Batam Island Travel

February 15, 2009 by
Filed under: Batam Island Travel 
Batam Island Travel
Location of Batam Island and the Ferry Routes

Location of Batam Island and the Ferry Routes

Batam Island is one of the 3,000 Riau Archipelago islands in Indonesia. It has an area of 410 sq. km. which is slightly over half the size of Singapore. It is a land of low hills without natural resources. It was a quiet island until the 1970’s during which many Singaporean investors shifted their labour-intensive industries in their homeland to the island where labour was and is still cheap. In 2007 the Indonesian government declared the island together with other nearby islands (Bintan and Karimun) as a free trade zone. Since then the island has attracted more investments from Singaporeans and other foreigners. For the last two decades, its economic development has been progressing at a fast pace. As a result, its population has increased greatly from a few thousands before the 1970’s to over 720,000 in 2008.


Writer and his wife in a ferry to Batam Island

As Batam Island  has many attractions like entertainment, sea-food, shopping paradise, sea-sports, golf games, pristine beach resorts, snorkelling, deep sea-diving, etc. it has become a tourists’ destination, especially for neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia. Over 1 million tourists sail or fly there, annually.

On 1 October 2008, my wife and I took a ferry from Singapore Harbour Front to Batam Island for a short vacation. Below is the itinerary of our Batam Island travel:

Day 1               Ferry Journey to Batam Island
(1 Oct. 08)           Batam Centre Tour
Lunch at Golden Prawn Restaraunt and Waterfront  City Tour
Polo Shop, Largest Buddhist Shrine/Monastery

A Batam island ferry, "Ocean Raider"

A Batam island ferry, “Ocean Raider”

Day 2                 i-Hotel
(2 Oct. 08)           Walkabout in Nagoya City
Nagoya Hill Megamall

Day 3              Last Day of  Batam Island Vacation
(3 Oct. 08)

Day 1, Wednesday, 1 Oct. 2008

Ferry Journey To Batam Island

Tering Bay, Batam Island

Tering Bay, Batam Island

On the early morning of 1st. of October 2008, my wife and I went to Singapore Harbour Front where we collected our ferry tickets and boarded a modern ferry of Ferry Fast Company known as “Ocean Raider”. At 8.40 a.m. the white, stream-lined ferry pulled out of the harbour and sped all the way to Batam Island. As it was crossing the Phillip Channel, we saw large ships anchored at the sea and a Singapore marine police boat patrolling the sea. An hour later we entered Tering Bay and arrived at the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal.

After going through the custom and immigration checks, we waited for our

Batam Centre Ferry Terminal, Batam Island

Batam Centre Ferry Terminal, Batam Island

Indonesian tour guide, Tani, at the lobby of the ferry terminal. Looking around, I noticed a banner with information for ferry passengers. It was about personal

accident insurance benefits for ferry passengers. A few minutes later, some travellers wearing the same stickers as ours joined us. They are from Singapore, Phillipines and Java, and we from Malaysia. Then a tall lady, Tani, appeared and introduced herself to 18 of us. After checking a list of our names and feeling satisfied that we were all present, she asked us to board a coach. Our driver was a young, short and sturdy Indonesian guy, Dasri, who hails

Writer's tour guide, Tani (L), and his wife (R)

Writer’s tour guide, Tani (L), and his wife (R)

from Sumatera a few years ago. Soon we began our one day tour on Batam Island.

Batam Centre Tour

Our coach driver first brought us round Batam Centre which is a government administrative hub for the island. As the coach was cruising in the town, we noticed that it was quiet and many shops were closed. A large blue and yellow building known as Batam Centre Megamall was opened. Our tour guide explained that it was a public holiday. So, most Muslims had gone back earlier to their homes on other islands, especially Java and Sumatra, to celebrate their “Hari Raya Aidul Fitri” (a Muslim festival) and they would be back a few days later. We realized that we had chosen the wrong day for our vacation and felt a little disappointed.


Batam Centre Megamall

Batam Centre Megamall

After a short round trip in the town, we stopped at a shop which sold dried and preserved foodstuffs like crackers made from fish, prawns, squids, fruits, etc. The shop assistants were kind to ask us to taste some samples first before buying. Many of our tour members bought several packets each as the shop owner gave them some attractive discounts.

As my wife was busy buying the food stuffs at the shop I walked over to the adjacent shop and was attracted by the Indonesian arts and handicrafts inside, including paintings, sculptures and masks.

Then we left the place for a famous seafood restaurant at a place known as Bengkong.

An Election Poster, Batam Island

An Election Poster, Batam Island

As we were travelling to Bengkong, we saw many political party posters, banners and flags planted along the road. I learned later that Indonesia is going to have a national general election on 9 April 2009. Over 60 political parties in the country have registered for the election. The election campaign started on 12 July 2008 and will end on 5 April 2009. 580 seats of the Regional Representative Council and 128 People’s Representative Council are up for grabs.

We also saw a lot of people riding motorcycles. It was a Muslim festival, “Hari Raya Adul Fitri” and so they were visiting friends and relatives. Some of them seemed to be carrying their whole families on their machines. Take for an

A Roadside Motorcycle Repairer

A Roadside Motorcycle Repairer

example of a motorcyclist we saw that day. He was carrying a child in front of him, another child squeezed in between himself and his wife. We were shocked to see none of them wearing a crash-helmet. It would be unimaginable if tragedy should strike them, I told myself, worriedly.

As there are many motorcycles on the island there are also many illegal roadside motorcycle repairers everywhere.

While we were travelling in the outskirts our tour guide brought to our attention some slum areas along the roads. Most of the slum houses were in

"Restaurant Golden Prawn 555", Bengkong

“Restaurant Golden Prawn 555”, Bengkong

pathetic conditions and built in haphazard manner. They did not have water piping system and proper sanitation facilities. Besides, the dwellers lived in poverty and were illegal squatters who had migrated from other Indonesian islands, our tour guide told us, repeatedly.

Soon we arrived at a famous large seafood restaurant known as “Restaurant Golden Prawn” at Bengkong.

Golden Prawn Restaurant, Batam Island

Sea-Food Dishes at "Restaurant Golden Prawn 555"

Sea-Food Dishes at “Restaurant Golden Prawn 555”

Golden Prawn Restaurant claims to be the largest sea-food restaurant on Batam island. It looks like a village wooden house with an attap roof built on stilts planted in a pool of water. It is large and divided into two parts: Restaurant Golden Prawn 933 and Restaurant Golden Prawn 555. The former serves non-Muslim food whereas the latter Muslim food.

As we entered Restaurant Golden Prawn 555, we saw some water tanks with live sea creatures such as sharks, fish, clams, snails (gong-gongs), squids, mantis shrimps, prawns, etc.

Eighteen of us sat at two tables at the back of the restaurant and waited anxiously for our seafood meal. While waiting our stomachs were rumbling.

A Fresh Coconut Drink

A Fresh Coconut Drink

Soon the food came and we all enjoyed eating it. Among the dishes the young waitresses brought to our tables were chili crabs, prawns cooked with tomato sauce, sweet and sour grouper, boiled “gong-gongs” (a type of sea snails), fried squids and chili “kangkong” ( a leafy vegetable or water spinach). Out of 5 stars, I will give 3 stars for the seafood at the restaurant. After that delicious meal we drank fresh coconut water which was very refreshing.

When we came out of the restaurant we were told that there was no performance in the open area in front of the restaurant. It was because the performers were away celebrating “Hari Raya Aidul Fitri”.  When they come back tourists will be able to see them performing traditional dances, tearing

A Go-Kart Race Course, Waterfront City

A Go-Kart Race Course, Waterfront City

coconut husk with their strong teeth, eating glass, etc. As there were no show then we left the place feeling disappointed.

Our coach driver brought us to a larger shop which sells more varieties of dried and preserved foodstuffs. But not many of us bought them as they were more expensive than those  sold at Batam Centre. Then we left the shop for another place known as Waterfront City. Readers should not be misled by the word “City” as this place is just like a village.

Waterfront City, Batam Island

Sea-sports, Waterfront City

Sea-sports, Waterfront City

When we arrived at Waterfront City we went straight to a go-kart race course. As none of us was interested in driving the small machines we left for another place by a bay where one can enjoy water-sports such as parasailing, kayaking (canoeing), water-skiing and banana boat ride. But those activities were cancelled as the workers were on holiday celebrating “Hari Raya Aidul Fitri” (1st. day of Syawal). We left the place feeling disappointed and went to visit two popular resorts in the area nearby: Holiday Inn Resort and Harris Resort. These resorts look impressive and have clean swimming pools. Vehicles entering the areas of these resorts are checked thoroughly for bombs by security guards. The resort owners do not want a terrorist bomb attack on their buildings as it had happened in Bali where terrorist bomb attacks killed 202 people in 2002 and 20 people in 2005.

Harris Resort, Waterfront City

Harris Resort, Waterfront City

After a quick tour of the two resorts, we left Waterfront City and headed to a shop known as Polo Shop in Kepri.

On arrival at Kepri, we went straight to Polo Shop. It sells good quality clothes for young and old such as T-shirts and shirts. A few of our tour members bought them although they were not cheap.

Outside the shop, a few peddlers were persuading tourists to buy their arts and handicrafts. Unfortunately, none of them bought from them. I guessed they were more interested in other things.

Nagoya City, Batam Island

Nagoya Hill Megamall

Nagoya Hill Megamall

Then we headed to Nagoya City or Lubuk Baja, the largest town on Batam Island. (Japan has a city which has the same name, but it is many times larger than this one on Batam Island). It is a commercial and financial centre of the island. We visited the largest megamall there, Nagoya Hill Megamall. It is a popular place for both locals and tourists where they can shop to their hearts’ content at over a hundred retail outlets. They can also hang out, enjoy a variety of foods and beverages in its “Food Street”, test their skills at a video arcade, relax while being massaged, etc. Behind the megamall, security guards were busy searching for bombs inside and underside of the vehicles using mirrors before they were allowed to pass through the gate and enter the parking area. They feared that

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya (Providence Maitreya Missionary Monastry)

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya (Providence Maitreya Missionary Monastry)

terrorists might bomb the megamall. (Remember the Bali terrorist bomb attacks in 2002 and 2005 and the Mariott Hotel tragedy in Islamabad in Pakistan on 20 September 2008).

Largest Buddhist Shrine/Monastery, Batam Island

After spending two hours at the megamall, we went to the last place in our one day Batam Island tour itinerary, i.e. the largest Buddhist shrine/monastery in Southeast Asia located at Batam Centre. It is known as Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya (Providence Maitreya Missionary Monastery) and was officially opened by the Indonesian Religious Minister, Prof. Drs. H. A. Malik Fadjar (M. Sc.), on 23 January 1999. It has large halls for worshipping the Buddhas and Bodhisatvas.

Staues of Buddha Sidharta Gautama in the Great Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni

Staues of Buddha Sidharta Gautama in the Great Hall of Buddha Sakyamuni

After the Batam Island tour, my wife and I bade our 16 tour members farewell at Batam Centre. They were leaving the island for Singapore in the evening. My wife and I were going to stay on the island for two more days to learn more about it. Our tour guide, Tani, was kind enough to bring us in her own car to a hotel in Nagoya City known as i-Hotel where we would stay for two days.

Day 2, Thursday, 2 Oct. 2008

i-Hotel, Batam Island

i-Hotel is one of the large hotels on Batam island. It is about one and a half years old. Standing alone majestically on a high ground in Nagoya City, it is a 4-star hotel offering 165 rooms at reasonable rates. It has many facilities for its guests, such as a swimming pool, jacuzzi pool, gymnasium with workout apparatus,

i-Hotel, Nagoya City

i-Hotel, Nagoya City

meeting/conference room, bar, KTV room, spa room, etc.

My wife and I enjoyed staying at this hotel. The first reason is that it is clean, quiet and comfortable. Second, it provides free and nice buffet breakfast in a spacious, clean dining room. Third, the hotel staff are young, courteous, helpful, attentive and always smiling. Take for example of a helpful bellboy. On the afternoon of 2 October 2008, my wife and I came back from town to the hotel by taxi. Arriving at the hotel, I took out a large rupiah note to pay for the fare. Unfortunately, the taxi driver had no small change. Then I was surprised and delighted when a bellboy came to my aid. He said he had small change for my big

Fiyandra, an i-Hotel gymnastic instructor

Fiyandra, an i-Hotel gymnastic instructor

note. I thanked him but forgot to ask for his name. The fourth reason is that the island’s largest shopping mall, Nagoya Hill Megamall, is just a stone’s throw away. Fifth, the hotel swimming pool is clean and well-maintained. We had a good swim in the pool in the evening of 1 October 2008.

Another reason is that the gymnasium in the hotel is well-equipped with apparatus for physical exercise. Fiyandra, the hotel gymnast, was so kind as to show me the methods of using all the apparatus.

On the morning of 2 October 2008, I opened the glass door of the hotel room (Room 703 on the 7th. level) where we were staying and stepped onto the balcony to get a panoramic view of Nagoya City.  As the balcony had a six foot high wall I pulled a chair, stood on it and had a breathtaking view of the town and its outskirt. After a

Panoramic view of Nagoya City as seen from i-Hotel

Panoramic view of Nagoya City as seen from i-Hotel

hearty breakfast at the hotel, we decided to walk to the town to see what it was like.

Walkabout in Nagoya City, Batam Island

On the morning of 2 October 2008, my wife and I decided to walk about in Nagoya City. While we were walking down a road from our hotel, i-Hotel, to Nagoya City we were greeted with frequent sound of taxi horns. Politely, I waved my right hand to signal to them to mean that I did not need a taxi yet. Soon we were walking about in the town. It was quiet. Many shops were closed for the public holiday as the Muslims were still celebrating the “Hari Raya Aidul Fitri” on the 2nd. day of Syawal 1429. There are many restaurants, bars, shopping centres, money changing shops and hotels in the town centre. I guess

Nagoya City Wet Market

Nagoya City Wet Market in an appalling state

Nagoya City is a place specially for tourists.
As we were walking we came across a large, old, ugly building which looks like an ancient fortress located by a bay. We were surprised when we were told by a friendly old man that it is a wet market. It was closed then as it was a public holiday. The whole building was in bad shape: many pieces of its roof were missing and its paint was peeling. The road round it was dirty, uneven and stony and the stench in the area was unbearable.

Opposite the market are a few clusters of houses built on stilts in the shallow bay of black and polluted water. They look like a floating village. I was told that the dwellers are not fishermen. They must be poor to live in such an

A "Floating" Village, Nagoya City

A “Floating” Village, Nagoya City

appalling environment.

While we were at the back of the market, we were surprised to see a large, white cruise ship behind some trees in the distance (see photo on the left). I could not believe with my own eyes that it was there as the island has no large, deep rivers. Out of curiosity, we walked to the ship. When we reached there we were shocked to see that it was actually a hotel known as Pacific Hotel. Alongside this hotel is its daughter “ship”. It is a four star hotel built in 2003.  There is another hotel across the road. It is built in an Indonesian architectural style and known as Novotel Hotel. It is also a four star hotel.

Pacific Hotel, Nagoya City

Pacific Hotel, Nagoya City

Having seen enough of the town, we took a taxi back to our hotel in the afternoon.

Nagoya Hill Megamall, Batam Island

Batam Island has many departmental stores which are known as megamalls here. They are popular among the locals and tourists alike.

Among the megamalls, Nagoya Hill Megamall is the largest. It has over a hundred retail outlets which sell all kinds of goods ranging from handbags, jewellery, apparels, shoewear to handphones, digital cameras and LCD

Children at Hypermarket in Nagoya Hill Megamall

Children at Hypermarket in Nagoya Hill Megamall

televisions, food outlets which serve Asian and Western cuisines, cinema, hypermarket, money changer and many more, all under one roof.

We spent quite a lot of time browsing and eating at Nagoya Hill Megamall. In spite of the goods at the megamalls being exempted from duty, they are still not cheap. But tourists do not mind paying for the goods at high prices.

As 1st. and 2nd. of October 2008 were public holidays, the mall was crowded. While I was there I noticed that most of them like me were window shopping. There are three places in the mall that are popular among the children, viz. the eating outlets in the “Food Street”, toy section in the hypermarket in the basement and the “Funland” where they enjoy

"Food Street" in Nagoya Hill Megamall

“Food Street” in Nagoya Hill Megamall

riding cars, sitting on mechanical horses, playing video games, etc.

On the afternoon of 2 October 2008, we walked along a few busy streets that are behind Nagoya Hill Megamall. As it was a public holiday, there were many vehicles moving along the streets and people walking on the roadsides and crossing the busy roads, hurriedly. Coffee shops and restaurants were doing good businesses then. Besides, taxis and motorcycles for hire were busy ferrying passengers.

There are many roadside foodstalls selling cheap local food. My wife and I tried a bowl of beef ball noodle soap at one of the stalls. After finishing the

A Money Changer Shop, Nagoya City

A Money Changer Shop, Nagoya City

delicious food we hoped it would not upset our stomachs. Luckily, it did not.

There are many money changing shops in Nagoya City. They are a testament to the popularity of Batam Island among foreign tourists. Over one million tourists visit this small island, annually.

Day 3, Friday, 3 Oct. 2008

Last Day of Batam Island Vacation

A Travelling Fun Fair at Nagoya City

A Travelling Fun Fair at Nagoya City

On the last day of our Batam Island vacation, my wife and I visited Nagoya Hill Megamall in Nagoya City again. After spending a few hours there we managed to buy a few items for ourselves: a luggage, a shirt, a swimsuit, etc. (At least we have these tangible things to remind us of the island trip.)

While walking back to i-Hotel where we had stayed for two days we entered a travelling fun fair. It was not opened in the daytime then. Anyway, we looked around and saw it had some attractions: children and adult rides and stalls of skill and luck games. Besides, there were some interesting life-sized figures at the fun fair, such as a skinny robot, 2 transformers, 2 E.T.’s, and a pirate.

Friendly and Helpful i-Hotel Receptionists, Fretika (L) & Danila (R)

Friendly and Helpful i-Hotel Receptionists, Fretika (L) & Danila (R)

At 12.30 p.m. we checked out the hotel, thanked the helpful hotel staff we met and left for the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal. After going through the immigration checkpoint smoothly we entered the departure hall and waited for our ferry. While waiting, we observed some passengers leaving the hall to board a ferry which would take them back to Malaysia. Then some incoming passengers disembarked a ferry and walked to the arrival hall. Soon we left the departure hall and boarded the same ferry which brought us to the island three days ago. It had an eye-catching name: Ocean Raider.

On the sea journey to Singapore, we saw a few ferries passing by. Each time a ferry passed by, our ferry would rock violently. It was because it had to hit the waves caused by the passing ferry. An hour later, we arrived safely at

Writer and his wife waiting to board a ferry home at Batam Centre Ferry Terminal

Writer and his wife waiting to board a ferry home at Batam Centre Ferry Terminal

the Singapore Harbour Front Ferry Terminal. Going through the immigration checkpoint at Harbour Front took us quite awhile as there was a large crowd ahead of us when we arrived.

Well, that is our short vacation on Batam Island. Although some activities were closed due to “Hari Raya Aidul Fitri we did enjoy it. We learn that it is more than just an ordinary island as it has some tourists’ favourite attractions like shopping malls, seafood restaurants, resorts with or without golf courses, a place for water sports, discos and bars. Besides, the sea surrounding the island offers tourists some sea adventures like fishing, parasailing, banana ride, snorkelling and diving.

On arrival in Singapore we reminded ourselves that its time is one hour later than that of Batam Island because of their different time zones. Take for an example: when the time in Singapore is 10 a.m. it is 9 a.m. on Batam Island.

Thank you very much for reading my Batam Island travelogue and I hope it is useful to you.


Writen by Choo Chaw, Kluang, Johor, Malaysia.


Tell me what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!