For those who live in Singapore, the options for traveling around in the region is immense and inexpensive. If ones wants a change of scene from the organized, clean, orderly environment that Singapore is, one can escape to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia (of course) or perhaps a ferry ride across to one of the nearby Indonesian Islands. Yours truly did just that a couple of weeks back and this time it was for a holiday, a quick break at that.
Harborfront ferry embarkation area
Batam Waterfront ferry Arrival complex
From Singapore's Harbor Front terminal, there are ferries to the Indonesian Islands of Batam and Bintan. I chose Batam and after an easy 50 minute airconditioned ferry boat ride, we put into the Batam gateway at Sekupang. Most of those on board, especially day trippers from Singapore got off here because Sekupang entry point is connected to the biggest shopping Mall on Batam and also happens to be the "city Center". A few of us stayed on board to continue for a few minutes more and alighted at the "Waterfront City" gateway to Batam. Now, don't be fooled, there is no real city here but vast countryside, plenty of greenery and the waterfront area of course. Indians and others at the present, can clear Indonesian immigration at the visa-on-arrival counter at the arrival area by paying US$10 and please be wise to bring exact amount or you may get short-changed! They'll paste the entire page of your passport with a nice visa that's only good for one visit!
Main Mosque at the city center
I'd booked a spa package consisting of a Javanese aromatherapy massages at the Holiday Inn resort, minutes away from the waterfront City arrival complex and that's where we headed. After a seamless check in and putting the bags away, we used the hotel's free shuttle service that only runs on some days of the week, to go on a countryside trip and ending at the big mall that is the center of the city, mentioned earlier. Wandering around the city was fun and rather brief. Walking around the mall, like most mall rats and running into more Singaporeans than back home, we decided to get a meal. Veggies have no fear, options are here! We of course chickened out and ate at the cheapest Pizza Hut (the original franchise) that I have ever been to. It is a bit shocking when one first arrives here and looks at the cost of everything and one has to mentally calculate everything into Singapore Dollars to make sense of how cheap things are. If no calculations are made, prices appear in thousands of Rupiahs, the Indon currency. A meal and a couple of drinks can set us back by more than 60,000 Rupiahs. Basically around ten bucks in Singy money!
Spa complex at the hotel
Heading back to the hotel and the spa area of the complex, we were accorded a warm welcome, people who did not know us personally acted like they did and escorted us to a lovely Javanese hut. Spent the evening exploring the waterfront area, where dutch style buildings (the dutch ruled the spice islands for a long time and left their impressions everywhere)are occupied by locals who live there.
Buildings at the waterfront
The road next to the waterfront complex leads to the water front (where else!) and that is lined by plenty of outdoor style eateries, pubs, bars and such. Everything cheap on the menu and while seafood forms a bulk of it, not too hard to look for some limited veggie options such as local style fried rice, mixed veggies and such. This part of town is popular with the Batamese as well as foreigners. Ran into many North Americans who are doing projects in Indonesia and from some of the deep Texas drawls one could make out that they were basically drillers, oil men who have proliferated around the World looking for black gold.
The area around the waterfront
The next day, more exploration on foot and literally walked into a sign post by the road side that proclaimed that there was a flying club nearby! That takes the cake I thought and excitedly looked around for any aviation activity. Seeing none, except an abandoned hangar that also proclaims itself as the flying club, I was disappointed with the fact that there was just one microlight Aircraft, in a pretty bad shape, hanging around the hangar and weeds grew everywhere.
The "flying club" grounded!
I walked into the neighboring wake boarding complex to ask about the flying club and a local told me, in broken English, that it was in disuse (although this was starkly apparent) and they had stopped flying because there was no pilot (peeloth as he said it). The wake boarding school is a man made lake that goes around, laid out like a race course. It has these pylons that have motorized winches that's attached to a line. A wake boarder can catch one of those lines and wake board around the course.
Coming back to Singapore later in the evening, on another seamless ferry ride and taking the MRT home was a tad depressing (The northeast line of the MRT starts and ends here). We had just gotten used to complete silence, no traffic and virtually no people or few people especially in the waterfront city area. The good thing is that places like this are so close to Singapore that, if one has time, or even just the weekend off, one can head out to unlimited options.
View from Batam departure area
Maybe it is Bintan or any other thousands of islands that make the Indon chain next time but that's going to have to wait, I'm off to India for Deepavali, Indian festival of lights and my favourite and then off to the Dubai Air Show. Cheers.