Beyond Bali


    A Melting Pot

      1-8-2016
     

    A Melting Pot

    A Melting Pot

    A Melting Pot

    Barelang Bridge, Batam's iconic landmark.

    A Melting Pot

    Some people hopping on a boat at Mega Wisata Ocarina, one of the tourist destinations in Batam.
    A Melting Pot

    A Melting Pot

    A Melting Pot
    Barelang Bridge, Batam's iconic landmark.

    A Melting Pot
    Some people hopping on a boat at Mega Wisata Ocarina, one of the tourist destinations in Batam.

    Off top Batam to discover historical places, beautiful beaches, delish foods and more...

    The sun was coming down as if it was about to touch the surface of the sea in Batam, one of the city islands within the Riau Island group in Sumatra. From a seafood restaurant at Harbourbay’s seaside in Batu Ampar, the silhouette of the Marina Bay Sands and other skyscrapers in Singapore paint the skyline. I believe Batam is the only city in Indonesia where one can witness the beautiful cityscape of our neighboring country during sunset.

    As a tourist destination Batam is not too far behind Bali, Jakarta and Yogyakarta. With that in mind I decided to travel to Batam a couple of months ago. And my expectations were met – Batam is full of foreign visitors, especially Singaporeans and Malaysians going for a family getaway during the holiday season. This is not a surprise, knowing that Batam is only a short distance from those neighboring countries, and that’s why traveling by boat is the most popular and effective way to get to Batam.

    Good Neighbors
    This city is about a 45-minute boat ride from Singapore and less than 90 minutes from Malaysia. With such a high volume of traffic from and to those two countries, Batam has several international seaports such as Harbourbay, Batam Centre, Sekupang and Nongsapura. These seaports are quite sophisticated although during peak season there is a long queue for entering and exiting the immigration gates. And this is why Batam is known as a sea hub. This city’s identity is even represented well by the Pacific Place Hotel, which is built in a shape of a ship.

    Batam is quite unique compared to other cities in Indonesia, because not only does it hold the status of a Free Trade Zone industrial city but also because this city allows people to use three currencies; Malaysian Ringgit, Singaporean Dollar and Indonesian Rupiah – but for sure transactions in Rupiah are encouraged by the government. I am not encouraging travelers to use currencies other than Rupiah, but it is simply an interesting fact and perhaps an alternative.

    I myself experienced a moment when I ran out of Rupiah, but had a few Ringgits and Singaporean Dollars in my wallet. I ended up using these currencies for a shopping payment instead of taking some more Rupiah at a nearby ATM. The convenience of multi-currencies proves how Batam supports tourism demands. Of course the difference between Indonesian Rupiah and Singaporean Dollars is always favorable for the Singaporeans – it is a common sight to see Singaporeans leaving Batam with their hands of goods, including boxes of popular J.Co doughnuts!

    Cruise The City
    The infrastructure in Batam is well developed as well, as the roads are wide and nicely asphalted which makes traveling so convenient. The downside of this city though, like many cities in Indonesia, is the lack of adequate management of landfi lls. Litter is found on the side of the road as people cruise around the city. But aside from that, the roads in Batam are almost empty as this city has a small population and this makes driving a car or riding a bike very enjoyable.

    Following a recommendation from a friend I visited Nagoya, where knock-offs from China are easy to find at a much cheaper price than the ones in Java. There is also a mall where people can buy gadgets and photography equipment at reasonable prices although buyers must be careful before purchasing the goods as they do not come with guarantees or at least rarely do.

    The next day I drove to Pulau Galang, and it wasn’t just the destination that I was excited about but also the journey. On my way there I crossed the Barelang Bridge, Batam’s iconic landmark. I actually spotted this bridge from the plane before I landed in Batam the day before, but it was a different experience to see it from a closer look. I pulled over my rental car and admired the bridge and the view for a while. As I love photography, I decided to take some photos on my way back from Pulau Galang as the lighting would be much more beautiful in the afternoon or evening.

    Pulau Galang is an island that commemorates the Vietnam War. In 1979-1996, this island welcomed around 250,000 South Vietnamese who fled the civil war. At that time the Indonesian government worked together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On this island also stand the Nha Tho Duc Me Vo Nhiem Church, Quan Am Tu Vihara and other buildings that used to be a prison and a hospital.

    Unfortunately most of those buildings – except for the temple that is situated on the top of the hill – are not maintained very well as shrubs and wild grass are now covering the grounds. But among all the historical places I found the ruins of a boat the most attractive. This single boat was filled with about 100 people when they fled from Vietnam during war. Looking at the boat up close, I felt heartbroken as I couldn’t help but imagining what those people must have been through. And so it is such a relief knowing that this island has a handful of beaches. After visiting these historical places, I went straight to one of those beaches to lift up my mood by watching the sunset.

    Culinary Scene
    After spending the day at Pulau Galang it was time for me to go back to Batam, and I was excited to discover the culinary scene, as Batam is popular for its delicious seafood. One of the most wellknown seafood items in town is the gonggong, which is actually from the snail family.

    The texture of the gonggong is chewy and soft and simply delicious, especially when dipped into the special sauce served as a condiment. One only needs to pick out the flesh from its shell using a small toothpick or a fork to consume the meat. It may be challenging at first, but everything takes a little practice, right? Every seafood restaurant in town has gonggong in their menu so it’s pretty easy to find. Gonggong is so popular that there was a saying that a visit to Batam would not be complete without tasting some gonggong.

    After having some gonggong, it was time for me to go home. But just before I left the city I noticed why Batam is so special. Batam is mostly populated by Melayu (Malay) people, but as the city has become more popular a lot of newcomers have build their lives here and live peacefully side by side with the locals. Many Chinese are doing businesses and go to the vihara, while the Indians embrace their Hindu faith by visiting the Hindu temple. Batam is a nice mix of everything, making it an interesting melting pot city.

     
    Taufan Wijaya

       Contributor : Taufan Wijaya


      Magazine issue > Beyond Bali
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