On Saturday (18th June 16), six of us (Lina, Raymond, Kok, Stef, hubby and me) made another trip to Batam after more than 2 years. This is the 5th blog about Batam for me and there may be a 6th one in August if all goes to plan 😛 Anyway, this is only a 1-day trip without any hotel stay, a deviation from our previous trips where we stayed at least 1 night in a hotel in Batam.
The trip started out as a 1-day Johor Bahru shop/eat trip on Saturday but was later changed to Batam shop/massage/eat trip, since we all felt that Batam is a much safer place for tourists. The countless news and video clips on social medias of crimes committed in JB, especially those committed against tourists, are cause for concerns so Batam was picked for a relaxing last-minute trip.
We booked our ferry tickets through my niece’s (Wen’s) friend at S$38/person including terminal charges. We also booked land transport with her client’s sister who lives in Batam. That cost us $33 per couple, so the trip cost S$54.50/person (in case anyone is interested).
Since it was a Saturday and school holiday, the Harbourfront ferry terminal was very crowded with people heading to Batam for the weekend. We had our breakfast at Han’s before the trip since we were told that as this is the month of Ramadan, many eating establishments in Batam might not be open for business during breakfast time.
The ferry ride was uneventful and I managed to take a nap having had a sleepless night the night before, probably due to peri-menopause as I was feeling breathless all night. When we reached the Batam Centre terminal, we were shocked to see a large crowd waiting to clear customs. However, with some immigration officers on duty to move people along, it didn’t take very long for us to clear the customs. We probably waited less than 45 minutes in the queue which was very fast considering the number of people in front of us. The immigration officers were very efficient and the one who managed the queue was rather friendly and thoughtful. He was flexible enough to allow a couple with a crying toddler to move ahead in the queue.
Our chauffeur, a lady called Irene, met us outside the customs building. She is very affable and speaks Teochew, a Chinese dialect. She is very accommodating and took us where we wanted to go. Traffic was quite busy but she had no problem navigating the busy streets. Lina requested to visit the local taoist temple (tua pek kong temple) and though she initially took us to the wrong one, the Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya which we visited the first time we were in Batam back in 2012, she happily turned back and took us to the Vihara Budhi Bhakti Temple.
Here are some pictures of the temple grounds (sorry if the pictures are a tad too dark…need new phone :P):
After our visit to the temple, we had lunch at Sup Ikan & Asam Pedas Sogos, a local restaurant famous for its fish soup with yam. The restaurant entrances were covered up with banners on strings because it’s the month of Ramadan and to respect the Muslims who observe the holy month by fasting, openly eating in public is avoided.
Strangely, Lina and I both forgot to take pictures of the food we ordered, which is a shame as the food were very nice. Instead, I have to steal a picture from the restaurant’s Facebook page. We had their specialty fish soup with yam, deep-fried Grouper steak, omelette with onions, salted egg prawns, and beansprouts with salted fish. Lina found out about this place from the internet and suggested to Irene that we should come here for lunch, and it turns out that the owner of the restaurant is Irene’s sister-in-law. Because of that, we were given a 10% discount off our bill 🙂 Total bill was RP420,000 (S$43.30), which means that each person only had to pay $6.20 for all that food!
After lunch, we crossed the busy road to the other side where the Batam Center Shopping mall was situated. It was as usual a scary experience crossing the road in Batam but luckily this time we had a local lead the way. We had 2 hours of shopping before our massage. This time it seemed like the men spent more on shopping than the women! Hubby ended up buying 3 portable re-chargeable fans for the 3 youngest nieces and nephew at home; Raymond bought a pair of shoes; Kok bought a belt, a sling bag and a cap. Lina bought shoes too, not sure what Stef bought…oh yes, bras! and I only bought some undies 😛
Irene was slightly late coming to pick us up for the massage at her massage palour because it was after office hour on a Saturday afternoon and she was stuck on the jam-packed road outside the mall, unable to turn in to pick us up. We had to walk out to meet her and jump into her 7-seater as fast as we could so as not to hold up the traffic further. The motorists and drivers in Batam seem to have more patience than those in Singapore because you hardly hear any honking despite the fact that people are constantly breaking the driving rules on the roads by making illegal turnings. Everyone just waited patiently whereas in Singapore, you’ll be lucky not to have a finger directed in your face for trying a dangerous stunt like making a 2-car u-turn on a narrow street.
For the massage, I had initially thought of going back to Spa Secret for this trip as we had good experience there but Lina felt we should try something new since Spa Secret is quite pricey, and since Irene owns a massage palour herself it made sense to give her place a try. The aromatherapy massage at Fitness Family Massage cost RP 260,000 for 2 hours (S$26.80 based on S$1=RP9700) while the Thai massage was RP250,000 (S$25.80).
There is no individual room or couple room in the palour, just mattresses spread across a big room with curtains separating them. Hubby and I managed to get the corner ‘couple room’ while the other couples were separated. Kok, who was taking the Thai massage, was in an area further from us where there was a pole built above the mattress to allow the masseuse to walk on his back while holding on to the pole. Lots of noises were coming from him as the masseuse pulled and stretched his body every which way possible.
Hubby’s and my masseuses are strong women who needed constant reminder that we are fragile beings. My toe even suffered a cramp but that isn’t rare since the blood circulation to my feet isn’t very good and I do get cramps for walking too much. I especially liked the head and face massage even though my carefully-drawn eyebrows were completely gone by the time the lady was done with me. I was even wondering if the dark grey colour of the eyebrow pencil would be smudged all over my face creating a panda-look while she rubbed and massaged my temple, eyelids and cheeks. Thankfully I still looked decent after that!
Both hubby and I had a difficult time getting up immediately after the massage but he got it worse as his calf muscles were so sore that he even walked with a limp! The others didn’t seem to have any problem at all. Despite the somewhat painful administrations by the masseuses, we still think that it was a good session as we all had a good sleep that night. The pains were almost all gone the next day, just a bit of soreness due to the constant rubbing of flesh. Guess we Singaporeans just have a bit of masochistic nature in us since we love going to places like Batam to get tortured 😛 Note to self and hubby: next time tell masseuse we want pain-free massage!
The ginger tea served to us after the massage was also very good. It is drank to expel the wind in the body after all the rubbing and massaging. We asked if we could buy the tea but was told they brewed it themselves with lemongrass, so it wasn’t for sale 😦
It was drizzling when we left the massage palour. Thankfully the heavy rain on Friday seemed to have drained away most of the water from the sky and all throughout the evening it was just a light drizzle. Irene took us to Golden Prawn 555 restaurant, a restaurant beside the Golden Prawn 933 which we visited on our very first trip to Batam which included a city tour. The restaurant is set above the sea with the dining area facing the ocean. This restaurant wasn’t what we had in mind because both restaurants cater to mainly tour groups but since Irene said the food was good and because we hadn’t been there since 2012, we decided to give it another go.
This time instead of having the menu decided for us, we were allowed to pick our own dishes from the array of live seafood just inside the restaurant entrance. There were lobsters that cost about S$8/100gm but we decided to skip that and had 500gm of prawns at S$2.60/100gm instead. We also ordered 500gm clams (la la), a grouper fish cooked deep-fried in sweet and sour sauce, Brussels sprouts and garlic chicken. Apart from the garlic chicken being a huge disappointment, and the prawns being too small (but fresh), the rest of the dishes were rather good and fresh of course. This meal cost us RP818,000 (S$84.30).
Lina wanted to buy some kueh lapis (layered cake) so Irene took us to where she thought would have the brand she wanted but no, we couldn’t find it. It was almost 7.30pm, our check in time for boarding the ferry, so after a brief stop at a shop selling foodstuff and buying and gobbling down some very cheap Magnum ice-creams (they cost only S$1.40 per stick compared with the S$4.50+ over here in Singapore), we headed to the ferry and bade Irene farewell, telling her we’ll be back when her rambutans and durians plants are ripe for pickings. She owns a rambutan/durian farm and had earlier told us that we can come back for a visit when the fruits are ripe, probably in August. She will even take us to Karaoke which is so much cheaper there, especially during happy hours.
Thankfully the ferry terminal wasn’t crowded, probably because most visitors stayed the night, so I guess the next trip we will have to plan it to avoid a Sunday departure from Batam. We finally got our kueh lapis from Lamoist Layers, and settled down in the departure hall to wait for our ferry.
So, with another trip in mind for August, I guess this is not adios Batam…