Batam – must eats, must buys, must dos

It’s been donkey years since I’ve been to Batam. Thankfully I can still recall many details. Many years ago, Batam was one of our favorite places as it’s near to Singapore and things were cheap. We used to bring our kids and parents there. But many years ago, I didn’t have time to blog as I would be busy with the kids and my photos were all about them.

My recent visit has discovered so much development, and I could say it is very a go-to place for my family from now. You can get to Batam via ferry. Including customs clearance of about 45min and ferry ride of 45min, you could reach Batam in 1.5 hours. Not bad considering the Johor causeway queues are incredibly long especially during peak travel seasons.

For young kids, the usual swimming pools or bath tubs in hotel are fun, and you have choices of arcades and lots of kids’ clothes and toys. Food is aplenty and very suitable for kids too.

My usual hotels are the iGrand and Allium at Nagoya mall area, or Gideon and BCC at BCS mall area where they are near to malls or local pasar Malams.

So here goes, a compilation of my favorite picks of Batam!

Must Dos!

Contrary to what many people think of Batam, Batam is actually much more developed and contemporary. Think of it as Johor Bahru ten years ago?

  1. Massage
  2. Go-Karting and paintball
  3. Water sports
  4. Movie
  5. Bowling
  • If you think massage at Johor is cheap, you ain’t know what’s the real thing.
  • Over at Batam, a two hour massage is SGD25. Get that? Authentic Indonesian massage that puts your tired muscles to rest and gives you a relaxing sleep. Their skills are more or less the same, difference is their strength. So go try all you want. At this price, you can do massages for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Go-Karting and paintball is also something that youngsters enjoy. Unfortunately, as I travelled with matured ladies this round, this was not for us.
  • Water sports is aplenty, especially if you stay at beach resorts like Harris, Turi, Montigo, and Batam view. Just don’t expect pristine beaches with blue waters. No, the beaches at Batam are pretty much like our East Coast, if not nicer. Given the number of ferries and boat activity around Batam, you will never get pristine beaches. But still, the fun loving people of Batam just enjoy water sports. Kayak, banana boat, snorkeling and diving are amongst some of the activities you can do. Just make sure sunblock is on since Batam is somewhat hotter than Singapore.
  • Movies are at $3 per ticket and bowling $10 for two games for two persons, including shoes! You can find bowling at BCS mall, and movie at Nagoya mall.
  • Must buys
  • If you think Johor is shopping paradise, you ain’t shopped. Seriously, Johor is overrated. For the same price you get a shirt at Johor, you can get it here at Batam too. The difference is Batam clothes are less fashionable, but their quality is better. T-shirt material is thicker and lasts longer. The good thing when I went this round is that their fashion sense has advanced! I get large sizes at the shopping malls and they look more contemporary albeit on the conservative side.
  • Always ask for discounts, especially if you are buying more pieces. I usually start by asking for the price of one piece, and then two pieces. Once you know the first piece price, ask for 30% discount when you get two pieces or more. Walk away if they don’t want to!
    1. Apparel – t-shirts, pants, shorts, even underwear. These are at really good prices and great quality.
      Grocery – Singaporeans will dump a truckload of these in their trolleys at supermarkets – sanitary napkins (half price of Singapore’s napkins from budget toiletries shops like Venus!), toothpaste, toothbrush, chili (uleg brand), high quality pepper (merica bubuk as they call it), Kueh lapis (1/3 the price of singapore), keropok (this is the deal – Indonesian keropok are really delicious and cheap). Prices at JC supermarket at BCS mall are cheaper and there’s more variety here.
      Leather goods – Indonesians are super good with handicraft, so they are able to copy bags and even luxury bags with such precision. There’s tons of “LV”, “Longchamp”, and even “Chanel” but don’t expect them to look 100% alike of course. Other than these, any other bag are crafted so nicely and cheaply. There are plenty to choose from.
      Shoes – likewise, Indonesia has plenty of rubber. Shoes are really high quality though you may not know their brand. Slippers, stilettos, boots, sports shoes, men’s shoes, are just too good quality to be missed here if you don’t mind not knowing the brands.
      Kids’ toys and stationery – kids bags, pencil cases, girls’ hair ties, stationary are just so cheap here. To give you a rough idea, a wipe clean paper board with marker costs only 80cents, compared to SGD$2 in Singapore. Don’t expect superb quality of course, but these stuff are definitely comparable to Malaysia quality. If you are looking for birthday favors, you have to get them here.
      Indomie- they have special flavours and are so much cheaper here that Singaporeans go by a box.

    Soccer jersey sets at $10-13 depending on how you bargain..

    Kids white board at 80cents

    this pencil case is SGD1.80kids stationery cheap enough as favours kids handbags…why so cute?! And so cheap?!guess how much these bags cost?? No more than $10!!!shoe galore!! Super quality footwear cos Indonesia produces rubberentrance of the pasar malam opposite Allium hotel, leading right up to the Jodoh wet market which is pretty much a scene to experience.that’s $10 per pair.not that it’s nice, but just giving you an idea of shoe prices many Singaporeans’ favourite brand at $1.90 per pack..

    Shopping centers worth going

    My favorite is BCS mall. It is a big mall with all kinds of shops, and has arcade for the kids. Many years ago when I visited, there was even bumper car rides for the kids! Next to this mall is the famous A2 Food Court, 5 min and SGD$5 taxi ride away is the famous Nagoya Shopping Centre. Nagoya is also worth going for its food street – I love ba Kut Teh, A&W, chinese tse char and all those little food snacks shops. Theres also an arcade for the kids.

    Must Eats

    This is my favorite section. Hahha. Food is aplenty and at even better prices than Johor. Once again, I keep comparing with Johor. It is easier to compare these two places as both are at similar proximity from Singapore and culturally more alike. I guess the point is, countries or places near to Singapore will eventually adapt to be like Singapore and to cater to the needs of Singaporeans.

    Without further ado, we dive right in to food paradise!

    Indonesia is well known for spice. Hence, their food is tasty. But be warned, I believe they do use quite some MSG in their food too!

    Here are my top ten must eats!

    1. Seafood – seafood is cheap and yummy here. chances are you will be offered a free seafood lunch if you opt for a package tour (ever heard of golden prawn 555 or dunno what 999?! Forget those!). Skip those cos they are really not worth a mention. Go straight for Kelong seafood.
    2. Tze Char – any chinese tze char stall probably makes the mark. They do serve seafood too, so if you can’t get to a Kelong, just go for chinese tze char stall. They will serve up your favorite fish, prawn, and clams too.
    3. Kek lapis (layer cake) need I say more? This is what everyone brings back from Batam. Kek lapis or Kueh lapis is the famous layered butter cake which Bengawan Solo is most famous for. Over at Batam, you will be spoilt for choice. There are so many flavors – original, prune, and even cempedak. Most tour packages will bring you to the factories where they make it fresh. Likelihood you will be brought to a Malay factory like Diana layer cake. I prefer those made by chinese which are lighter on the butter but just as rich in taste. The Batam people know we have a love hate relationship with fats, so nowadays they make a considerably lighter cake. It’s still really nice and fragrant and dirt cheap at about $22 for a whole piece compared to $65 at Bengawan solo. I would recommend getting from Toko Badminton Penuin – do call to order in advance!
    4. Keropok – need I say more too? You can get this everywhere. Why it is so nice, I really don’t know. All I know is everyone grabs a pack or two before going home. There are many brands available, and you can get it cheaply from the supermarket. Again, I have to say those from Toko Badminton Penuin are still the best. They have healthier baked versions even!
    5. Ba kut teh – ok this sounds weird in an Indonesian country but Batam is pretty much like SG with a rather big population of Chinese. They don’t appear much everywhere but they own most of the businesses. Most likely, the shops at malls are owned by them but managed by Indonesians cos of the low wages. So yes, bkt here is much like the Malaysian version but less “herbal” in taste which is what I like! And it is not peppery at all! For those who like innards, you will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of innards, and even pigs blood! The “Shuang hong 双凤” at Nagoya mall food street and the KO Cha Bi bkt at Best Eating house near BCS make good bkt.
    6. Ayam Penyet – there’s plenty of street options, but I don’t patronize those cos I’m concerned about their hygiene especially when I have young kids. So, my go to are those at the malls. Go try as there are plenty of them. Cobain is my usual go to store though standards has dropped slightly.
    7. Fish soup – the famous one is at Eatern Food Court right opposite BCS mall (take exit near Baresto restaurant). Here, you get to order all types of fresh fish from in front of your eyes to be served in clear or milky soup. Prices are so cheap, a huge clay pot of fish costs only SGD16.
    8. A&W – for the sake of good old times, I must have A&W here. To me, it’s better than the ones in Johor. The difference is they do serve with rice at Batam. But yes, childhood favorites like curly fries and root beer float is available too!
    9. J-co – solely putting this in for the price. Half a dozen goes for $4.70 and a dozen for $8.40, 2 dozen at only $13. How not to eat?
    10. Martabak – Not to be mistaken for our Malay murtabak, this is their local version of our Min Jiang Kueh, only that it has tons of toppings – cheese, chocolate, jams, peanut butter, chocolate rice, condensed milk, etc.
  • Food street at Nagoya Shopping mall
  • nice ba kut teh at Best Eating house (next to Eatern Food Court)Eatern food court which has many good foodsuper cheap and fresh fish soup at Eatern food courtnice noodles here too (also in Eatern)got this pomfret fish slice soup for only $3.50. There’s like 12 pieces of pomfret inside.
  • ok… ladies and gentlemen, presenting the legendary Kek Lapis or later cake. This is from Toko Badminton Penuin at Penuin market where they sell a lot of dried food at great prices too. This original one is retailing only at sgd 22 and comes with a free plastic reuseable container!
  • my in laws’ favourite ba long long (I think it’s kedongdong) and attap seeds that are so large and cheap.super nice BAKED FISH SNACK From Toko badminton too. I bought so much I had to get a leave my loot there and come back with a taxi after shopping at the mall to collect these babies.this is da bomb.. sgd3.80 only!my dope – merica bubuk aka ground white pepper. This thing is so fragrant that even keeping it in a few layers of plastic and ziplock couldn’t contain the smell!! And only SGD2.50 for a huge packet!
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