The next island on our tour is to the west of Bintan and is called Batam. Batam is just an hour by ferry from Bintan. The ferries leave each half hour and as ours was less than half full, there was plenty of room in the suitcase corral for our suitcases. We have come to Batam to visit the irrepressible Ibu Mia who visited us 2 years ago.
The morning we left Bintan, there was a power outage, so I wasn’t able to contact Ibu Mia to give her an idea of our ETA. Thankfully she wasn’t waiting outside in the baking hot sun, so we caught a taxi and headed straight to our hotel.
The Hotel Eska has turned out to be a true gem. It is directly behind the Kepri Mall, meaning that not only do we have access to a huge mall for meals and other necessities but we are also shielded from the busy traffic on the main road in front of the mall!! It is a great location and also not far from Ibu Mia’s perumahan (housing complex).
Batam has been very hot and humid. In Bintan when grey clouds threatened, the rain and accompanying breezes would arrive to cool us down. So far in Batam, the grey clouds have gathered on the horizon and then appear to pass straight overhead and continue on towards Bintan!!
Batam (with a population of just over a million) is the largest city of the Riau Islands (Kepri) and is the capital city of Batam Island. The island itself is just under 6km south of Singapore (35 mins by ferry) and is Indonesia’s closest point to the Singapore mainland. In fact it is so close you can see it from Singapore!
I love this quote from Wikipedia regarding the history of Batam:
Before Batam became a boom town, like its neighbor Singapore, fishing, maritime trade and piracy were the main activities.
Since 2006, Batam has become a tariff and tax free zone for goods shipped between Singapore and Batam. In 2007, a law was passed to guarantee this zone for 70 years! No wonder it is a ‘boom town’! Ibu Mia explained that cars here in Batam are significantly cheaper than elsewhere in Indonesia due to them being tax free however cars bought on Batam can only be driven here. As soon as you head off the island, the car incurs a tax which is based on the length of time you plan to be away.
One of the most popular destinations that tourists head towards would have to be the Barelang Bridge, also known as the Jembatan Habibe because he was the one who was behind its construction. It is actually a series of bridges connecting 6 different islands and takes it name from the 3 larger islands: BAtam, REmpang & gaLANG. The original reason the bridges were built was to encourage and support the development of industrial zones based on Galang and Rempang islands.
Can you spot Ibu Mia and Margaret in the photo above?
Batam has been a fascinating place to visit. However, as this has been more of a work stop-over, our sightseeing has been limited to what we pass by on our way to schools or if taken out for lunch. I wonder if Ibu Mia has done that deliberately to ensure our return?? 🤣