The Island of Batam in Indonesia

The last time I was in Indonesia was two years ago. The place where we stayed was a relaxing resort and the beach wasn’t that bad. The food they serve (damn those beef bacon was good!) reminded us that the country still follow religious tradition to the letter. Seeing the people’s character made me realized that we share a lot in common. Not only that, they look a lot like us! (even saw a guy that looked like my uncle!).

From that island called Bintan, I decided to go that other Riau island called Batam. From Singapore’s harbor front a fast ferry brought us to Sekupang (one of the four ports of Batam) in just under an hour.  The sky was so blue, so clear and the sea, so calm that it looked like an infinite mirror. The trip felt more like a bus ride than a boat ride. A perfect day to travel.

Singaporean’s constitute half of the island’s tourist population. So the story goes that Singaporeans, those who could afford it, pays their mistresses a visit during the weekends. Now, I don’t know if this is more of a back tale but as they say, there’s a grain of truth behind every tale.

The island have this reputation of being a hub for prostitution, illegal gambling and that it’s not a tourist friendly place. But who cares really? The same thing could be said to other big cities. Manila has its dark side too, maybe, even darker than this island. You’ll always find bad things if you keep looking for it.

This is the first time I decided to take a guided tour. Usually I prefer doing the research and finding spots myself but it’s my birthday and I wanted to be lazy. What I have in mind is just seeing the island and eating some good local food. The day tour cost around 50 Singapore dollars. Lunch and ferry (to and back to Singapore) is included. The Javanese massage at the end of the tour was not part of the tour but it was worth it. There’s a lot of cheap shopping in the island. Unfortunately I’m not into that but most people are (the entire group also visited a Polo outlet).

Our tour guide spoke Singlish. He worked his crowd, mostly Singaporeans, pretty well. He told me that he rarely go to Singapore because it’s expensive. I asked him how he learned to speak good English, “we watch Singaporean shows here,” he said (he claims to have learned Mandarin from watching Singaporean TV too). This reminds me of English in Portugal. Portuguese have a healthy number of people that speaks English. The reason? American shows are not dubbed, instead they use subtitles. While their Iberian neighbor, Spain, only puts out American shows dubbed in Spanish. Back home, TV networks are dubbing most foreign shows in Tagalog (worst, in ‘Taglish”). Along with poor English education in our schools, it would not be long before we completely lose our English proficiency.

So what do you do in Batam for a day?

We went around the Batam visiting chocolate shops, a Buddhist temple (the biggest in the island) and a lapiz kek (Indonesian layered cake) factory. The group was also brought to a traditional ‘batik’ seller and some more shopping (this time in modern malls). One thing I noticed is that the ports in the island (I get to see Sekupang and Batam center) were modern, convenient and clean. At least the leaders here knows how to take care of their main source of revenue. The highlight of the tour they say is the lunch which was held in the middle of a fish pond where milk fish freely swims beneath. But I didn’t really enjoyed the food because I thought the cray fishes, crabs, all the dish were too small. The tour guide then reminded everyone that the best catch are sent to Singapore because they pay good! The Singaporeans laughed at this because they know its true. But for me the real highlight was the trip going to the island. Like that old cliche, “it’s the journey, not the destination”.

Harbourfront’s famous cable cars

Singapore’s  famedMarina as seen from the ferry

Ports here in Batam are well kept, clean and secure

A simple Indonesian chicken soup

Not sure if these local chocolates are any good but they sure have sweet tooth around here

A chocolate shop

A Buddhist temple where there’s a Chinese school that not only teaches religion but Mandarin too

A lion dog made to guard the temple

A house where locals make lapiz kue

Singaporeans looking at some live seafood

Bangus freely swims beneath the restaurant

Traffic ala-Manila

24 November 2013

The Feast of Christ the King


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