And so a certain famous contracter used to proclaim, “and some say Batam!”
This line is a reflection of the kinship Singapore has with our Indonesian neighbouring island. For example, did you know that a good majority of our pigs are imported from Batam? Or that they are an important supplier of electricity and sand to Singapore?
But when budget flights became available, the Riau islands lost a little of their shine because of that same proximity. Their tourism aspect stagnated, but it would seem that during this lull, Batam has reinvented itself. Pushing past its old image of just cheap massages, seafood dinners, Kueh Lapis and A&W (to which all are still thankfully there), Batam has caught up in a few ways. Like hashtag-worthy caught-up.
I remember bouncing in my plastic seat on choppy waves during my ferry rides to Batam when I was younger. This is no longer the case these days. The Majestic Fast Ferry operator (@majesticfastferry) is the premium tier for ferries to Batam, and with the latest addition of Majestic Dream, we’re talking about calfskin leather seats, Nordic wood seat handles and marble sinks in the restrooms. Sinking into all this plush fanciness will almost have you wishing the ride was more than the 45 minutes. Best part – it’s less than $50 for a return trip.
Mention activities in Batam and it’s usually the passive kind where we lay down and get massaged. One might not expect hiking, kayaking through mangrove clusters, or taking in sights like the Barelang bridges – a series of 6 bridges connecting 7 islands – each with their own unique design.
Most striking is Tengku Fisabilillah, Batam’s nod to the Golden Gate bridge. Wow Getaways (@wowgetaways) has been set-up specifically for the new Batam traveller and our boat ride brought us coasting along the swamps and drifting past the Orang Laut (sea gypsies), who retain their traditional methods of fishing and living to this day.
As food guru and blogger Chandra says: it’s not just about seafood and A&W. Better known as Batamliciouz (@batamliciouz), he shows us the real Batam cuisine at the Acia food area, alive with flavours. Stir-fried Mee Pok? Chakue (carrot cake) with Otah? Mongolian Chicken? In an open seating area encircled by individual stalls, the local food culture presents fusion as inventive rather than gimmicky.
Lunch at Kopak Jaya 007 Kelong Seafood Restaurant (@kopakjaya007) will no doubt win fans of ocean food and Instagram folks alike. The idyllic setting among a sea gypsy village features segments where you can catch your own meal, while the rest laze in nets over the ocean, punctuated by brightly-coloured floats and hammocks. Let the chefs then bring you their creations, such as Hepo Lada Hitam (Black Pepper Cryafish), Kepiting Telur Asin (Salted Egg Crab) or Kerapu Hitam Stim Kopak (Kopak Jaya Steam Fish in Turmeric sauce).
For some modernity, Chemistree Coffee & Eatery (@chemistreecafe) serves insta-worthy desserts like their Pandan Gula Jawa Pancake, Anona Smoothie Bowl, and Ice Cream Hot Plate with Brownie. You can opt for some pretty Rose or Red Velvet Latte here, but for a straight up caffeine shot, try Anchor Cafe & Roastery nearby which takes their coffee very seriously. When I was there, the owner apologised my delayed cuppa because the first failed his taste test.
At night, if you’re looking to get those spirits up, Brewsky Microbrewery (@brewskymicrobrewery) is your candidate, where they cheekily admit their opening hours is from 6pm “till drop”. Their house brew is refreshing and worth a try.
Two words – infinity pool. Opened in late 2016, with 240 rooms, Radisson Golf & Country Club Batam (@radissongcc) knows how to live it up. Their 10th floor pool overlooks the golf course, with low hills and the setting sun providing the ultimate view in Batam during the evening. It even has glass wall for those underwater shots perfect for your social feed. In the rooms, the open concept between the bath and bed area is chic yet private enough for friends. You’ll wake up to one of the most lavish breakfast spread in Batam, and wind down to the most relaxing views on your own private balcony. Staycations in Singapore easily become a thing of the past with Radisson’s Batam offering.
The only thing we love more than shopping, is our duty-free bargains. Guess what – it’s no longer reserved for your flights at the airport anymore!
DFS has partnered with Singapore Cruise Centre (SCC) to bring you over 6,000 sq ft of star brands in categories including liquor, tobacco, beauty, fashion and travel accessories, confectionery and souvenirs.
“We are honored to have been awarded SCC’s first ever consolidated duty-free concession at both Harbourfront and Tanah Merah ferry terminals,” Wilcy Wong, Vice President of Store Operations shared. “Now that we have our beautiful stores in the 2 SCC ferry terminals, we would like to invite everyone to visit us often by going for weekend getaways in the neighbouring Riau Islands!”
Christina Siaw, CEO of SCC welcomed the partnership. “We wanted a partner who can deliver a seamless, one-stop and interactive shopping experience to passengers of cruise and ferry operators who are our customers,” she claimed.
“To many of these passengers, shopping is considered an integral part of their journey and we are certain that the new duty-free stores will be able to offer them high convenience and exceptional brands at favourable prices.”
From first world to old world, Batam now offers lucky Singaporeans travelling to the island, luxurious rides, top hotels with stunning views, ecotourism activities, delicious and imaginative food in picturesque settings, all at a fraction of the cost over here.
It’s time to get your hashtag game on in Batam.
First published: Epoch Times, S.E.A