Batam, a small island located at the south of Singapore, is known to be the largest city in the Riau Islands Province of Indonesia. Located only 20 km from Singapore, the island can be easily reached via a short 45 minutes ferry ride. Due to its close proximity to Singapore, Batam has remained the second most popular getaway destinations after Bintan for both Singaporeans and Malaysians.
Back in 2012, my husband (who was my then-boyfriend) and I decided to celebrate our first year anniversary in Batam.
Many would have asked why I have chosen Batam to celebrate such an important event. Why Batam, a place that seems boring and unromantic. Well, we have chosen Batam for three reasons:
1. We wanted some alone time together
2. We could not afford to take any leave off from our busy work schedule and thus, we can only visit somewhere near.
For these three reasons, Batam came up to the top destination in our list.
Having the plan in our mind, I proceeded to book a simple tour package on Groupon Singapore 2 weeks before the trip. I was feeling very nervous and anxious as this trip was meant for such important event. All I hope was that everything will be smooth and prefect.
Our anniversary falls on the 20th August. As such, we have chosen 19 - 20 August as our travelling dates. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the Hari Raya holiday. I was afraid that the Hotels will be fully booked. The travel agency was slow at processing our booking at that time. I was typically annoyed by their efficiency, till to a point that I actually called up Groupon helpline to ask for ways to refund my payment.
Recalling back now, I think the travel agency actually only took 5 days to confirm our booking, which I think it is still quite reasonable. But due to the anxiety I was feeling at that time, 5 days just feels like forever. Aww...I must be a very difficult customer then.
After confirming our tour booking with the travel agency, I proceeded to book our ferry tickets with Sindo Ferry online. The prices of the tickets are as shown below:
For us, we figured it out that it will be safer to book ourselves a return (2-way) rather than a single (1-way) fare to Batam Centre. I really feel that booking a single (1-way) fare is really unnecessary unless you have the intention to extend your stay in Batam.
After completing our booking online, we were instructed to collect our boarding pass from the Sindo Ferry counter at Habourfront Ferry Terminal. Please bring along the following documents in order to obtain your boarding pass from the counter:
1. Booking confirmation
2.Valid travel documents/passport with 6 months validity
3. Valid Visa to your destination country (if applicable)
4. Re-entry Visa to Singapore (if applicable)
Please note that you are strongly advised to collect your boarding pass at least 1 and half hour before departure time, especially during weekend, public holidays and school holidays.
Alternatively, you might prefer do a self check-in online to avoid the long queue at the Sindo Ferry counter at the Habourfront Ferry Terminal. Web check-in is available 3 months and up to 2 hours before your departure time. Just remember to print and bring along your boarding pass after you have self check-in online.
We were really lucky to be able to secure ourselves two seats that were located just by the window where we could get a fantastic view of Resort World Sentosa.
The Superstar Virgo cruise! Hopefully one day I could get a chance to board a star cruise too. I believe it will be a very memorable experience!
Upon our arrival at the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal, we headed to the immigration counter for immigration clearance. It took us about an hour to clear the immigration due to the ridiculously long queue. Once it was done, we exited out from the clearance area and was pleased to find our local female tour guide patiently waiting for us. Well, she was actually waiting for a group of 10 people, including the 2 of us.
Among the 10 people, 8 of them were China nationals, which made both of us the odd ones out in the tour group. After verifying our details with the tour guide, we boarded a mini bus and set off for the first destination of the day.
1. The Chocolate House
Our first destination of the day was to visit the Chocolate House. This is basically a very small retail store where it offers a wide array of chocolates for us to choose from. So, if you happen to be a huge chocolate lover, I believe the Chocolate House will be haven for you.
Price wise, our tour guide actually told us that it would be much more cheaper to purchase any brand of chocolates here as compared to most of the supermarkets which you would find on the island. However, please do not trust the words of your tour guide. Unless you are visiting Batam on a short one day tour, I would strongly advise you to purchase your favorite brand of chocolates at any other supermarkets which you planned to visit. You will realize that mot of the supermarkets actually priced the same brand of chocolates at a much more cheaper price! We really regretted for spending some much more at the Chocolate House, only to realize that we had been treated as a fool.
2. Golden Prawn 555 Seafood Kelong Restaurant
Next, we visited the Golden Prawn 555 Seafood Kelong Restaurant to have our lunch. The restaurant is constructed mostly with wood and built above the waters.
For someone for who is not a fan of seafood like myself, the Golden Prawn 555 Seafood Kelong Restaurant is definitely not a great place for you to dine in. Even so, I was still surprised by the generous amount of fish, prawn, clams and crabs that were served to us for lunch on that day. I was even more surprised that we were be able to enjoy such sumptuous lunch at a very affordable price. I could not imagine how much it will cost us if we wish to have the same meal in Singapore.
As for the taste, I could not comment much as I did not have food on that day. However, my husband had commented that among all the seafood served to us, he particularly love the steamed Gong Gong (sea snails) very much. Whereas for the other dishes, the taste was really nothing to rave about.
Overall, my dining experience at the Golden Prawn 555 Seafood Kelong Restaurant was not really that good. Other than the taste of food, the environment was also one of the factor that makes dining in this restaurant not so pleasant in the first place. The entire place was really noisy, chaotic and rowdy while we were dining there. The restaurant is purely just a touristy place where most of the tour agencies would bring their tour groups to have lunch at.
So, let's look at some of the photos I have managed to capture!
I was deeply amazed by the performer who was trying to tear open a coconut just by using his teeth! What a set of strong teeth he has!
Picking up the burning coconut skin with his bare hands!
Then he feed and swallow the burning coconut skin! Oh god! I could not believe my eyes.
Next, the performer went on to break a glass container with his teeth!
The performance was ended when he beautifully jumped across the burning ring, winning the applauds from the hundred of audiences.
I believe it takes years and years of practice and skills to complete such an impressive performance. With that, we boarded the mini bus again and set off to our next destination.
3. Batam Miniature Park
Next up, we visited the Batam Miniature Park where it showcases 33 types of miniature houses originated from different provinces in Indonesia.
Initially, I was feeling rather excited to visit the Miniature Park as I thought it will be a very interesting place. But sadly, it turned out to be quite disappointing and boring. It did not take us more than 15 minutes to finish exploring the entire attraction. Not only the park was small, the miniature houses displayed here also look almost the same as each other.
Other than the miniature houses, there are some animal sculptures located everywhere in the park as well.
Although the park was uninteresting, I still think this was the best place we had visited in Batam. At least we get to see some cultural side of the island. Furthermore, it does not require you to pay for any entrance fee in order to enter the park. Since it is free, we figured it out that it would not be too bad to spend some of your time there.
4. Go-Kart Circuit Center
Located right next to the Batam Miniature Park is the Go-Kart Circuit Center.
As I am a huge lover for Go-Kart, I was actually really excited to visit the Go-Kart Circuit Center. However, the extremely hot and humid weather on that day made us really reluctant to leave the air-conditioned bus. I have hard time in deciding whether I should get down and play a game or two or not. But the unbearable hot weather eventually led me to give up that idea of racing. Furthermore, we found the price charged for a game to be rather expensive. If I did not remember wrongly, a 10 minutes drive will cost about SGD 15 per person. A bit ridiculous, isn't it?
The rest of our day was spent on shopping. We visited the Batik Factory, First Factory, Polo Ralph Lauren Outlets and BCS Mall.
Batik Factory, First Factory & Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet
At Polo Ralph Lauren Outlet, this is where you could find Polo and many other branded export overrun products such as Nautica, Ann Klein, Tommy Hilfiger being retailed at a relatively cheaper price as compared in Singapore. Well, these branded products are not just cheaper, but are generally cheaper by 30 to 40%!!! Sounds like a really good deal, isn't it?
However, We left the outlets empty-handed. It was not because we did not spot anything that we like. But rather, it was because the deal was just too good to be true. As we did not have the knowledge to tell whether the branded items that are being sold here are authentic or fake, we decided it will be better for us to not take the risk.
On the other hand. the China tourists in our tour group turned out to be big shoppers! Most of them were really excited and generous in spending some of their money in these outlets. This means that people who were not interested in purchasing anything like us would have to patiently wait for those who were keen to shop around.
However, never have we expected that it will be such a tortuous and long wait. If I did not remember wrongly, it was around 3 pm when we arrived at the outlets. But we could not leave until it was 5 pm! Oh gosh! We spent two hours of our time waiting under the hot and humid weather. The worst thing was the outlets remained really stuffy, noisy and chaotic throughout the two hours of waiting. We were so drained and tired by the time we left.
There was nothing great about the BCS Mall too. We thought that it was a really rundown place and definitely, not somewhere that was great for shopping. Again, we spent the next hour waiting for the others in our tour group.
Undeniably... this was one of the biggest downside of joining a travel tour.
6. Harris Hotel Batam Center
Finally, at 6pm, we were drove to our hotel. For our stay in Batam, we decided to book a night with Harris Hotel Batam Center, which in fact, is conveniently located just a minute away from the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal. If we had knew this, we would not have book a tour to visit Batam!
Upon arrival at our hotel, we were really pleased to be warmly greeted by the hotel staffs. Welcome drinks and hot towels were immediately served to us while we check-in to our room at the reception counter.
After collecting the keys, we headed straight off to our room. We were delighted to be welcomed by a clean and comfy room, dimly lit by yellowish lights, which gave off a romantic and relaxing feel. For couples who are intending to visit Batam for a short getaway, I think Harris Hotel will be a great choice for you to spend a night at.
The only little bad thing about the hotel was that there were no towels in our room when we checked in. We actually have to request the staffs twice before they delivered the towels to our room.
We had our dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was located just right behind the lobby and beside the pool. The buffet dinner served at the hotel was not bad. Or rather, it was so much better as compared to the lunch we had at Golden Prawn 555 Seafood Kelong Restaurant. We were really pleased at the wide variety of cuisines we get to choose from while dining at the hotel restaurant.
Although it was a short one day stay, we were glad to say that Harris Hotel has indeed left us a very memorable and wonderful experience. The hotel staffs were very helpful and friendly throughout our stay. Our requests and queries were promptly attended to.Wherever we go, the hotel staffs always greeted us warmly with a big smile. Seeing their smiles really made our day awesome!
Another plus point about staying at the Harris hotel would be its convenient location. Not only it is located right beside the Batam center ferry terminal, it is opposite the Megamall as well. This enables us to do some shopping during our free and easy time at night instead of staying in our hotel room.
Due to its close proximity to Singapore, Batam has been one of the popular destination for Singaporeans to visit. However, I do not recommend anyone to visit Batam on a tour package. There are nothing much to see or buy on this small island. Rather, I think Batam is a place for busy city dwellers like us to relax and rest for a day or two. Hotels are priced very cheaply as compared those in Singapore. Thus, this makes Batam a good place for a short getaway from the stressful city life.
Having said so, why did we visited Batam on a tour? It was because we were worried that we might get lost if we were to visit Batam on our own. But never have we expected that Harris hotel is so convienently located next to the Batam Center Ferry Terminal. But at the same time, we wanted to discover more of the island and also to save some troubles and time from planning.
Shopping in Batam is not worth although I have seen many Singaporeans visited to buy cheap groceries such as toilet paper, shampoos and other neccessities home. But why the trouble? I don't see how much it can be cheaper when you have to spend money on ferry tickets and also valuable time to travel to the island to get those neccesities back.
However, there is one thing that one must buy when you get to visit the island. That is Kueh Lapis or Layer cake in English! I swear I have eaten the most delicious Kueh Lapis in Batam. We brought home 1kg of the homemade Kueh Lapis from the island! It was so delicious that we really regretted for not buying more.
The A&W restaurant is the other thing that you must try while you are in Batam! I can't believe that I will ever see this fast food chain again since they pulled out from the Singapore market many years ago. We had our lunch at A&W located in the Megamall on the day of our departure. Unfortunately, the food was not as great as I have remember.
With these, I shall end my post here. Why am I writing about things that happened two years ago? Well, I hope that this blog will be a place where I record all my precious memories before they started to fade away. Oh, we didn't get any presents for each other on our anniversary. I don't see the need to. But I am happy with the handwritten card which I have received from him.
This was his message for me:
"Without realizing it, already a year we have been together. There are ups and downs in our relationship, but that made us stronger. I want to say sorry to you because I always flares my temper on you and make you sad. Thanks for become a part of my life. I promise you are my first and also last. I promise I will make your life full of joys.
- No matter where you are, you will always close to my heart. I love you Dear!"
With that, we left Batam on 20th August 2011. Although it was a tiring and unromantic trip, the memories I shared with him remained deeply etched in my mind. I wish I will have the chance to visit and stay at Harris Hotel again. An enjoyable experience which I will never forget.