you can consider taking them on microadventure? There is so many amazing things to see and do in Singapore that do not break your bank account and burn up all your time. At the very least they will show you a different side of this country that very few people ever get to see or enjoy, give you some exercise and you may even get a beer out of it! (If you want).
This blog is listed under a section on my website called ‘Microadventure’. Microadventures are cheap simple adventures close to home. A chap named Alistair Humphreys coined the phrase ‘microadventure’, you can read about him here. I will continue to add more microadventures to my website to give people idea’s and inspiration to go on your own adventures. If you do go on your own, I would love to hear about them and do drop me a line!