Together with my passport, my friends (Joanne, Junyu, Yan Teng) and i escaped to Batam for a short getaway on last weekend. As always, i was so excited about this trip, well, i should call it as the right enthusiasm. How many can one travel with their friends? It's hard to come to a consensus on timing due to our different working schedules. It is real awesome when we can make time for each other just for short trips like this.
In fact, i have been to Batam twice. Batam is a warm, welcoming and relaxed place. Batam Island is only about an hour away from Singapore by ferry. The exchange rate of Rupiah (Rp) is S$1 to 6,880 rupiahs. We were considered "millionaires" when we arrived at Batam.
Our half-day Batam tour package included 2-way ferry tickets by Penguin Ferry Service and of which S$7 was paid for the fuel surcharge. Pretty fast ferry ride, i must say, we reached Batam within 45 minutes. It's actually around the same ride timing if you depart from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
Upon arrival at Sekupang Ferry terminal & after immigration and custom clearance, we were greeted by a female friendly local tour guide. She then escorted us to an air-conditioned ready coach to commence our shopping tour. She took us around the scenic island of Batam, stopping for shops en route and well, the shop shopping list included were mentioned below. Njoy viewing the pics ! :-)
We stayed in this Novotel Batam hotel where the location is convenient, about 15 mins away from Batam Center Ferry Terminal and 5 mins away from Nagoya town by taxi. The hotel room was well kept & very clean. The lift lobby in every floor is huge. It contains 3 sofa sets and a book shelf.
The main districts in Batam are Nagoya, Jodoh and Batam Center.
Batam has an undeserved reputation as a "dangerous hotbed of crime, commercial sex and general lawlessness." Much of this impression has been created by sensationalized media reports in sanitized Singapore.
The reality is that Batam (the Nagoya and Jodoh districts, in particular) does have a measure of crime, drugs, commercial sex and maybe even some danger as has just about any other sizeable city in the world, particularly cities with a vibrant entertainment district. But unless you seek it out you are quite unlikely to be touched by any of it.
There are seedy areas and a few no-go districts and a lot of poor and unemployed who will steal or commit other petty crimes to survive.
Bengkong Dry Food Stuff Shop - This is a great place to find dry food stuff such as ikan bilis, udang kering and more !!
House prices, rents, local food, clothing, cars, transport, appliances, household goods and personal services in Batam are really very, very cheap, compared to Singapore.
We dropped by near the seafood restaurant after lunch to enjoy a local traditional magic cultural dance performance.
This is a beautiful miniature park where it is a synopsis of Indonesian culture, with virtually all aspects of daily life in Indonesia's 32 provinces encapsulated in separate pavilions with the collections of architecture and traditions.
One of the places that the tour guide brought us to is this small temple near a huge statue of goddess of mercy to offer some prayers. According to the tour guide, this Kuan Im statue is the biggest statue in Indonesia and we can overlook at Singapore from the temple.
Finally lunch time ! The tour guide brought us to this Golden Prawn 555 seafood restaurant. The seafood restaurant that most people will recommend is the Golden Prawn Restaurant @Bengkong. Actually, the whole place is divided into 2 restaurants built on wood and bamboos over the sea - one is called Golden Prawn Restaurant 933 and the other, Golden Prawn Restaurant 555. These 2 traditional Indonesian restaurants serve a variety of local seafood dishes with the splendid view of coast of Batam.
We also went to this famous Thoa Pek Kong Chinese Temple which was relocated from Kusu Island of Singapore during 1980's, according to the tour guide.
I have been taking lots of black & white street photographs in my recent travel trips. I simply love taking B&W photographs. Black & white photography, for me, is one of the most interesting & inspiring aspects of this art form which i call as my passion. To me, B&W photograph is raw & refined, natural & unusual, bold & subtle, mysterious & open, emotional & impassive, simple & complex and everything in between !!!
An experienced black & white photographer can see the world without color. They have trained their mind to pick up contrast and tone while blocking the distraction of colours. This isn’t a skill that i picked up in a short amount of time, it is something that comes naturally in time. I can’t say that i am gifted enough to have monochrome vision but i have been able to notice certain scenes and subjects that would lend themselves to black & white.
Shopping is one of the factors that visitors come to Batam. The whole island is a duty free zone, making the prices become relatively low. We stopped by at this Polo Shop where it is so-called Ralph Lauren shop which clothes made in Indonesia comes with extremely low prices as well as the imported real American Ralph Lauren shop where the items are all genuine because it is an authorised outlet of Ralph Lauren.
Batam is still emerging from a "third world" look & feel and sometimes experiences interruptions to power, water, telephone and internet services (though progressively less so). Yet more and more areas of leafy suburbs and substantial public buildings are emerging to provide a hint of the Batam of the future, particularly in established downtown areas.
At this popular Nagoya Hill shopping mall, you can find numerous shops, restaurants and many more.
We had dinner at this Godiva Coffee cafe and i ordered Fried Seafood Rice and it was such a yummy dish. Fried rice is one of my favourite food and Joanne even gave me some of her rice to fill up my hungry stomach. I managed to finish up the big plate of rice, snapped a pic of before & after the sumptous meal as evidence :-)
The Mega Mall - Batam Centre is a new and huge shopping centre located just next to Batam's main ferry terminal at Batam Centre. Besides big department stalls such as Matahari and Hypermart supermarket, there are also many retails shops and restaurants here. You can drop by when you are at the ferry terminal (Singapore to & fro Batam).
Our tour package included a therapeutic massage & spa at this Bali Tropikal Spa where it is one of those shop houses located along the street near our hotel. The exterior look of the spa don't look that fantastic but i must say that the interior is very clean and nice. A very relaxing atmosphere and we soon forgot those houseflies flying outside.
We initially opted for the 90-min spa package which included a full body massage, full body scrub and then a milk bath. But upon arrival at the place, they informed us that we can't do the milk bath as there was no enough hot water !! So we ended up doing the full body massage & body scrub without the milk bath. We were very pleased & satisfied after the whole session, reason being that they really did a thorough massage, including a good head massage.
I truly believe that every country that i visit, there must be something that one can bring back. What i mean is lesson which we can learn from and not referring to the materalistic things that we buy from there to back home.
The lesson that i brought back from Batam is that we should all appreciate for what we have and be thankful. There are a lot of people out there who are not as fortunate as us. Some residents in Batam do not have adequate supply of water, food and education, unlike here in Singapore. Singaporeans really have to count themselves blessed & lucky, except for the high cost of living !!