Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 February 2012 • Itinerary
Batam is the island on the border to Singapore. Many Indonesians visit it as a cheaper alternative rather than fly in through Changi airport which is really a dealmaker considering price. But is there more to it than that? Did I break the myth that there isn’t much more to Batam? I admit to say, no. Batam didn’t awe me, but I sure did enjoy the bits and pieces it offered. The city central was neat and roads were still decorated with trees. The food was a good adventure. And the famous ‘Kampung Vietnam’ located 5 bridges away, is a pleasant park.
Oh by the way, this was a family visit. I wonder if you remember my cousin’s face?
Also known as the Ocarina, this coastal park feels more like those abandoned theme parks but people still visit, even though it’s actually new. The windy and gloomy sky didn’t help me feel like it was a new park. It was cold and grey.
The park itself was far from crowded. The Ferris wheel had no fans, even though it had the popular Britney Spears album blaring from the speakers. The ghost house was a mess. I totally got a big bump on my forehead because I walked in to one of their walls. Ouch! That was even scarier than meeting any artificial ghost!
The children’s playground was entertainment. While most playgrounds had monkey bars and swings, this one in particular had umm… a children’s gym??? Each item was a replica of gym equipment. Whoever built this probably thought fusing playtime and workout was a great idea hahahaha… (and you’d probably guess I don’t think so)
I have a thing for the outer border islands of Indonesia. I have a short list of them ready to be checked off. But there is no possible way that I can visit each and every one of them. That’s just beyond ambitious. That’s a lifetime achievement, which isn’t for me. But since I was in Batam, Putri Island was just a skip away from Nongsa beach.
Nongsa wasn’t pleasant at the time, nor was the whole area. Given that it was already too much trouble to get to Nongsa, so I though I’d drop by Putri Island just for the sake of it; at least to see another bordering island.
It was more of a disappointment. It was dirty. Apparently the cleaner didn’t show up today. But is that any excuse for people to trash the place? Enough said! *frustrated
This bridge is Batam’s pride and joy. I can see why. For an island so remote, a development like this bridge is an achievement. Barelang bridge is still a popular place to hang out. I would imagine it started to be the IT place to hang when it was first opened, and is still irreplaceable.
People would park their cars on the bridge when the authorities didn’t feel like doing a sweeping, which basically means most of the time. Of course they’re not allowed to, but oblivious to knowledge is sometimes bliss. Here, you will see people hang with friends and have the local snacks which can consist from rujak , bottled drink, all the way up to crabs and prawn on a stick. It’s street food on a bridge.
This bridge is also known as a spot for people to kill themselves or do stupid acts of so-called bravery, which also leads to loss of lives. Upon my visit, about 2 months prior a boy lost his life believing he could survive the jump. Maybe there’s a haze of magic mushroom in the air, but dang! People are hallucinating!
The Barelang Bridge is one of the impressive 5 bridges that connect 5 islands. I was surprised and glad to see a lot of development to help transportation and communication.
Funny thing is, on each bridge you would most definitely find someone fishing with their helmets on. What’s with that, people of Batam? Are you afraid the caught fish will fight back and slap you silly? Hahaha…
Vietnam Village was once a refugee camp for the Vietnamese during their war with the US. The camp lasted from 1979 – 1996 and was established by the UNCHR. The heart breakings story that everyone talks about is that one day when the refugees set sail home, they countered bad weather and were shipwrecked. But don’t worry! They succeeded in their next attempt.
Now, the refugee camp no longer exists. The remains are museums, cemeteries, old and refurbished houses of prayer, and bits and pieces of the camp.
The most visited place of the village is the Kwan Im temple, located just at the gate of the village, because most people that visit the village are Buddhist as most Vietnamese are. And being a goddess of prosperity, people would just stop by to throw a coin at the Kwan Im fountain and a prayer or two for the sake of it. The temple was poorly maintained. Paintings were fading fast. A shame really, those paintings were art nonetheless. But the best part of the temple was this hilarious statue where you can be the Kwan Im goddess. Do I fit in?
The museum wasn’t too special. It was interesting to see the database of the camp refugees and how many people were on the island. I particularly liked the pictures of the teacher that taught on the island. I wonder where they are now. Are they still teachers? And do the Vietnamese kids still remember them?
Surprisingly, as a whole, I enjoyed this park a lot more than I expected. The area was green and roads were wound through the park. Each part of the village was different, which amused me. And the smell of memories was both heartwarming and spooky altogether. It wasn’t so much the possibility of haunting that spooked me, although some people died in hospitals. It was the fact that Indonesia was once a shelter to those in need. There was a time where we were proven to be an open arms country 😛
Entrance fee: IDR 5,000 / person.
It was a sign! I talked to Pak Yung (payung means umbrella, and Pak Yung joked around with me about it), an old resident that I happened to run in to
He lived on the Galang Island long before it became an asylum for the Vietnamese. Did you know, that Galang Island used to be covered in pineapples? There used to be a canned pineapple factory on this island but became bankrupt due to some recession or something. The pineapples used to be very good, he says. Then this old man decided to stay and witness the whole refugee history in the making. And he claims that he’s a great pineapple peler.
What sign was I talking about? The Pineapple dance, of course!
Gonggong is a saltwater snail commonly found in the waters of these islands. Once you browse the culinary specialty of Batam, you would most definitely find gonggong on the menu.
It wasn’t easy to find this mollusk delight. But you can usually find them in seafood restaurants. So how was it?
It was mostly like any mollusks, but not as tasty. What surprised me was, it was big! One gonggong can be longer than 10 cm. A whole plate was quite filling and memorable especially since I didn’t have rice with it. Having the gonggong alone made the But overall it was nice. This dish is very popular as the restaurant kept on bringing plates of Gonggong out.
A plate of Gonggong cost about IDR 30,000 with a portion for 2.
I had my Gonggongs at:
De Sampan BBQ Center
Ruko Green Land Blok A. No 12 – Batam Center
This restaurant also serves great seafood from fish, crabs, clams, and prawns.
Fish soup is also one of the dishes people fuss about in Batam. I’m sure most foreigners would love it since they use fish fillets rather than having all the bones in them, as Indonesians like it. I wonder, are we still that primitive because we like gnarl on bones?
I tried the one in Tarempa restaurant as recommended by my aunt. The soup broth wasn’t as strong as Indonesian soups usually are, which made it really yummy for me. It had a subtle taste.
I also tried this kinda like fish covered in some kind of starch or fish fat maybe. I’m not quite sure. Mumun: it was all clear and hazzy :P. Besides the obvious taste of fish, there was this gooey texture that I can’t identify. It was then fried with some sort of skin layer. It’s edible but it was an experience I wouldn’t do again.
I also tried the fried bread snack. It’s bread filled with fish. A common dish but there was a different herbal taste in this one.
Mini rice bundle in banana leaf with curry taste.
There’s nothing left to say when it comes to good seafood but YUMMO! Barelang Seafood is an established semi-posh restaurant located just beside the bridge on the coastal banks of the island.
Their food? So good! The crab in Padang sauce and grilled squid was the perfect meal of the day! It was tastey, the crab was filled with meat to chew on, and the squid disappeared in a few chews! We also had dragon fruit juice and a dish of veggies.
The venue was plain for me. It wasn’t designed very well ‘cause it felt more like a plain box when it was supposed to be charming. It had the Barelang Bridge as its view, but that really has no relevance to the good food.
I spent IDR 300,000 for 2 people, which was quite costly but definitely worth the good food.
The bridge itself was rich with street food. Can I really say it’s street food since it’s on a bridge?
Favorites are the barbequed corn on each side of the bridge. There are rujak, and Pak Gendut is my cousins’ favorite. Pak Gendut literately translates to Mister Fat. No no, we’re not calling him names. He calls himself that. His rujak is really good. The sugar sauce is thinner than the usual Javanese rujak but it compliments the tropical fruit better. And the sauce is freshly made.
One portion is no more than IDR 15,000.
But the most interesting food on the bridge by far is the cooked seafood sold by walking vendors. To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in tasting it. Like, who does that? Sell really pricey crabs on the street? Is it really that common in these waters? It was doubtfully delicious. My cousins enjoyed it though. They did tell me that there wasn’t much meat to the crabs. You could still try it if you want.
Crabs range from IDR 15,000 – 25,000/piece.
Since Batam is very influenced by the Chinese descendants, coffee shops are quite popular. Around these Malay areas, coffee shops are known as Kopitiam or Kedai Kopi.
Here’s a weird thing I did. As I visited Nongsa on the other side of the island, I asked the locals if they knew a good coffee shop in town. They directed me to find a shop that had an old hunched man that makes good coffee. And guess what? I found him!
Their sweet milk coffee only cost IDR 3,000 / cup.
Another coffee shop that I tried was the one beside it, named Sudi Mampir. This shop is recommended more by the locals. It too was influenced by Chinese descendants with similar tasting coffee. Also about IDR 3,000 / cup.
Which one did I like better? Harum Manis. Not only because it was an achievement to find the hunched old man that made it, but the taste was also lighter than Sudi Mampir. But this comes down to personal taste. What ever suits your likings 😀
Both shops are near the Sarijaya Hotel, across the main entrance to Nagoya Mall.
As I was departing from Jakarta, Mum and I took a plane heading straight to Batam. We took a Lion Air flight which cost us about IDR 1,300,000 / pax for a return ticket, booked one month prior departure.
People can sail in to Batam from Singapore and Johor, Malaysia. Ada yang dari daerah lain di Indonesia nggak? There are numerous harbors on Batam, all servicing ferries daily and hourly. Tickets depend what ferry you choose to sail on.
Sail Indo tickets, or formerly Penguin Ferries, cost IDR 260,000 / pax for a return ticket excluding harbor tax. Harbor tax is about SGD 6-7 both in Batam and in Singapore. Not sure about prices from Johor, but definitely more expensive.
This island is located 5 islands and 5 bridges away. It’s about 1.5 hours drive through the red islands and peat moss forrests.
Since Batam has yet to establish a comprehensive public transportation system, ojeks are still reliable as the transportation of choice. Ojeks usually hang out near shopping centers and at road intersections especially on smaller roads.
Upon my visit, the city of Batam was undergoing a pilot project for a long distance bus route with a scheme much like TransJakarta in Jakarta or buses in western world: buses leave the Batam Center Mall according to a set schedule and will reach each bus stop at a certain time.
I took this bus when I visited Seken Singapore. For only IDR 3,000/pax you can hop on a moderately comfortable bus with AC. You can only stop at certain places hence the buses can keep track of the schedule. Neat!
The Mini bus is an efficient way to get around in the city. Each minibus has a long route making faraway places cheaper to reach. A ride on these public minibuses cost IDR 3,000/pax.
There are minibus lines to Batam Center, Nongsa, Jodoh etc. Where and how to get to an area can only be answered after you ask a local for directions.
All I can say is, the pink minibus that says Nongsa on it goes from Nongsa – Batam Center – Nagoya – Habour City – God knows where. And the pink minibus was the only one I needed during my stay there.
If you like to hunt for vintage and second hand items, this is the market for you. This market offers various goods from Singapore. The area is called Seken (pronounced: second), so the name works for the market. They’ve got almost anything you can buy! From pots and pans, clothes, bags, shoes, pillows, blankets, decorations, and just everything! The trick is to have a good eye for quality items.
Seken Singapore is located near the Aviari complex at Batuaji.