Batam, Indonesia was a quiet coastal backwater, far from central Jakarta, at the forgotten edge of Indonesia. This dramatically changed in 1989, when the duty free and export zone was established. Although Batam has lost some of its economic luster to the Chinese and Vietnamese in the 2000s, the 80s and 90s was a period of dramatic transformation. The new Hang Nadim Airport, good class hotels, restaurants and entertainment complexes mushroomed all over Batam island. Batam became the Singaporeans’ playground. The golf courses are busy on every weekend, and the huge hawker centre at Pujasera teems with fresh seafood and Singaporeans alike.
Batam has a deserved reputation for its seafood restaurants. Prawns, lobsters, green clams, and the local specialty “Gong Gong” are on offer at many restaurants. Gong Gong is a conch-shaped mollusc, boiled, extracted on a toothpick, and dipped into spicy hot sambal sauce.
Nights are usually spent at a discotheque or a karaoke bar. Alternatively, take time out from eating, shopping and your massage. You might find an interesting cultural performance at “Desa Seni” in Sekupang.
Most travelers to Batam stay around either Nagoya or Waterfront City. Sekupang is the usual port of entry if you are arriving by the ferries from Singapore’s WTC. Ferries to other domestic destinations leave from the pier next door. It is a 30min taxi ride to downtown Nagoya https://www.unatierradiferente.com/desktop/home.
Nagoya (yes, it is named after the Japanese city), is the effective centre for the Batam traveler. You will find the best hotels in town, the inimitable Pujasera Hawker Centre, and of course numerous Spas offering sports massage.
Waterfront City on the west coast of Batam, south of Sekupang, is a magnet for thrill seekers. Thrills include bungee-jumping, and even indoor skiing. By night, the area comes alive with more than a handful discos and karaoke pubs. Not suitable for the faint hearted. Batam is a duty free zone. Alcohol and cigarettes are ridiculously cheap.
Overall, there is a distinct cowboy vibe to the whole Batam experience. Still, it’s a fun stopover for your Visa Run to and from Singapore.
Batam is also a busy port and industrial centre. Consequently, there are several good midpriced hotels in the city. Far better than you would find anywhere else in Sumatra. You can find a list of hotels here.
It is also a great place to swing your golf clubs. Several fine courses are available at a fraction of Singapore prices. Do note that beach lovers will be disappointed. Swimming here is best done in the hotel pools.