1st trip to Batam

Somehow I couldn’t believe I had spent a month working on this post.
I had been reading up on local online bloggers a lot, and also fallen in love with the Matador Network for Travel writing, so I had been contemplating what kind of style should I work this post to be.
Although I still have not decided on the style on which this post should be heading, but I thought I should not drag posting this any longer.
My initial impression on Batam was something like Johor Bahru, just cheap shopping and more cheap shopping. I think it was a fair conclusion to say so. Honestly, Batam was never on my list of to-go places on travelling, because that place simply wasn’t interesting enough.
My aunt’s workplace has this 1-day Batam trip thingy and my mum was asking if I wanted to go. The itinerary included a trip to a Chocolate Factory, a Kweh Lapis Factory, a seafood lunch and some shopping afterwards.
This trip came at a time when I was really stressed at work and frustrated with my life and I thought I really need some time off, so I agreed.
First train of the day
We needed to meet up with the travel guides and party at 06:15am at the Harbourfront Terminal, and calculating the travel time needed to get there, we realised we need to take the first train service of the day (05:40am) in order to get there in time.
It was quite an interesting experience, actually, since I have never taken the first train service of the day in Singapore. Well, last train service — lots of time, just not the first train service and my mind was trying to picture and guess if the train was empty, full? Gloomy, eerie? or?
Many scenarios and pictures flashed in my imagination while anticipating the train to come.
It was unlike any other train waiting I ever had here at home or abroad. Although I would usually wait for the train at a specific time, it wasn’t like this particular experience.
How should I put it, it was as if I’m waiting for that special train service to Ancient Rome. (If you read that story in Usbourne Puzzle books, you’ll get what I mean.)
Train came and I stepped in.
It was just like any other trains. There were people still sleeping in the train, and all these early birds were trying to travel to begin their workday. It was a pretty crowded train when it reached Paya Lebar/ Aljunied, where there are some workers’ dormitories in that area; and as usual, majority of these commuters alighted at City Hall interchange to transit to another train line service.
Unlike the regular peak hours, the atmosphere in the first train service, although crowded, is as most unlikely, silent as well. The only noise that was audible was the gears of the train running on the tracks and the service announcements throughout that train ride. Quite an experience, really.
My boarding documents:
Left and Top Right is the Singapore Ferry Ticket to Batam
Bottom Right is the Batam Ferry Ticket to Singapore
Ferry Ride
I like how our country thinks of reusing stuff like the ferry ticket.
It’s a card that can be re-printed again and again.
From Batam back, it was the standard paper ticket.
Since the ticket has to be return, really, unless someone really cares about the long-term money saving costs about something, and in my opinion, environmentally savings, nothing progresses anyway.
That’s what I have learnt from the tour guide in Batam on the topic on ferry tickets.
*shrugs* oh well~
Our boat: Penguin 1 awaits~
Itinerary
The itinerary given by the tour agent were 3 places, a seafood lunch then the nearby mall.
In the advertised flyer, it stated Chocolate Factory, A dry market in Batam and a Kueh Lapis Factory.
A chocolate factory? Traditional dry foods market? A Kueh Lapis Factory? All in Batam?
I was thrilled!
Upon reaching, it turns out, this ‘Chokelard House’ as pronounced by the tour guide was merely a shop that sells chocolate. The dry food market was another shop that sells dried seafood, and according to my mum, who was also on this trip, ain’t cheaper than Singapore’s markets or NTUC.
The “Dry Market”
The funniest part is that when I was inside there sampling the different keropok sold, almost all the keropok tasted the same. There I was, thinking that the Indonesians’ tastebuds were more salty than my own, yet their keropok was obviously bland.
The other aunties in the group were snapping up keropok by the basketfuls.
Rows of dried uncooked Keropok
At this point of time, I have seen it all.
I carried my heavy DSLR hoping to catch some interesting photos of the traditional dry market scene but ended up in a shop that was like any other 70s 80s provision shop we had in Singapore.
However, in that shop, I bought a packet of dried mango and a box of honeycomb cake.
The counter that sells honeycomb cake in the dry foods shop
The surprise was really the honeycomb cake, really. When the throngs of people finally cleared from the counter of that honeycomb cake, I managed to step up to it and snagged a few pieces to sample.
 The cake is delicious! I never really understood the attraction of the honeycomb cake, until that moment I had tasted it.
Tasting sample of the Honeycomb cake
I bought a box of original and my aunt bought a box of the pandan flavour one and we took half of each flavour, since we both have small families and small appetites for kwehs.
The honeycomb cake is dense, moist and sweet like honey. I like the original one, my aunt loves the pandan flavoured one.

The seemingly freshly made Honeycomb cake in the display case
After the disappointment, we arrived in this small house that is well tucked away by the huge tall coconut trees and shrubs, and I though, here we go, another “shop”.
This time, for kweh lapis.

It’s actually just a small area with cabinets lining the glass wall that separates the kitchen and us.
It was another disappointment to me because I was hoping to catch a better view than just — t.h.i.s.

My mum and dad
(You can see how the layout of the place in the background)
Glass cabinets creatively displayed with their cake boxes
The cabinets displayed their cake boxes and also their range of kweh lapis. It shows you an average how it would look like when you receive your order later.  However, in my opinion, it was more likely used to cover their kitchen behind those glass cabinets.
Their range of Kweh Lapis
Fortunately, with a good camera and my faithful telezoom lens and a touch of levelling in photoshop, I was able to capture clear and detailed shots of their kitchen. The kitchen looks more like a family owned small business kitchen than a factory they claimed to be. Well, they do bulk baking though, but, they still aren’t a “factory” based on my standards.
Worker measuring flour and sugar

My mum wanted me to take this picture below. She was awed by the amount of eggs in the room.

Tons of eggs
Baked Lapis set to cool
Workers working in the kitchen

The only impressive moment I had was this one below when I had walked out to the end of the driveway and looked back. The so called Lapis factory is tucked away hidden behind those trees and the whole area (besides looking like a kampong) looks very serene and resort-y. As an urbanite, I do feel it’s a nice place to work in; other than having to live in such a kampong environment, which I can never do it.

Lapis “Wonderland”

Food
Lunch was located conveniently directly opposite the Lapis factory at 933 Golden Prawn Restaurant.
Sounds like a joke when the restaurant is so near.
Another thing I still couldn’t make out of is why (other than one of our local radio channel) many food related places are using the number 933? Is there a significance behind it? *shrugs*

933 Golden Prawn Restaurant

Seafood lunch. Not much of a surprise, since it’s kind of common for any one-day trip either to Indonesia or Malaysia. It always seems to me either the seafood is fresher in those countries or they are simply cheaper.

I didn’t taste the crabs, however the interesting dish of the lot would be the deep fried prawns.
Crabs
Fish
Lala Shells

The prawns are crunchy and it just screams Bubba Gump Shrimps & Co or in Singapore’s context: Long John Silver. The batter was thin and the prawns, served with mayonnaise, are very tasty.

Deep fried prawns
Expectations. How in-built it is to us when I ordered a Sprite and this green monster named “Spec” came.
It doesn’t even taste like Sprite!
And I was still accusing the country being a country of imitations, then my uncle pointed out to me and I realised, instead of saying it’s a “fake”, it is rather, their local rendition of Sprite.
That sound advice reminded me that I constantly need to look at things from a few different angles to understand and appreciate things in life.
“Spec” instead of “Sprite”
Local Eats
After lunch we were being shuffled to a well-known shopping spot called Nagoya Hills Shopping Mall.
Well, we didn’t really shop much as most of the shops were selling fake branded goods and we aren’t interested in those. After all, we aren’t into brands that much. I get my dose of luxury shopping once every year when I travel to the States.
However, it was the supermarket that we were interested in. Mum bought mangoes (they were in season and very sweet!) and I bought Pot-Mie. They are cup instant noodles from Indofood, the company that produces the famous Indomee from Indonesia and it was suprisingly really delicious!
I forgot to take pictures of my Pot Mie haul before I gobble them up so I googled for this picture below and you can read about it here: http://www.popupyourlife.com/
Besides supermarket buys, Mum found this interesting stall that sells fruits and we noticed they seem to be making some rojak dish for a waiting customer. Mum and my diet are usually more vegetables than meat and both of us desperately needed a balance from all those seafood we had just now.
Mum ordering a fruit rojak

Turns out they are indeed selling fruit rojak!
Lots of local fruits served in a container and covered with a spicy prawn paste sauce with a generous serving of peanuts. This is one recommended eat from me if you are like us, more “herbivorous”.
It is awesomely delicious! I can’t say that enough.

Seller preparing fruits

This local eat (below) was discovered by my uncle and he was showing it to me when were we chilling out at JCo Donuts cafe. It is some kind of fried toufu (beancurd) with a small chilli stuck in the middle of it.
It looks slightly crazy and I just can’t help myself but a must to try this!

Turns out that this triangle shaped one is really made with beancurd, but more of beancurd skin stuffed with bean sprouts and a medley of vegetables.

Beancurd goodness
What the inside looks like…
The round one is made of a mixture of mashed up toufu, egg and some chopped up vegetables and don’t quite pack a punch compared to the previous one. But both give a high kick (DEFINITELY) when you bite into that little innocent green stick of chilli.
Conclusion? Simple and delicious. I love trying such local eats. They reveal the local tastes and creativity.
The round beancurd thingy
A bite into to see the inside…
JCo. Donuts / A&W
I didn’t forget the famous food that we Singaporeans must eat when we are in Indonesia.
My aunt bought them because they are my cousin’s favourite and they are indeed cheaper than those sold in Singapore. I didn’t buy them because I prefer the Singapore version of J.Co; Indonesian J.Co donuts are too sweet to my liking.
However, I did have A&W curly fries and root beer float!
The waffle ice cream was a little too much in portion for me and since my mum wasn’t willing to share it with me, I gave that a pass.
I had regretted it though, I should have stuffed it down no matter what.
Oh well, I can always have waffles somewhere else, I guess.
While on the road back, we passed by a road accident and a poor motorcyclist was pinned down under a truck. I was told by our guide that accidents occur frequently in Batam because they only need to pay and not properly trained to drive. It’s a pity that they have such a relaxed government, because I feel that Batam do have the potential to do better to create a more vibrant tourist destination. With a poor governance,  in my opinion, it is still a danger travelling on your own in Batam, simply because of the theory of “anything goes” and rules can be made to their benefit and to the tourist’s disadvantage.
Overall, although the trip to Batam was a short and condensed one, I had a nice time spending some time with my mum and dad without the interruption of computers, tv or the mobile phone.
We had a great time and I really think that’s what that matters; being able to travel, chat, eat and have fun together.
I wouldn’t go back there again unless there is a need to.
However, if you want to try travelling there, I would recommend if you go with a group of friends, especially beneficial if one or some of your friends are familiar with that place; or like me, just sign up for a tour and let them tell you what Batam exactly is.
Till next time~

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