Journey to the South, 7 Islands in 1 Day

So it was an adventurous day when I just made a plan to visit a high school friend–let’s call him Mr J, not his real initial–who currently teaches English in a high school in Batam. I hadn’t met him for a few years; I think the last time I saw him was around 2003 or 2004, in a mourning ceremony for another friend who had just died due to a motorcycle accident in Prambanan. I lost any contact with him afterwards. A few months ago I found him on Facebook and was kind of surprised when I read that he had resided in Batam for quite some time, teaching there. From my apartment, Batam is just 1 hour travel by bus and MRT, plus another hour by ferry, excluding the waiting time, so on Sunday, 17th of April 2011, I paid him a visit. Actually, I had planned to go there in the preceding weekend, but I was not in a healthy state at that time, and had to postpone it to the subsequent week.

I officially started the journey at around 7 AM in Singapore time, which is UTC+8 (BTW I hadn’t had a pleasant sleep in the previous night; I always get struck by some sort of panic attack one day before making travels, preventing me to enjoy the night sleep, but let’s not deal with that issue any further). I had a breakfast, consisting of lontong in a nearby food court, then I took a bus 241 from the opposite side of the road to Pioneer MRT station. There, I travelled further to Outram Park MRT station, switched to the North East Line towards Harbourfront MRT Station, near which one of Singapore’s sea ports, the Singapore Cruise Centre, is located, the other being near Tanah Merah MRT Station. That was my second time to there: I had taken my university friend there a few months before that. I arrived at around 8 AM and there bought a round-trip ticket from Penguin, the same ferry agency from which that friend bought a ticket to Batam. It cost SGD 38, SGD 22 for the departure from Singapore to Batam and SGD 16 for trip back from Batam to Singapore (later on I knew that the tax in Singapore had been included in the ticket price, and I still needed to pay another SGD 7 for the tax in Batam, making the actual cost SGD 45!). I received several sheets of tickets for a 2-way trip, and also a magnetic card. This card would later be used to grant access to the waiting room and also outside to the quay, and then handed to the staff just before entering the ferry. After a quick administration process in the immigration counter, I waited for around 40-50 minutes and at 08.50 the ferry set sail for Batam.

Outside the Singapore Cruise Centre

Outside the Singapore Cruise Centre

At the back of the seat

At the back of the seat

OK let me tell a story about this trip. I sat quite at the back of the room. The two rows of seats behind me were taken by few Malay adults, speaking in a heavy Malay accent. I guessed most of them were in their 40s or 50s. As traditional as they could be, most of the women wore jilbabs. A few moments passed and I saw two Chinese female teenagers–in other words, girls–who were sitting in front just wore mini pants, as they were walking to the staircase that would bring them to the second floor as well as the small deck. I was wondering that there was a quite cultural barrier near me, in between the Chinese girls and the Malay adults. But, that had been before I noticed the movie played on the TV. There was this caveman movie with Caucasian actors, and I had to admit that it was quite…natural. Well, you know, in tens of thousands of years ago, when our ancestors still wore raw animal furs, when they still possessed different notion of “decency”, when the norms were very different from what we have now, when men and women didn’t mind seeing each other…bare-chested. There was even this scene in which the male protagonist thought that the baby who was with them needed some breast-feeding, and therefore he checked and touched the female protagonist’s…uhm…I think I shall stop right here. Anyway, even though I really enjoyed watching the movie, a few lines that came into my mind were 1) that the barrier was even thicker with the Caucasian, 2) that there were small kids in the ferry, and 3) with these circumstances, nobody seemed to make an effort to ask the crews to change the movie. Maybe the parents of the kids would just rather distract the kids’ attention. Anyway, at this time, I also went to the small deck to have some experience with the cool sea breeze and also take some pictures of Singapore’s coastline façade fading away. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Chinese girls had been inside at that time.

The trip only took about 1 hour, and at around 10 AM in Singapore time, or 9 AM in Western Indonesian Time (I should change to the latter until further notice), I could see that I was getting nearer to Batam’s coastline, along which I noticed a ferris wheel. I then used my Indonesian cell phone number to contact Mr J, who would later reply that he would be near the exit door. The ferry would dock soon and was moored to a pole on the quay. After a quick immigration procedure, I stepped outside and immediately met Mr J. He was still about the same height as the last time I saw him, but his belly was a bit…wealthier. I was impatient to talk about his story, but he urged me to wait, so we went to the house he rented. It was very close to the harbour, less than 5 minutes by motorcycle. Along the road, we passed the high school where he taught. Quite a big school, I was thinking, but he told me that that was because the whole complex served all the buildings from kindergarten up to high school.

Soon afterwards we arrived at his rented house. While resting ourselves, we had a chit-chat about his story, about how after graduation he had gone to work in Bandung with a help from my cousin (it had been in 2009, so I had not been there and instead already been in Singapore), about how after that he had been told about a job vacancy as a teacher in a reputable private high school in Batam, had applied there and had been admitted. I also told my lifeline, which is relatively more straightforward compared to him. We talked until about 10 AM, after which he invited me to have a lunch (brunch for him, as he had not had breakfast) in a nearby small restaurant.

So then we went to the restaurant. It was a Kalimantan-style, more specifically Singkawang-style restaurant, and the owner was an ethnic Chinese. This was what we ate.

Mixed pork rice

Mixed pork rice

Mixed pork rice, containing roasted pork and char siew. The arrangement wass similar to the Chinese pork dish found in Singapore, but trust me, this was much more delicious. The soup was hot, fresh, and tasty. The sambal (chili) was delicious too, spicy but not too spicy, and a bit bitter as well as salty at the same time. The roasted pork was crunchy, and the char siew was sweet. This was in agreement to one of my conjectures, “Indonesian-ised Chinese food is the best Chinese food in the world.” I can’t remember the price, but with two glasses of tea, it was around IDR 25,000. We ate this while conversing about the news about some friends in high school. Well he said that he couldn’t remember many, hahaha. A really nice lunch with an old friend.

At noon, we went around the main city of Batam. It was a very hot day, and I immediately got some impressions about Batam. Firstly, there was still a wide empty space. It seemed to me that the city was still developing. Despite the existence of some shopping malls, the rest of the area was still undeveloped. House complex establishments were also not uncommon, and there was even one next to J’s home. Secondly, it was often very dry in Batam, as J mentioned. This was very contrast to the weather of Singapore, which in my opinion is seldom extreme. Thirdly, the roads there were very wide, but they were not as crowded as Jakarta or even Yogyakarta. That might also be why people there, including J, drove cars and rode motorbikes very fast. Fourthly, similar to Tangerang, which I had visited earlier this month, foods from various parts of Indonesia can be found in Batam. Angkringan, Soto Lamongan, to the previously Kalimanant pork rice were written on the boards in front of the restaurants.  This seemed to be because most of the people in Batam are new settlers. The more indigenous people there are mainly Malay fishermen who live along the coast of Batam.

During this ride, we saw many places of worship. I noticed that there were many Buddhist and Taoist temples in Batam, due to the big percentage of ethnic Chinese there. We stopped outside Tua Pek Kong Temple, which could be characterised by its Chinese traditional architecture and pagoda. We also entered Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya, which is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia (after seeing the symbol on top of the building, Eon Strife clarified that it was an I-Kuan Tao temple, so thanks to him!) It was a very large complex, as it included school buildings as well as an apparently well known vegetarian restaurant. The main building was clean and looked very modern. Aside from temples, we also went to a group of churches along one road. So there was this road on which we can find two big Roman Catholic and Protestant churces on one side, and on the other side several smaller churches from different denominations, like Baptist and Advent. At that time we noticed that the people who went inside the Catholic church brought palm leaves, so we realised that that was a Palm Sunday, and we had not attended any mass in the weekend hahaha. Anyway, I took photos of some of these places, and here are some of them.

A wide road in Batam

A wide road in Batam

Barren land with red soil is a common sight in Batam

Barren land with red soil is a common sight in Batam

A few shophouses

A few shophouses

Roman Catholic church of St Peter

Roman Catholic church of St Peter

Entrance to Tua Pek Kong Temple

Entrance to Tua Pek Kong Temple

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya

Statues in the yard of Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya

Statues in the yard of Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya

Inside Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya

Inside Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya

Some banners on the road side

Some banners on the road side

Ojeks (motorcycle taxis)?

Ojeks (motorcycle taxis)?

With not much more to see–J himself had claimed that Batam, unlike the neighbouring Bintan, was not a tourism resort–, J offered a crazy idea: to go to a place called Kampung Vietnam (Vietnam Village). It was a very far place, so I was quite hesitant as I didn’t want to trouble him much, but anyway we decided to go there. So we went back to his home to take our jackets, and off we went southwards.

When I came home, after seeing this map in Wikipedia, I realised that we had indeed been quite mentally insane hahahaha

When I came home, after seeing this map in Wikipedia, I realised that we had indeed been quite mentally insane hahahaha

On the way that we were through, we passed and stopped near the infamous Barelang Bridge. Barelang stands for Batam – Rempang – Galang, three bigger islands that the bridge connects, although actually there are some more islets that it passes through, namely Tonton, Nipah, and Setoko. Kampung Vietnam is located in the Galang island, so in total that day I stepped my foot on 7 islands, namely Pulau Ujong (the main island of Singapore), Batam, Tonton, Nipah, Rempang, Setoko, and Galang (a new personal record!), hence the title of this post. This increased the number of lands I visited to 9. Back to the topic, the bridge turned out to be frequented by local tourists as well as street vendors, so we bought rujak uleg for dessert. It, particularly the peanut sauce, was sweet and tasty, and it had just the right spiciness. Here are some photos we took on the bridge. BTW, J told me that there had been many occurrences of people jumping off the bridge to kill themselves.

Towards Barelang bridge

Towards Barelang bridge

Straits view below Barelang bridge

Straits view below Barelang bridge

One of Barelang bridge's pillars

One of Barelang bridges pillars

Wonderful structure of the cables

Wonderful structure of the cables

Straits view below Barelang bridge

Straits view below Barelang bridge

Rujak uleg

Rujak uleg

After the Barelang bridge, there is not much that I can tell. As I mentioned earlier, Batam and the surrounding areas were mostly empty, and the land was red and barren. It seemed like the hills in Rempang and Galang had been cut to make ways for the roads. Moreover, it was very hot and I was inconvenient to trouble J with the long journey. After a long 1-hour trip, we arrived at, as the locals colloquially call, Kampung Vietnam in Galang island. I had thought that it had been a village of which the majority of the demography is ethnic Vietnamese, much like Chinatown or Little India in Singapore, but it was actually ex-Galang refugee camp for Vietnamese boat people who fled from their country following the fall of Saigon and the rise of communism. The camp was closed in the middle of 1990s, and afterwards the local government made it a tourist attraction. The entry tickets for 2 people plus a motorbike cost IDR 11,000. Quite inexpensive, I thought. However, it looked like the place was a bit untreated, which was unfortunate. Anyway, you can find some photos of the camp below. I visited a few places, namely the Quan Am Tu Buddhist temple, the boat monument, and the graveyard. Along the ride, we passed several landmarks, like the Humanity statue, ex-PMI (Indonesian Red Cross (hospital), and a few houses. Some monkeys could also been wandering on the road side. Actually there were also Protestant and Roman Catholic churches there, but we didn’t go there. BTW, if you’re interested, you can visit this Galang Camp group’s Facebook page, initiated by the people who settled or worked there.

Entrance to Quan Am Tu Quil

Entrance to Quan Am Tu Quil

One painting in Quan Am Tu Quil

One painting in Quan Am Tu Quil

Guanyin (Kwan Im, as commonly referred to by Indonesians) goddess statue in the yard of Quan Am Tu Quil

Guanyin (Kwan Im, as commonly referred to by Indonesians) goddess statue in the yard of Quan Am Tu Quil

Humanity Memorial Statue

Humanity Memorial Statue

A writing near the Humanity Memorial Statue. It said that a woman called Thin Nhan had been raped by fellow refugees at the site where the statue was erected. The woman subsequently committed suicide.

A writing near the Humanity Memorial Statue. It said that a woman called Thin Nhan had been raped by fellow refugees at the site where the statue was erected. The woman subsequently committed suicide.

One rebuilt boat like the one used by the Vietnamese boat people

One rebuilt boat like the one used by the Vietnamese boat people

A writing near the boat. It said that the Vietnamese people had originally drowned the boat as a protest because they had not wanted to return to Vietnam. The Batam authority later recovered and rebuilt the boat.

A writing near the boat. It said that the Vietnamese people had originally drowned the boat as a protest because they had not wanted to return to Vietnam. The Batam authority later recovered and rebuilt the boat.

The boat

The boat

The boat

The boat

The sign to Nghia Trang graveyard

The sign to Nghia Trang graveyard

Nghia Trang graveyard

Nghia Trang graveyard

A monument at the entrance of the graveyard

A monument at the entrance of the graveyard

Quite a few of the people buried here were Christians. BTW, try to deduce her age when she died

Quite a few of the people buried here were Christians. BTW, try to deduce her age when she died

It was about 2.30 PM, so we decided to go back to the city. As usual, the journey back always felt quicker than the previous. There is not much to tell here, except that there were some stray dogs and cats jaywalking and this almost caused collisions several times. After reaching the Barelang Bridge, we took a short break before going back to the town, resteing for about 30 minutes in J’s home, and going to the next destination: Nagoya Hill shopping mall. I wanted to buy things that I could hardly find in Singapore like (the original Indonesian) Indomie and Nissin Crispy Crackers hahaha. Also, my Mum asked me to buy some pieces of T-shirts with the word “Batam” on them. Afterwards, we intended to dine in a Javanese-style angkringan (although I later noticed that none of the vendor was Javanese) in front of the mall, but it hadn’t opened, so we firstly paid a visit to J’s brother’s home. He had worked in Batam and stayed there with his wife and kid for already about 10 years. After getting acquainted and tasting abon crackers that J had previously bought for around half an hour, we went to the angkringan again, when it had already opened. The day already got dark at that time. There, we ordered a few skewers of satay and some packs of rice. We then conversed about many things, about jobs, studies, Batam’s nightlife, football (it was the day after the Manchester derby, which had been won by Manchester City, and the El Clásico match between Real Madrid and Barcelona, which had ended in a 1-1 draw, all goals being scored from the penalty spots by Messi and Ronaldo), boxing (the match between fellow Indonesians Chris John and the younger Daud Jordan would just start in a few hours), and a few dark stories about the Barelang Bridge as well as the refugee camp, although now I cannot find any reliable sources about the latter. Anyway, it was a bit pricey for an angkringan, but because of the delicious satay, also considering its relatively far location from the origin of angkringan in Central Java and Yogyakarta, it was worth the price.

Javanese-style angkringan

Javanese-style angkringan

Having finished the dinner, J felt that he caught a bit of cold and his belly ached, probably due to the long journey on a hot day along the arid road. We still had some time before the last ferry to Singapore sailed, so we went back to his home to let him finish his business. I also gave him a short massage. FYI, I have quite a skill for an amateur, and I have heard good responses from my clients. Then it was the time to say good bye as we went to the ferry terminal. I thanked him for being a great host, invited him to go to Singapore so that I could return the favour, and bade him farewell. Long story short, I arrived to Harbourfront at about 11 PM in Singapore time, and then took MRT and bus back home. It was almost the middle of the night when I arrived there.

Until we meet again, J!

Until we meet again, J!

Now,  the last question to finish this post. Will I ever go back to Batam for another tour? If the circumstances stay the same, I’m sorry, the people of Batam, but no, hehehehe.

Lastly, I hope everybody doesn’t feel that this post is a tl;dr. The complete album will be uploaded to Facebook when I activate my account again.

30 Responses to “Journey to the South, 7 Islands in 1 Day”


  1. 1 Eon Strife 20/04/2011 at 10:27 AM

    hayo, kerja kerja, jgn jalan2 aja \m/

  2. 2 lambrtz 20/04/2011 at 10:55 AM

    Berlibur kan juga untuk meningkatkan efektivitas kerja Haess ribut😈

  3. 3 Butterfly Menikmati Dunia 20/04/2011 at 11:45 AM

    Buset ini postingan panjang bener…you trying to compete me ya😕 Bacanya entar ah…yang penting komen…sah..sah..sah…hihihihihii

  4. 4 lambrtz 20/04/2011 at 11:49 AM

    Ini kan panjang kerana banyak gambarnya nyai ^:)^

  5. 5 AnDo 20/04/2011 at 12:27 PM

    Kata pepatah, sekali dayung 2 hingga 3 pulau terlampaui. Tapi lambrtz lebih hebat, 7 pulau sekaligus. ^:)^
    Sayangnya tanggung amat, pulau Sumatera segede gitu ada disamping malah nggak dijajaki.:mrgreen:

  6. 6 lambrtz 20/04/2011 at 12:32 PM

    Itu kan 7 pulau ga pake perahu, tapi pake motor😆
    Lah itu Sumatera jauh e, masih pake nyebrang laut pake kapal lagi :-S

  7. 7 Eon Strife 20/04/2011 at 8:37 PM

    7 pulau ?

    Menjelajahi 7 pulau dengan :
    – telanjang dada dan telanjang kaki
    – celana daun
    – topi putih
    – bersenjatakan kampak
    – naik skateboard

    ?

  8. 8 lambrtz 20/04/2011 at 8:41 PM

    Itu Adventure Island kali :-j

  9. 9 Eon Strife 20/04/2011 at 8:52 PM

    (terdengar suara napas ketawa)
    (cek wordpress lambrtz)
    (baca reply dari lambrtz)

  10. 10 lambrtz 20/04/2011 at 8:56 PM

    Like that gan.😎 Hayo kerja kerja, arbeit macht frei \m/

  11. 11 Butterfly Menikmati Dunia 20/04/2011 at 11:33 PM

    Ah tetep aja tulisannya panjang *ngeyel*

    Btw, Mas Eon dan Om Lambrtz itu sekantor ya? Kok ngobrolnya di blog…mbok ya tatapan biar mesra *dilempar laptop*

  12. 12 lambrtz 20/04/2011 at 11:38 PM

    Bertatapan udah berkali-kali lah. Saya dan dia cuma selisih 2-3 meter kok di lab.:mrgreen:

  13. 13 jensen99 21/04/2011 at 12:24 AM

    This increased the number of lands I visited to 9

    Akh, siyal! Kamu sudah melampaui saya!!!👿

  14. 14 lambrtz 21/04/2011 at 12:32 AM

    Emang dikau berapa? Papua, Bali, Jawa…😕
    Ke Biak lah, lumayan nambah 1 lagi😛

  15. 15 lambrtz 21/04/2011 at 12:34 AM

    PS: transit tidak dihitung.:mrgreen:

  16. 16 AnDo 21/04/2011 at 2:44 AM

    Talking about the number of lands……
    Pulau kalamoa, pulau seliu, pulau lengkuas, pulau babi [nama pulau2 kecil disekitar perairan belitung], belitung, bangka, jawa, bali, nusa penida, daratan besar asia, honshu, Nagoya Centrair Airport (pulau buatan), Kansai Airport (pulau buatan).

  17. 17 lambrtz 21/04/2011 at 3:08 AM

    Sasuga yang manusia pulau ^:)^ *eh kok istilahnya begitu😆 *

  18. 18 AnDo 21/04/2011 at 11:27 PM

    Sasuga yang manusia pulau ^:)^ *eh kok istilahnya begitu😆 *

    Apa boleh buat, nenek moyangku seorang pelaut:mrgreen:

    Indonesian-ised Chinese food is the best Chinese food in the world.”

    Mengingatkan pengalaman pribadi di Shanghai. Original Chinese foods benar2 nggak enak, yang paling bikin enek tuh minyaknya kebanyakan. Nasi gorengnya… yucks, mendingan aku makan nasi putih aja banyak2 daripada sesuap nasi goreng ala original chinese food. Ngomong2 pas pulang, banyak teman yg mencret sakit perut gara2 makanan di sono😆

  19. 19 lambrtz 22/04/2011 at 1:52 AM

    Komplain utama saya terhadap nasi goreng ala Cina asli adalah HAMBAR.😐 (walaupun ga semua sih) Makanya aku kalo di sini dalam situasi tidak terpaksa, beli nasi goreng pasti di stall Melayu.:mrgreen:

    Kalau aku sih, yang lebih tidak aku sukai itu yang macam sliced fish noodle / soup. Aku makan itu cuma kalau sakit, soalnya makanan sehat. Kalo sedang sehat ndak mau.😐 Ah tapi ini Singapore sih. Mungkin kalau sliced fish di kampung Koh Eon di Medan sono mungkin lebih enak.:mrgreen:

  20. 20 Zeph 22/04/2011 at 1:45 PM

    angle foto-fotonya banyak yang bagus.🙂

  21. 21 lambrtz 22/04/2011 at 6:01 PM

    Makasih banyak Bang…😳 Kebetulan berarti, soalnya fotografer nubi ini, bahkan lebih tidak berpengalaman ketimbang yang fotografer amatir sekalipun hehehe…

  22. 22 itikkecil 22/04/2011 at 9:43 PM

    *OOT*
    jadi, kapan ke Palembang?
    dari Spore gak sampe sejam lho… *eh*

  23. 23 lambrtz 22/04/2011 at 9:49 PM

    Kalo saya ke Palembang mau diajak makan apa ke mana sama Mbak Ira?😀

  24. 24 itikkecil 22/04/2011 at 9:58 PM

    ke manapun dirimu mau diajak… *halah*

  25. 25 itikkecil 22/04/2011 at 10:02 PM

    *ikutan ngitung juga ah*
    Sumatera, Jawa, pulau tak bernama di dekat pantai klara di lampung, bali, singapore, pulau honshu, kansai airport *ngikut ando*, port island di dekat kobe *pulau buatan juga*, oh iya pulau kemaro juga😀
    lumayan banyak juga ternyata….
    *berharap bisa jalan-jalan ke yurep juga suatu hari nanti*

  26. 26 lambrtz 22/04/2011 at 11:13 PM

    Wooh…sama kita berarti Mbak😀 *tos*
    Dan baru tahu juga kalau pernah ke Jepang😕 sempat kopdaran sama Bang Ando? :-“
    Anyway, kalo saya 7 itu ditambah Jawa dan benua Asia. Moga-moga bisa ditambah lagi jadi setidaknya 11 sampai akhir tahun depan.😛

  27. 27 Eon Strife 23/04/2011 at 1:32 AM

    Medan food, FTW ! \m/

  28. 28 lambrtz 23/04/2011 at 1:36 AM

    Jangan FTW FTW doang, bawa sini lah😆

  29. 29 Eon Strife 24/04/2011 at 10:31 AM

    itu, saat saya balek dari Medan kan ada bawakan snack dari MEdan😀

  30. 30 lambrtz 25/04/2011 at 11:58 PM

    Lagi, dan yang makanan besar juga:mrgreen:


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