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!
  • Advertisements
    Eyebrow Embroidery

    Eyebrow embroidery (part 2) – healing and recovery

    I shall keep this part short.

    If you have gone for eyebrow embroidery, you would already know recovery is not as fuss free as it was touted to be. If you haven’t, be warned.

    So, did you think you were going to have fabulous brows the instance you finish the embroidery?


    Down time

    Each time you do an embroidery, it’s at least 7-10 days that you have crayon Chan eyebrows. It looks like you stuck 2 eyebrow shaped stickers onto your brows.


    For the next ten days or so, be prepared to live with the discomfort of itchy brows. You are not allowed to touch or scratch them, or even get them wet.

    The ink on the area that the tattooist cuts or pokes into will form a crust, much like those crusts and scabs you get after scraping your knees. If you peel or scratch those off, you will get a scar where there’s no skin and maybe even hair, and a permanent one. So, be warned!

    What you need to do is apply a thin layer of the cream your tattooist will give you, before bath and sleep. It helps to prevent water from coming into the brows, and from premature drying up and dropping off on its own. The irony is that although it itches, you do want it to stay on a bit cos the faster it drops off, the less ink is retained.

    In my first round, I hardly applied the cream. The ends and edges of the brows dried up fairly fast and dropped off. So the brows looked short and uneven.

    After touch up (a month after first round), I religiously applied the cream. The brows stayed on til day 10 with a bit of the scabs drying up at the ends. When I finally couldn’t stand having the scabs on for so long, I peeled them off. They are actually dry but the sparse hairs were holding them onto the brow area. And I had a perfect shape.

    Getting around recovery

    To help you feel less troubled, firstly, do know that though you look like crayon chan , most people would not give a damn about it when they see you. It is actually not that bad, just that you are not used to it yourself.

    Next, when it comes to washing of face, I had to avoid work cos I didn’t know how to wash my face without wetting the brows.

    I finally learnt that the only way to wash is to use a wash cloth or wet your wet wipes.

    And lastly, when you sleep, try to avoid sleeping on your sides of your face cos the movement might cause the tail ends of the brows to be rubbed off.

    For all you pretty ladies, go in confidence!

    Eyebrow Embroidery, Uncategorized

    Eyebrow embroidery / Misty eyebrows

    And so after nearly a decade, I plucked up courage to do something (semi permanent) to my pathetic almost non-existent brows.

    Since I do not reveal any personal photos on my social media (don’t ask, I’m just shy ok??), you wouldn’t know how I look like.

    But one thing that bothers me constantly are my non-existential brows. Not that anyone knows and is bothered by that cos they won’t ever see me without brows (I always draw them on). But it bothers me enough to make me do something about it, and in a way that is “invasive”. For the record, I am all for natural. No plastic, Botox, or even supplements. I try as much as possible to live healthy but eating properly and avoid contact with unhealthy stuff such as chemical laden food or products.

    Why I did microblading aka eyebrow embroidery?

    For those with a nice set of brows, good for you, and you would never identify with the issues I have.

    Being browless is not as bad as going bald, since it affects only a small area. But we all know brows help frame a face up, and gives it the edge. Brows of different shape can also help enhance facial features.

    I have a pretty 24/7 lifestyle. I am able to manage my time flexibly, but what this means is work all the time…with time for kids and family interwoven in. Unlike office based employees, I get to work at my own time and pace to manage my business. So exactly how bad can browless be a problem for me since I don’t really have time constraints?

    It does. Imagine going for a work out or swim, and the drawn on eyebrows melt off in front of that hunk at the gym or pool? or having it rubbed off accidentally during work (imagine major meeting and one moment you have brows, and one moment you don’t), waking up feeling like shit and feeling even more shitty after looking into the mirror to see No brows. And even going to the coffes shop or ntuc downstairs means I have to spend at least 5-10 minutes in front of the mirror drawing on the brows,

    5-10 minutes is actually not a lot, especially since im pretty good at drawing eyebrow given the practice Thru the years. Oh but some times, I just feel so tired when I wake up, or so hungry that I want to zip in and out of the supermarket to get mundane stuff without having to look horrendous without brows. Or worse, have some romantic night with the hubby only to wake up to shabby and browless face.

    I have a male friend who once told me that he bedded a Korean and woke up to a rude shock the next morning. Yea, I think that’s how our spouses and boyfriends might feel. Hahahah.

    So with all that,I finally mustered the courage to get cut up.

    What types of eyebrow embroidery or microblading are there?

    There are many types in the market now. If I have to recount from the past, it all started with tattooing of eyebrows during our grandparents’ and parents’ days. Remember those tattooed brows that turned green like moldy after a few years.

    Then the revolution of brown brows set in. With the same tattoo technique, where the entire brow is tattooed on, but with brown ink, thereby saving women of having moldy brows.

    In the recent years, we hear terms like embroidery, 3D, 6D, misty. Ok, while I know there is a huge difference between misty and the Ds, basically all of them are still tattoos at the end of the day, just that they are being done differently.

    At present, I would say there are two main types – 6D and Misty.

    Misty refers to having the entire brow area tattooed on, but with gradients and shades. It’s what you would look like if you draw on your brows. This uses a poking action to get the ink distributed all over the brow area

    6D refers to making brow like strokes to imitate real hair. It uses a small knife to cut fine lines that resemble hairs.

    So which works for who?

    If you already have some hairs and just need enhancement , go for 6D.

    If you have really sparse hairs like me, go for misty.

    What does it entail?

    You will typically receive two sessions (one tattoo, and one touch up session)

    Prior to doing anything, the beautician will draw the desired eyebrow shapes.

    At both sessions, you get numbed via application of a numbing cream for about 15-30minutes. Then, they will use the tools to do the poking or cutting.

    Cost can vary from $300 to even absurd ones like thousands!

    So do your homework and contact each and each agent or to clarify.

    Downtime is about 10 days, you will look like crayon Chan for 10 days.

    Stay on for part 2 where I share the process, talk about the healing and maintenance.

    Steamed Food

    Steamed Food Diary #3 : Steamed 3 eggs


    • 3 eggs
    • 1 egg tofu, cut into 2cm slices
    • 1 century egg, cut into small pieces
    • 100-150ml water or chicken stock
    • 1 tbsp. soya sauce
    • 1.5 tsp Chinese cooking wine
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • prawns
    • wolfberries
    • 1 tsp cornflour


    1. Marinade the prawns with cornflour, some Chinese cooking wine, and some soya sauce.
    2. Combine the eggs, water, soya sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil in a bowl and beat well.
    3. TIP: Strain the egg through a mesh strainer (with as small holes as possible)
    4. arrange the egg tofu onto the plate.
    5. Pour in the strained egg.
    6. drop pieces of century egg into the plate.
    7. Place one prawn on each tofu
    8. Sprinkle wolfberries.
    9. TIP: Cover plate with heat resistant food wrap or aluminium foil. This is the tip to achieving chawanmushi standard smooth egg.
    10. Steam for 15 minutes.

    Steamed Food

    Steamed food diary #2 : Broccoli with Prawns

    Is it possible to steam broccoli without turning into mashed baby food? Yes! The trick is to control the duration of steaming and….read on!


    • Broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
    • Prawns
    • Fried garlic and its oil (Get the bottled ones so you don’t even need to fry any)
    • Chinese cooking wine
    • 1 tbsp. soya sauce
    • wolfberries


    1. Brush a thin layer of garlic oil on the plate.
    2. Arrange the broccoli all over the plate.
    3. place the prawns on top.
    4. sprinkle a tablespoon of fried garlic with its oil over the prawns and broccoli.
    5. Sprinkle some wolfberries on top.
    6. Sprinkle a tablespoon of soya sauce and some Chinese cooking wine.
    7. Steam for 8-10 minutes.
    8. TIP: Once done, remove immediately from steamer (otherwise the residual heat will cause the broccoli to overcook).
    9. Garnish with more fried garlic.

    Photo after cooking

    photo before cooking

    (Note that my broccoli was already 5 days old so it’s already turning yellow..)