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Published: September 13th 2014
Resort in Batam I
View of the jetty from our balcony.
In the last week of July, my friend Maike from Hamburg came to Singapore for a few days. The last Monday of the month was a public holiday, so we decided to spend a long weekend in Batam, the Indonesian island that is just 30 minutes by ship from Singapore.
The Saturday morning started early and with a lot of queueing. We had to be at the Harbour Front Terminal not far from where I live at quarter past seven and queue to pick up our boarding passes for the boat. The journey itself was quick and easy and we arrived in Batam after only a little more than half an hour. Then, however, we had to queue at immigration for two hours. First we had to wait in front of one counter to pay for our visa, then we had to wait in front of the next counter to show our passports and get the visa. It was noon when we finally got out of the ferry terminal. I had started to get worried about our luggage that we had checked in in Singapore, but it was still there waiting for us, with a guy looking after it. We
Resort in Batam II
View of the beach from our balcony.
had to give him a tip to get it back. I think this is pretty much what Indonesia is known for. When you want something you must be willing to pay for it. Some call it corruption and I think this is where it starts off on the small scale and then goes all the way up. But it worked out well because we really had to show the guy our receipts for the baggage, so he made sure that nobody would take a suitcase that was not truly theirs.
Maike and I had booked a “1 day Batam Tour”, assuming this would be what we consider a normal sightseeing tour: There is a guide that takes you to several sights and explains them to you, along with some history of the place. Well. There was a guide. However, her expertise was more around popular shops and goods. During the tour (and not any earlier) we found out that we were on a 1 day Batam SHOPPING Tour. First we went to a chocolate shop. Having lived in Aachen where the Lindt factory is and having survived writing up my PhD manuscript partly due to Ritter Sport chocolate, this
Resort in Batam III
One of the two pools with the beach in the background.
did not impress me much. However, I was courageous enough to try some Durian chocolate. Many people in Southeast Asia consider Durian
the “king of fruit”, whereas Europeans rather call it the “Stinky Fruit”, guess why. Well, I think to us the smell might be just as disgusting as the smell of cheese might be to a person from Asia (just remember what Munster cheese smells like). Anyway, the chocolate only contained a little bit of Durian and tasted quite okay I have to say.
Next we went to a Kue Lapis cake factory. Kue lapis
is a Dutch-Indonesian layered cake, based on Dutch recipes with Indonesian ingredients and developed during the colonial times. We could watch how the cake was made and try a little piece and of course buy some (which of course we did not). Afterwards they took us to a true tourist shop. There they sold all kinds of ugly “dust-catchers” (as I call them; they are items that are ugly and that people put up somewhere in their flat; they are useless and do not do anything apart from, well, catching dust) and various kinds of interesting snacks: squid in a bottle; various types of
View from our balcony in the resort. Tropical rain means the skies open up. If there is no shelter you are soaking wet within no time.
dried fish, sometimes entire fish with eyes and everything; stuffed marshmallows; sweets in the brightest colours (presumably consisting entirely of sugar and food colouring). Afterwards we went to the nearby restaurant for a seafood lunch (I had the vegetarian option of course). It was a touristy place and felt like mass processing, but the food was quite okay.
The afternoon was not much different: First we went to a Ralph Lauren Polo Outlet. The clothes looked pretty good, however, looking at the prices I was not sure whether any of them were genuine. Just opposite this building there was a go-cart track that the guys in our group of course had to try out. It took us forever until finally we were able to leave the place. The next thing was the highlight of the day. Seriously. A 60 minute traditional massage. The lady that massaged me did a really good job at putting everything back into place and massaging some knots out of various muscles. She walked up and down my entire back and made my bones crack. At times she was applying that much force that she got a little groan out of me. But afterwards I
Arriving in Batam
... two hours in immigration awaiting us.
felt just great!
There was no relaxing after the massage. Rather, we went to the only true sight of our tour: a Chinese Buddhist temple. At least we thought so. We should have known better. It was “very old” (built in the 1980s) and currently under refurbishment (so that part of it was inaccessible). The tour ended, not very surprisingly, in a shopping mall. Maike and I went for a little walk in the surroundings of the mall (and received some strange looks because apparently people don’t just walk around in the city and look around). There was not much to see, so when it got dark we retreated to a food court and had dinner. It was a very nice place I have to say. There were a lot of locals, the food was really good, and the people in the stalls were extremely friendly although we did not speak a word of Bahasa Indonesia and they did not speak much English. It was a nice, peaceful atmosphere.
The day had been totally different from what I had expected. In a way, I had enjoyed it, though, just because it was an interesting experience. I will definitely
Streets in Batam
Coulourful houses. This was clearly one of the nicer areas of the city.
not book such a tour again, and next time I will know what it is all about. I felt a bit sorry for Maike because she had come all the way from Germany for learning a little bit about the region and then she had to spend an entire day on a shopping tour. But anyway, somehow it had been an interesting day.
We were taken to our resort in the north of the island where we were going to spend the next to nights. We had a glass of wine and then went to bed. The next day we were just super lazy. It was pouring down with rain almost all day. I think I mentioned it before that when it rains here it is as if the sky had opened up and all the water was falling out of it at the same time. All you can do is find shelter somewhere. The buildings are adapted to it, for example with roofed alleys. So Maike and I spent the day reading on our balcony and sleeping and only went for a little walk before dinner, when it had stopped raining. The resort was very nice, with a
Tried it and found it to taste quite okay.
jetty, a nice beach with palm trees, two swimming pools (but we were even too lazy to use those), and a few restaurants. From our balcony we had the view of the sea and the beach.
We had wanted to confirm our ferry back upon arrival in the hotel, but the receptionist had no clue and explained to us in a lengthy way that, well, he had no clue. So on Sunday morning when we wanted to confirm our ferry for Monday afternoon the next receptionist told us that it was already fully booked. Luckily he seemed to be a bit more knowledgeable and booked us onto a ferry for Monday morning.
Monday morning we checked out shortly before 9 am so that we would be ready for the shuttle to the ferry terminal that would leave at 9. When we told the receptionist that we were waiting for the shuttle bus he told us that it would not leave until 9.15. Our ferry was going to depart at 10. We waited and waited and at 9.20 I went back to the reception and asked whether they had forgotten us. But the guy told me they had not
Squid in a bottle
At least it looks like squid. But who knows ;-)
and that we still had plenty of time because the bus ride would only take some five minutes. I thought, okay, if one of the locals tells me so I am sure it will work out. And it did. The shuttle bus did not arrive until 9.30, but we made it to our ferry perfectly on time and arrived back in Singapore before noon.
We spent the afternoon on Sentosa, walked across the island and along the beaches and to the southernmost part of continental Asia. Then we caught the cable car to Mount Faber. Mount Faber is a hill just opposite Sentosa on the mainland of Singapore. From its top one has a nice view of the part of Singapore at its bottom (including Reflections where I live) and the island of Sentosa. There is also an alley where some murals depict episodes of Singaporean history, with some explanatory texts next to them. Very interesting. We caught the cable car back, watched the sunset from the Sentosa boardwalk, and had dinner at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant at Harbour Front. Interesting weekend, I have to say!
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