Batam Island, Indonesia
Batam Island is not as popular as its much bigger sister island, Bintan, where both are part of the well known Riau Islands. I say not popular because it has lesser attractions and activities but it is nevertheless an island that offers enough excitement and beauty for wanderlusters from everywhere. It is a famous quick getaway to Singaporeans at large as it is located only 20km away from Singapore. Johorians also frequent Batam more than any other Malaysians simply because of its location which is just 25km away from Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Another reason why its not as popular as its sister island perhaps lies on the intention & economic philosophy behind the history of the island. It is known more as an industrial hub with factories and growing shipping repair industry. Due to the growing number of expats shifting there for work, the locals have and are still experiencing an inevitable change in culture and infrastructure with pubs, westernized restaurants and golf courses springing up to accommodate the expats.
Along the way, nightclubs have also paved way for a livelier nightlife which was almost non-existent previously. However, steps were taken by the Island’s administration to curb prostitution and gambling issues which led to the discontinuance and shutting down of the nightclubs and casino operations. Today, most tourists visit Batam for the discounted shopping and quick beach getaway, especially Singaporeans.
There are many ways to get in Batam Island, but the most common way for tourist (except maybe Malaysians) is through Singapore.
Things to DO
1) Shop, shop & shop!
There are quite a number of small malls & little specialty shops where you can shop for good bargain but just remember that its not that easy to haggle at the shops (of course not the malls – everything there are obviously fixed price) here compared to other islands in Indonesia, say, like Bali. This is my personal experience so it might not be true for all shops. Just give it a try! No harm trying 🙂 A decent shopping spot I liked was the Nagoya Hill Mall in Nagoya. There is also the BCS Mall in Baloi. You can use Singapore dollar which is generally & widely accepted around the island. There are places like KFC, Texas Chicken and of course the mall’s food court if you want to grab lunch or dinner while shopping.
2) Eat fresh Seafood & local delicacies
Indonesian food are pretty awesome. Rich in colors and taste, you wouldn’t want to miss the chance to treat your taste-buds here. Seafood are fresh and there are a plenty of seafood stalls & restaurants at Bengkong, Harbor Bay, near Barelang Bridge & around Batam for you to bring out the foodie in you. To mention a few; Golden Prawn Seafood Restaurant and Harbour Bay Seafood Restaurant by the waterfront promenade. We were also treated with some local traditional dance performances during lunch at the Golden Prawn Seafood. Don’t miss the Tarempa noodles which is a local noodle said to originate from the Riau Islands. Other local delicacies not to be missed are Roti Gendang (bread), Nasi dagang, Nasi padang (variety of rice dishes), Mie Lendir (slimy noodles) or Mie Rebus Kuah Kacang (boiled peanut gravy noodles).
3) Pamper yourself with Massage & Spa
Indonesian massage is one of the best & its cheap here! Enough said 🙂
4) Thrill yourself with the Beach Activities
You can go for water & sea sports activities around the Waterfront City area of Batam which is on the western side of the island. You can go for fishing at the fishing pond, go-kart racing and of course the usual swimming and just being a beach bum. You can also try the cable ski park, para sailing, wind-surfing, going on banana boats and jet-skiing.
5) Experience the local fishermen village
Try something new by getting to the off the beaten path near the Pacific Palace Hotel. It might not be what you expect – all clean and pleasant to the eyes, as this is not a tourist spot kept clean and shiny for tourists to visit. This is the real deal. Reality of life for the hardworking fishermen there. You will get a glimpse of their challenging daily life when you see the fishermen’ stilt houses and how they go about with their life.
6) Get amazed with the making of the famous Indonesian cake, Kek Lapis
Kek Lapis is one of my favorite & its so popular, not just in Indonesia but in Malaysia & Singapore as well. The unique and tiring process will indeed fascinate you. There are a few places or factory that allows people to take a tour inside their processing unit and here you get to watch how this famous tasty cake is made. You also get to buy a few to take away once you are done with the tour but of course its not a must. You can still get your hands on this cake elsewhere around Batam.
7) Get Spiritual
There are a number of divinely beautiful temples around Batam, be it the beautiful Mesjid (mosque) Raya, the Hindu temples or the Buddhist temples.
The temples are generally located at the Nagoya City area or the Batam Center area. Some famous temples not to be missed are the famous Buddhist Temple, Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya and the Tua Pek Kong Temple. These Batam Temples brings a sense of calm and peace in you.
8) Challenge the Golfer in you at the Golf courses
Batam Island has 7 wonderful golf courses hosting top class championship golf. It also offers some warm hospitality and together with its international standard golf courses, Batam becomes an undoubted golfers paradise.
9) Get awestruck at the Barelang Bridge
Drive along the 6 bridges that makes the Barelang Bridge and enjoy the scenic and very much untouched nature of Batam.
10) Vroom your way along the picturesque northern coast
The Nongsa Coast is the place to go for the ride. It’s approx a 30km bike ride from Turi Beach/Nongsa Village through Teluk Mata Ikan and down to Batu Besar and to the final stop at Citra Mas Housing estate. It’s also one of the best coasts for mountain biking. You can cycle through sweeping seafront and thick forest all while enjoying mother nature.
Depending on what you plan to do and how many days you have to waste, Batam probably is good just for a day or two. Don’t expect too much because as mentioned earlier, its not really a touristy place owing to the fact that its heavily populated & is intended to be more of a economic hub rather than a touristic place. Some parts of the island will make you wonder what happened to the intended ‘economic development’ as you can see some evident abandoned buildings or projects here & there in the island. Some might stay away due to the high crime-rate reported or the seedy commercialized sex industry but just as in any other place in the world you go, you just have to be alert and exercise common sense to stay safe and keep safe. So my personal rating would be 3/10.
You can soon read my blog on the other more famous island in Riau & Batam’s sister island, Bintan. Maybe that will be my next post! Till then, keep wanderlustering & stay safe.