Batam is one of the 3,000 islands, which make up the Riau Archipelago and is closest to Singapore, which is only 20 kms away or twenty minutes by air-conditioned ferry. It has a rapid-growing population of around 100.000. As the island develops into a major industrial and tourist area, it attracts an ever increasing population from other Indonesian islands who see Batam as a haven of opportunity. Once almost uninhabited, save for a few scattered fishing communities, Batam's history took a sharp turn beginning 1969, when it became support base for the State-owned Pertamina oil company and its offshore oil exploration. In 1971 a presidential decree designated it as an industrial area and in 1975 the Batam Authority was formed. In 1978 Batam was established as a bonded area.
In addition to the oil support industries of Batu Ampar and a fast growing electronics industry, Batam now attracts increasing numbers of tourists. Many come from Singapore for a short holiday with friends and family, duty-free shopping and great seafood. Visitors to Singapore hop over for a day or weekend trip.
International standard hotels and numerous economy establishments cater to the expanding demand for accommodation. Business, as they say, is booming. An island two-thirds the size of Singapore, Batam progresses by leaps and bounds. Where virgin jungle once stood are now whole new towns, mosques, churches, temples and supermarkets, soon to be followed by reservoirs with enough water to supply a population of 800,000 and for industrial use, an airport-to become an international gateway - a fine telecommunication system, well equipped industrial parks, and the beginnings of a large new urban center.
Administratively, Batam enjoys a unique status under the Batam Island Development Authority (BIDA). The island is duty-free. For you, the holiday market, this means duty free shopping in town, hotel shops and the ferry terminal. For the businessmen it means wide-ranging opportunities for investments.
While all this change takes place, Batam has retained pockets of rural charm, peaceful spots with quiet beaches. Fishing villages supply delicious fresh seafood to visitors. White sand beaches are fringed with palms and kampung life carries on almost undisturbed. Batam makes a great break.
At present, Batam's main entry point is Sekupang, where streamlined fast and air-conditioned ferries bring hordes of quests from Singapore and Malaysia. The twenty minute voyage is enlivened with free cool drink and video show, although some prefer to stand on the top deck and watch the sights. Ferries shuttle daily every half-hour between Singapore's Finger Pier and Sekupang harbor, and during peak period, even more frequently. For travelers' convenience, there are hotel, taxi and ferry counters at the ferry terminal.
Within walking distance from the terminal is the office of the Batam authority. Further down the road overlooking Sekupang harbor is Wisma Batam where you can see, upon request, an audiovisual presentation on Batam's development up to the year 2005. Batam's two popular FM stations, the Batam Zoo 1101.6 on your dial) and Coast 100 are in the vicinity. Looking over the whole Sekupang and the hilly interior is the Hilltop Hotel. Popular with long-staying guests as well as tourists, this hotel is to be expanded and upgraded to new heights. Its restaurant serves fine Indonesian food and western specialties.
Batam's northern coastal area of Nongsa, an hour's drive from Sekupang, is the main tourist attraction, where the resorts and golf courses are situated. Batams best known - the Batam View and the beautiful Turi Beach Resort take pride of place as does the nine-hole Talvas Golf and Country Club. Besides catering to tourists, these hotels are also popular for small conferences.
At the end of the promontory is the small Nongsa River which is to be preserved in its natural state. Hotel guests can take boat trips up the river and perhaps see birds and wild Monkeys, or take in the solitude of the quiet waterways.
En route to the airport, just south of Nongsa is Batu Besar A cluster of restaurants offering fresh seafood. Built on stilts out over the water, guests are assured of a cool sea breeze while dining, and drinking ice cold beer or the cool juice from a large green coconut.
Located halfway between Nongsa and Sekupang. Lubuk Baja, or popularly known as Nagoya is Batam's colorful and fast growing heart. Shops, stalls, footstools, nightlife, discos, music lounges, karaoke, restaurants and many small hotels make this busy community popular with the locals and the businessmen alike. Hunt here for bargains and Indonesian goodies. For a good time, Nagoya is the spot. Until the Batam Center is established, Lubuk Baja is Batams present center of business, trade and finance.
Facing Tering Bay, construction work on the Batam Center has already begun. To be the pride of Batam, the Center is a planned city with business district, hotels, shops and a marina. Indonesia's President Soeharto and Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew each planted a banyan tree on 29 November 1987, marking the close friendship between the two countries and the beginning of construction on Batam Centre. Later Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia to join them planted a tree. The first buildings are almost completed and will soon be joined by international hotels including a Sheraton and a Shangri-La.
The more established estate for offshore mining industries is located at Batu Ampar. More recently. Construction is moving full speed ahead on the Muka Kuning industrial estate situated in the central part of Batam, which locates the electronic industries. Other housing estates under construction are at the Batam Centre and the Tanjung Uncang, south of Sekupang.
In the southeast of the island, Kabil marks the site of a major deep-water port already under construction. When completed, the Asia Port will accommodate ships of up to 150,000 DTW with a total wharf length of 5,000 meters. Together with its free trade zone status, Asia Port makes an attractive shipping proposition and is already drawing interested responses. Presently, lighter shipping berth at Batu Ampar and Sekupang ports in the north.
Speedboats may be hired here for your transfer to neighbouring Bintan Island.
Nearby, in direct contrast to the heavy industrialization is Telaga Punggur, offering a taste of old Batam. In the midst of a quaint fishing village are several more seafood restaurants, It is easy to while away several delightful hours here, eating and watching the passing parade of sampans and fishing craft as they go about their business.
Batam's busy regional airport is in the throes of major construction works. New runways accommodating large carrier planes such as the Jumbo Jet and the Airbus will be ready by 1993, when Batam will become an international gateway to Indonesia by air as it already is by sea.
The airport provides connections to many Indonesian cities, including to Jakarta, Pekanbaru, Bandung, Medan and other secondary cities. Garuda Indonesia flies several daily flights to Batam, Sempati, Merpati, SMAC, Deraya and Airfast.
Where to stay depends on what you are looking for. Luxury and comfort with a beach view belong to Turi Beach Resort with its first class chalets huggings the hills, or Batam View Beach Resort with its more conventional style building. Both properties offer a wide range of seaport and facilities. The Hilltop Hotel at Sekupang has great panoramas over the jungle and burgeoning development. Smaller beach hotels are the Palm Beach at Sekupang and the Nongsa Beach Cottage
Cigarettes and alcoholic drinks are the major purchases. Duty free and plentiful, you can buy the seat your hotel, at the well stocked stores at the ferry terminal or save a dollar more and shop In Nagoya.' Perfumes, chocolates and designer bags are also popular duty free purchases.
Other good buys are delicious Indonesian snacks, such as prawn -rolls, 'krupuk', 'otak-otak', dried fish, exotic sweetmeats and rich Indonesian coffee. Try jamu (Indonesian herbal remedies and cosmetics). Cassette tapes are inexpensive and varied with up-to-date rock music as well as golden oldies. Genuine Indonesian batik is imported from Java. Local handicrafts from all over the archipelago include woodcarvings from Bali, decorative wooden Wayang Golek puppets from West Java, rattan goods and ceramics. Brassware, Lampshades and more are there for the buying.
Taxis are the best and cheapest way to get about. For Rp.10,000 an hour you can happily charter for the day, and for more than a few hours strike a deal with the driver. Budget conscious visitors can take a public taxi from outside the ferry terminal but be prepared for extra stops, no air-con and cramped conditions. Prices are much cheaper, but you pay for convenience. Travel agent provides air-conditioned coaches and minibuses. Land distance from Sekupang to - Nagoya 115 kin) - Batam Ampar 119 kin) - Hang Nadim Airport (30 kml) - Nongsa (40 km) and Kabil (30 km).
One of Batam's biggest attractions is the fresh and delicious seafood. Giant prawns, live still crawling crabs, live fish taken straight from nets in the sea, lobsters, clams and shellfish are cooked in a variety of styles and all delicious. Try the local 'gong-gong' conch shell where the succulent meat inside is fished out with a pin and dipped in a spicy sauce before eating.
In Batam, finding fresh seafood is no problem. Anyway that visitors find their way to, a seafood restaurant will have preceded them. Hotels have their own. Nagoya has many. Batu Besar, Batu Merah, Telaga Punggur, all are lined with restaurants. Late night ferries from Batu Ampar allow diners to eat at a Batam restaurant and return the same evening to Singapore.
Genuine Padang food can be found at Pagi Sore in Nagoya. In Sekupang try the Indonesian Delights, where regional Indonesian dishes are offered to the accompaniment of traditional dances.
For the active sportsman, Batam provides many fast growing amenities. Three golf courses are under construction while the first nine holes are already playable at the very attractive Talvas Golf and Country Club in Nongsa. Both Batam View and Turi Beach Resort have tennis courts and Batam View also has squash. Swimming pools are big and beautiful and Turis pool is the size of a small lake.
All kinds of water sports are available even stretching to offshore scuba diving at the nearby reefs and islands. Water-skiing, windsurfing, water scooters and sailing are popular pastimes available at the hotels and at Batu Besar. Batam View Hotel has recently announced plans to build a marina - the first of many to come.
As evidenced by the numerous seafood restaurants, Batam's waters abound with marine life, and many visitors like to catch their own. Hotels can arrange fishing trips or find a local fisherman and arrange a trip with him.
Nagoya is Batam's entertainment center. While resorts offer there own brand of quiet evening music, Nagoya is definitely the place to go for nightlife. Bars are plentiful and disco lively. Shinta Nightclub has overseas cabaret acts and the Regina Palace is one of the favorite nightspots. Tired folk can enjoy a relaxing and stimulating massage in one of the many salons In Nagoya. Karaoke Lounges are big news, where guests can live out their singing talents in congenial surroundings.
Movie-goers are catered to with the big new Studio 2t Its four: Wide screen cinemas show Hollywood movies and the, occasional Chinese or Indonesian classics.
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