The island of Batam seems to be synonymous with Singaporeans. Boasting of great food, friendly people, and somewhat reasonable shopping deals, this is an ideal place to unwind after a week’s worth of hectic work.
A 45- to 50-minute ferry ride from Singapore’s Harbourfront Ferry Terminal brings you to the Indonesian island of Batam. The main form of transportation to and from the island is mostly by ferry. Locals are often seen in bumboats and sampans amidst luxury ferries and at times, luxury yachts. Traveling from one place to another within the island is usually done with vehicles such as a scooter/motorcycle, bus or car.
With Singapore being the closest nation to Batam, it’s no surprise that a bulk of its visitors hail from the sunny city state. Most of them, like myself, wish to seek refuge away from the hustle and bustle of the city and hope to find some peace and quiet for themselves.
There are numerous resorts and hotels around the island, with some even located a stone’s throw away from the jetty – literally. Most include a swimming pool and a gym, while others are home to a bowling alley, paintball arenas, and even a go-kart track! Just remember to spray yourself with some insect repellent before venturing to the outdoors.
Food in Batam is somewhat a mixture between Indonesian, Singaporean, and a little bit of Malaysian and Thai cuisines. Being a third-generation Javanese, I always find Indonesian food to be in my comfort zone. A dish worthy of mention is the Nasi Ayam Penyet (literally translated as “smashed chicken rice”) served with a potent chili sauce as well as little snacks and cakes full of flavour and rich in sweetness. Ideally, you should sample some of the local (street) food so as to soak in the whole experience of what the locals usually indulge in. But for those who are less adventurous, a number of fast food outlets and cafes catered to the palates of both locals and tourists alike are readily available in shopping malls around the island. You can almost never go hungry with so many options around.
The people of Batam are naturally friendly and are keen to assist you, should you encounter any form of difficulty whilst on the island. Though they may not have the luxuries and lavish lifestyles that others may have, they seem content and thankful with what they have. With the native language being Bahasa Indonesia and a little mix of Malay, tourists from around the region can easily have a conversation with the chatty locals. A number of them also speak basic English relatively well.
However, since this was a totally unplanned/spur-of-the-moment trip, my family and I failed to realise that it was the beginning of the school holidays in Singapore. Thus, the large crowd was inevitable and that was our only major gripe during the short trip. Therefore, a very important and wise tip would be to avoid the school holiday periods and long weekends if possible.
So for Singaporeans (or even tourists who are in the Southeast Asian region) who wish to seek a short weekend getaway, Batam is indeed one of the best choices. Good food and great fun readily awaits you in this little island of friendly locals.