Singapore and Batam: A Perfect Couple
While a Singapore sojourn was a big part of my plans, I also included a trip to the Island of Batam in Indonesia. The blend of big city and exotic island is a perfect combination. It is a little known fact, but a chance to visit Indonesia can be done easily and will enhance your Singapore sojourn. Three-day visas are cheap and the country is deeply in need of visitors.
So bloody true! Yet do not confuse clean with sterile. In many ways the order and discipline make it a very easy city to explore. A great example was the low cab fare to the great zoo, a 30-minute trip for less than $15. Singapore is far more than Orchard street shopping and skyscrapers. It is a city of neighborhoods and different cultures. Eating is the number one sport in Singapore and can be done very reasonably.
You, as a visitor, are expected to follow the norm by leaving the drugs and chewing gum home. Use the many litter cans and watch where you light up a cigarette. It quickly becomes second nature and hopefully will remain a habit on your return. See website
My personal favorite sector of Singapore was Little India. The smell of spices and jasmine garlands blended in an exotic crescendo. The small streets are filled with vegetable stands and food stalls pouring out curry scents into the humid air.
Chinatown is also a vibrant and busy community, if somewhat touristy. Many of its buildings have been rebuilt in old style and shopping for kitschy items are the days’ events. Eating in stalls also tops the visit. I was asked, however, if I wanted a suit made at least ten times. If I wore a suit I just might have. Two must-sees are again temples. The Thian Hock Keng Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hokkien temple. It is wonderfully decorated. Sri Mariamman Temple is Hindu and the city’s oldest. The entrance tower is colorful and covered with deities and floral designs.
To cover the city the Kampong area must be visited. It is the Muslim area and seat of the Malay royalty. It contains an entirely different view. The Gedong Kuning Villa is home of the last Sultan’s treasurer.
In the Service of the Queen
The Colonial District certainly has maintained a charming aura. The buildings such as the old Parliament and Theater have faces from the days when the sun never set on the British Empire. Sir Stamford Raffles has left his mark forever. Here you can still watch cricket games being played or stroll the river. Dinning or an evening cocktail on Boat Quay is astounding and most likely the most photographed scene in Singapore. Stop by the Asian Civilization Museum. There are galleries covering different aspects of Asian culture. Of course a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel is a must even for jaded travelers. It is still a step back in time!
Boat to Batam
After the hustle and bustle of Singapore a trip to Batam, just 15 miles across the Singapore Straight, is a counter balance. Bad reputations can lead to great places. Batam is a superb glimpse into a collision of old, modern and alien. It is also the gateway to the Riau Islands of which there are thousands. If a shopper, there are infinite places to do just that.
You may be inclined to forego the main city of Nagoya. Do not! It is combination of Dodge City, Jakarta and Oz! Bird selling shops are side by side with working women bars and food stalls that offer every version of each Indonesian dish made. Ex-pats stroll around and children run free. The NED or Nagoya Entertainment District has just about every distraction known to man.
The hillside location with Bali style huts is paradise. Pool and spa an extra bonus. To watch the sun go down over the South China Sea and the lights of Singapore turn on is amazing. The hotel can arrange diving trips or even a chance to swim with Dolphins! Hiking and mountain biking are also available. diveriau.com
In the spirit of adventure and a very kind offer of a chance to visit 3 American expats dream I went to Sugi Island. There I had a chance to visit a most unique type of resort. Telunas Beach
Brad, Mike and Eric along with their families have opened up thatched huts over emerald waters. And have a unique approach to visits. This is a place that works in conjunction with the local villagers. Even the three hour trip by tuk-tuk boat was a thrill.
They also have courses in survival and education. The facilities are rustic to perfection! The food casual gourmet, and location stunning. In Mike’s own words, “not quite paradise, but damn close”.
Leaving Batam wasn’t easy. If you have more time opt for the ten-day visa on arrival for $25. It was a most enjoyable visit to a part of the world staggered by the tsunami.
Like this on Facebook: