I first wrote a piece on Batam Riau on the Travelista Club. I decided to write another similar one on my personal blog here as I intend to make the most out of this blog to be on the Travel and Writing niche.
Though I don’t live in the Batam Riau islands anymore, I’ve lived there for almost 8 years and I still visit the place from time to time. To those of you who don’t know, Batam Riau is a city about twenty kilometers from Singapore. Though it is considered a city now, I would still like to call it an island as that’s what makes all the more sweet for a summer vacation. And I can assure you, it is perfect for a summer vacation!
Getting to Batam Riau
Batam Riau does have an airport but it isn’t for international flights. So you can get there from Jakarta- Indonesia’s capital, or you can come from Singapore. The best way and the route that I always use is taking the ferry from Harbourfront, Singapore. It takes an hour ferry ride from Singapore to make it to Batam Centre. If you are outside Singapore, just so you know- it takes around an hour taxi ride from Singapore’s Changi Airport to make it to HarbourFront.
If you’re looking forward to visiting a lot of places in a short span of time, then this trip to Batam can be the one for you. You can visit Singapore and Batam Riau at one go. And visiting Batam for 3 days would be sufficient to taste crisp of salt in the air by the beaches.
Things to know before you visit Indonesia
Before you pack your bags, there are some things that I better tell you beforehand. For one, Batam works out best for people who wish to chill out on their holiday. For people who wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle for a couple of days. Singaporeans usually come here to take a break from their busy lives. And if this is what you’re looking for, this is the right place for you.
Learn a bit of basics of the Indonesian language if you’re going out to restaurants all by yourself. Most people do not speak English in any part of Indonesia. Don’t worry, it isn’t that difficult. Apart from that, there is really nothing more to it.
Oh, and you better be a non-vegetarian. It is very difficult to get vegetarian food in any of Indonesian Cuisine. At least the curry that you eat along with the white rice would be of chicken flavor. My mom still finds it difficult to eat outside so we usually get a lot of groceries from Singapore so that she can make her favorite dishes at home.
Last but not least, bring your summer clothes and nothing else- be it any time of the year. There is no cold or hot season here, it’s warm all year around. Warm- even when it rains cats and dogs!
Visiting the Barelang Bridge
The first place that anyone would visit in Batam as a tourist would be the Barelang Bridge. What makes it so unique is that the bridge is laid across two land bodies with the help of cables. The enormous, thick metal cables holding up the bridge in perfection makes it all the more alluring.
It is considered to be a mark of Batam. In fact, if you look up for Batam Riau on Google images, it would be one of the first things that you would see. However, before you visit, I would strongly advise you not to visit it on a weekend, especially Sunday. Visit it on an evening on a weekday. Because on the weekends, it isn’t just about the heavy traffic. It’s about the races… yep, I just said ‘races’. Bike races to be specific here.
Every Sunday, a whole lot of youngsters gather up on the bridge to race along with their friends or just sit around with their friends. It might sound nice, but with a whole lot of traffic and people, it really isn’t. In fact, these bike races are usually illegal. So along with the traffic, there are cops hanging along too, making the place even more chaotic. So, I think it’d be better to visit on a weekday.
Corn by the bridge
I almost forgot to tell you this: when you’re out there on the bridge, just go up a little ahead to the next island. You’ll find rows of street corn stalls on both sides (more on the right though). If you’re into corn, then this would probably be one of the best you’d taste. Well, it’s grilled corn to be particular.
What makes it so special is the local flavors that they offer. They come in chilly, sweet, plain, and cheese/butter flavors if I remember right. They use different sorts of spice sauces for flavoring these. When I was a kid back then, I didn’t like it a bit. But when my lips touched it for the first time, it became an addiction. The stalls are probably open for most of the day.
But I prefer to have it in the evening right after I breathe in the sunset by the bridge. They call corn, ‘Jagung’. A quick tip: So if you really want the corn there and have no idea what to say to actually get it… just say ‘Mau Jagung!’ which means ‘I want corn!’ and they shall smash up a delicious one for you!
Indonesian Food: The Nasi Padang
I like to think that everyone knows Nasi Padang when it comes to Indonesian cuisine. A little about myself here- I’m an Indian origin and I love Dosas and Idlis. But Nasi Padang is incomparable to any of the non-vegetarian dishes that I’ve tried so far… it’s simply too good!
Now Nasi Padang isn’t a very specific dish with a very specific flavor here. It is steamed rice that is served to you with pre-cooked sides of your choice. By tradition, they’re stacked up in a pretty arrangement of plates with the variety of choices that they offer. The word actually says it all. ‘Nasi’ in Indonesian means rice. And Padang is the place that the cuisine originated from. Now the question is- where do you get it?
The good news is you can get it in a lot of places in any part of Indonesia, be it Bali or Jakarta, you’ll get it. The bad news is you need to actually know which Nasi Padang restaurant serves the best. Don’t worry, I’m right here. And if you’re on your way to getting yourself Nasi Padang, then I’d say get it from Sederhana in Batam.
Also Golden Prawn
Considering the quality food they serve, they now have plenty of branches in Batam. All of them serve really great. So look up for it and then find the nearest one. Other than Sederhana, the other restaurant that is totally worth spending on would be Golden Prawn. Golden Prawn is much more expensive than Sederhana as they mainly specialize in Seafood. But the Seafood they serve is mindblowing.
In the restaurant, we can pick crabs, fish, prawns of our choice from the live fish tanks and they get out those chosen ones and prepare them for us. Thus there isn’t a doubt about its freshness and quality. Unlike the Sederhana, it doesn’t have branches- well at least not that I’m aware of. The one that everyone has ever known there is Golden Prawn 933. If you’re trying to find Golden Prawn 933 and find the restaurant laid out on a seashore, you’re on the right spot. Because that’s the one and only my friend.
Stay by the beach
I almost forgot the most important of a vacation, didn’t I? – a place to sleep! If you’re finding a place to crash here, let me tell you something. Indonesia is popular for its shores and beaches and holiday-ish type of climate. So if you’re finding a stay for yourself, I’d say get one by a beach.
Which beach do you ask? Believe it or not, Batam is such a small island and yet it has about a dozen beaches. Just drive straight ahead when you’re there and you’ll find yourself in one. And speaking of services, Batam has been getting a lot of attention from tourists from the past couple of years. So there are resorts, hotels, and chalets by the beaches that provide some of the best services. New ones are still emerging out (That one links to one called Nuvasa Bay).
However, everyone’s got their favorites. My personal favorite one in Batam would be the resort – Nongsa Point. I’ve been living on the island for 8 years and my dad’s been there for 15 and we still prefer to go to the same resort whenever there’s a long holiday coming up. The resort is pretty large in terms of area. What I like most about it is its accommodation. For the stay, they have huge chalet houses all over the hill that they built on.
Most of these chalet houses have a floor-to-ceiling window and balcony on one side that overlooks the sea on one side. A pretty dreamy view if you ask me. Remember I told you about Singaporeans coming to Batam to take a break at the very beginning? Well, they usually end up here at Nongsa Point. Some of the foreigners can also harbor their private yachts at the resort during their stay.
Water Sport Activities
When you’re in Indonesia for a trip, be it Jakarta, Bali or Batam, you just can’t leave without some water sports. Just like Nasi Padang, water sports stands out as a highlight. ‘Why’ you ask? For one, it’s the obvious- the climate and the humidity, you need to plunge in for a dip. Two, they have got a wide range of activities- from banana boat rides to scuba diving and even yacht chartering! And since there is so much of it all over, the prices are pretty reasonable… I’m not sure about yacht chartering part though, I’ve never been on one yet.
Another water activity you shouldn’t miss out on here would be snorkeling. Indonesia is known to have some of the best marine life spots. But there’s a hitch to it. Sure, many resorts and beaches do offer snorkeling, but personally, not all of them are that great. There are particular spots that give the best snorkeling experience. One of them would be a spot near Abang Island.
It takes about an hour and a half drive from Batam Riau Islands to make it to Abang Island. Though they don’t have plush relaxing accommodation available yet, it’s worth staying a night if you’re looking forward to seeing some fabulous life underwater. Since it is isolated at a far-end, the spot remains untouched by many and can bring us as close as possible to nature.
Malls, pubs and live music
Now, if you’ve come to a point where you are bored with the resort, the water activities and snorkeling, what’s left out is the shopping. Another reason why people from Singapore come here a lot is that products and services are much cheaper. Some of my dad’s colleagues from Singapore come to Batam with suitcases filled with clothes- just to get their laundry done!
Back to what we were discussing, malls are a thing you can spend a lot of time in. And Batam has definitely got some pretty big malls and they aren’t just a few. Just in Batam Centre, there are almost a dozen bulky ones. And some of these malls have pubs and live music (or pubs with live music… whichever you like) around them.
Many people here don’t speak English, I know I said it. But believe it or not, they can sing English songs perfectly on the live music avenues! It’s really fascinating because sometimes it so happens that if you ask them if they know what the song means, they’ll probably tell ‘No, not at all. It just sounds great.’ Now that’s simply amazing.
Well, coming towards the end now, that would be all the places that you can visit in Batam. The island isn’t really that big so feel free to take a walk on the street. Hope you have a great vacation… Happy journey!
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