I didn’t really know what to expect from Batam, having never been there and not having much general knowledge about it. I’ll be honest, I was expecting a village. I was wrong.
My Batam adventure began quite unfortunately. Somehow I managed to misplace and lose my ferry ticket before I even got on my ferry. There was a mad rush to get a replacement ticket, but eventually I made it (although I had to fork out another SGD24 to get a return ferry ticket later on).
Batam, contrary to my earlier misconception, is not a fishing village. Granted, it is less modern than Singapore, but not without its own city/urban comforts. We paid about SGD150-160 for a 3D2N package, with lodging at Golden View Batam Resort. The hotel is nice enough, if you aren’t a stickler for 5-star treatment, beds that are a tad too hard, and consistency (my room was missing a fridge and safe, but no matter). Although, it would have been nice to have gotten a room that didn’t smell of stale, unclean carpet. Thankfully, that smell disappeared after a day (it helps to leave the air-conditioning on). But what they lack, they make up for with relatively friendly and helpful staff, complementary dinner (on the first night) and breakfast, and a lovely pool.
The pool was godsent considering the ‘beach’ they had was really entirely not beach-holiday appropriate; it was resplete with rocks. Not where you want to lie out and soak some sun. Luckily for us, we took advantage of the sunny weather on our first day, because it was sadly gray and downtrodden on the second day of our trip.
Batam is the perfect place to do many of the things you would have done in Singapore, but for much, much less. You can watch movies, sing karaoke, play arcade games, get massages, eat till you can no longer wear your pants, all at a fraction of the price.
- Movies- SGD2.50. Of course, with a smaller variety of English movie choices to choose from, unless you speak Bahasa Indonesian.
- Karaoke- SGD5.00 per person, for 2 hours worth of singing your lungs out. And yes, they do have quite a modern selection of English/Chinese/Korean/Japanese songs.
- Massage– our massage was complementary with our package, but I’m sure you can get one there for about SGD20+ or so. Of course, if you are a guy, be prepared to get offered some ‘extra’ services.
- Cheap(er) alcohol
- Tim Tams for SGD1.00
But most importantly, your trip would be a waste if you didn’t venture forth and try their cheap (I mean, really cheap) and good food. Where can you find a meal that costs SGD1-2? Batam! Indonesian food is very flavourful, and everything packs a punch. Right down to their fried rice (you should see the way the hawker pours his heart and soul into frying that rice, I tell you). Things to try:
- Indomie goreng
- Teh botol- I believe it translates to ‘tea in a bottle’. Very refreshing.
- The best chilli kangkong (spinach) ever– it’s sweet and spicy at the same time. Different from the type of chilli kangkong you get in Singapore.
- A&W– a chance for all Singaporeans to get their A&W fix, though if you’re looking for curly fries, you’re better off at..
- BFC– Best Fried Chicken (I believe). Think fast food serving both East (Indonesian fare) and West (curly fries, shakes, burgers), but at ridiculously cheap prices. Ridiculous (like SGD1-2++). Your loss if you don’t try.
- Coffee Town– You can find it in most of the malls in Batam, I think. Though a chain restaurant, it serves great food. Try their coffee susu (milk) and teh susu (tea with milk) that’s diabetic sweet but somehow fantastic. They also serve curly fries and the best fried kway teow (noodles) I have ever tried. It looks bland and tasteless, but trust me, it’s an explosion of flavour in your mouth. You will not regret trying it.
- Ayam Penyet
- Seafood– Batam is known for its cheap and fresh seafood. Even the grilled/bbq fish we had at some roadside stall was succulently fresh and delicious. Make sure you order cereal prawn. The hotel we stayed at had a seafood restaurant within its premises, apparently quite a famous one at that.
- Kueh Lapis– apparently a famous Batam produce. I can’t tell you who we ordered our cake from (because we did it through our tour agency, and I wasn’t expecting much), but my god, it was good and not too oily.
We didn’t manage to try much water sports, something I’ll be on a lookout for the next time I go to Batam. But really, if you’re looking for a cheap and relaxing get-away, lots of food and just hanging out with company. Batam would not be a bad choice at all, though probably just for about 3-4 days (maximum), before you get bored.