Every Monday morning, Colleagues will usually ask “How’s your weekend?”
Are you sick of answering them with boring answers like “Sleeping”, “Shopping” and “Watching TV” ? Head over to our neighbouring island, Batam, for a cheap and relaxing weekend without applying for any leave!
(I shall attempt more adventurous weekend trips in time to come..)
We started sourcing for the deal about 2 to 3 weeks before our planned date. As expected, I received a lot of deals in my mailbox every morning. From groupon to to deal to voucherlicious and the list goes on..
Oh well, choosing the deal with Pacific Palace (left) was a pretty straightforward decision as it is a hotel which I have been wanting to go for a long time as it looks interesting! This is the second land cruise that I have been on. The first one was at the bigger, taller and newer Sun Cruise Resort (right) in Jeongdongjin.
Let’s start tabulating the numbers so everyone can get a fuller picture.
|Details (exchange rate: 1 SGD = 9,200 Rupiah)||Price Per Person (SGD)|
|Deal Price $38, includes
Compulsory $2 tipping for tour guide
|Ferry Terminal Charges and taxes
|Day 1 Massage @ Go! Massage
Day 2 Foot Massage @ Pacific Palace Hotel
Moving on to my long-winded experience:
Tips For first-timer deal/groupon/voucher purchasers
- Read every single line of the fine print before you make the purchases
- Check for weekend surcharge, blackout dates or hidden fees
** Usually deals with hotel rooms are on a twin-sharing basis.
- Check tripadvisor to make sure that the hotel has at least a 60% positive review
- Purchase the deal/groupon/voucher
- Send an email to the travel agency with the (usually PDF) voucher, your preferred travel date and your name and passport details, including expiry date.
- Wait for their reply. If it is successful, they will send you a confirmation with the ferry details.
- Go for your trip!
For our journey, the tour agency arranged the 08:15AM ferry for us (not sure if you are allowed to request for a change in timing). We were advised to collect the tickets from the Batam Fast counter 90 mins prior to departure time (06:45AM) but we only managed to reach at almost 7am but we had no issues collecting our tickets. Some people say the 90 minutes is pretty bullshit but I can’t say for sure.
At the counter, we were given our ferry tickets, our return ferry ticket receipt, stickers to put on your shirt upon reaching Batam and a partially filled immigration card.
After breakfast at McDonalds (the norm for most ferry passengers as it was one of the few places open), we proceeded to the immigration clearance and bag scan which was surprisingly fast, despite being a Saturday. If I’m not wrong, the ferry even left earlier than scheduled!
(We continued sleeping in the ferry, for approximately 1 hr to 1 hr 30 minutes)
Ferry arrived at Sekupang Ferry Terminal, the terminal which is relatively less crowded as compared to Batam Centre. Clearing immigration was once again a breeze as it was so early (Batam time is 1 hour behind Singapore). We were also reminded to keep quiet and not talk to loudly as there had been reports that people were turned away from Batam because they were talking too loudly or using the phones.
Once you exit the immigration, you should be able to spot the tour guide in charge. If I’m not wrong, my tour company was Best Tour 933 or something along that line. The tour guides of this company were wearing a blue shirt and you will have to check against their name list to see which tour guide/bus you are be assigned to.
After meeting your tour guide, you will have to pass them your tour confirmation printout, ferry return ticket receipt (the one that was passed to you in Singapore) and 65,000 Rupiah for the taxes.
If you’re early, you will have time to visit the restroom or roam around BUT the terminal doesn’t have much. A few food options, a money changer (rate was better than Singapore by 50 Rupiah) but no shop to buy my data simcard.. Anyway, here’s a tip for the females. The arrival hall toilet queue will be extremely long.. but, if you take the stairs and go upstairs to the departure hall, there’s no queue at all!
After everyone has arrived, we were directed to the bus and ohmygoodness~ we actually had a 40-seat coach for our day trip! (I had a 10-ppl mini van for my previous trip). The first thought that me and my friend had was: good for sleeping. (We slept an average of 4 hours the night before)
1st Stop: Chocolate House
Verdict – overpriced chocolates; most can be found in Singapore.
Those that are new to me are Indonesian chocolates which doesn’t sound or look appetizing. I left his place empty handed. I suspect the tour guide does not get much cut in this shop as he did not encourage us to buy anything there.
2nd Stop: “Dry Market” aka the snack store that caters to tourists only
Verdict – I bought the super addictive corn snack. If I’m not wrong, it was 45,000 Rupiah with 20% discount. After buying, I kind of realised that it was rather expensive for a pack of snacks in Batam standards. Then again, it’s really tasty.
FYI: All tour guides will get a commission from your purchases, if you don’t already know..
2nd stop’s neighbour is worth a visit.. for magnum ice cream
Headed over to the shop next door to buy the extremely cheap magnum ice cream (14,000 Rupiah or $1.50 SGD).
3rd stop: Polo Ralph Lauren “Outlet”
We did not exit the bus and slept. Well I know we are not being good tourists but from our past experience, we were not interested in this place at all. I honestly doubt the authenticity of all “outlet” items in Batam.
4th Stop: Batam Layer Cake “Factory” and Shop
There are a lot of brands of Kueh Lapis in Batam and the tour buses would obviously bring you to their preferred partner. Not all brands are nice but this one that we went to was really good. FYI, they use real fire for baking.
5th Stop: Lunch at Golden Prawn
This place was really a stone throw from the Kueh Lapis shop. I got to be really honest here. The food isn’t nice at all. Then again, how much can we expect from this “included in the $38 package” 8 course seafood lunch? By the way, you will have to share the table with others to form a table of 10. As planned, we barely ate during lunch, in order to save our stomach for other potential food.
Despite the terrible food, the ambiance of the place was pretty good. I love the house on stilts and woody feel.
6th Stop: Golden Flower Factory “Outlet”, Miniature House Village
We were given one hour for this place. We walked into Golden Factory Outlet and walked out within 5 minutes. The things there were really not nice at all. I seriously doubt the authenticity of everything in Batam but somehow people always manage to find something to buy inside that shop.. hmm.
If you opted for the +$10 option for to Go Kart, this would be the place for your adventure. After i got my driving license, Go Kart was never on my mind..
There was this random mini Indonesia which featured random houses. There wasn’t much information to read an learn more about these buildings. Took a couple of photos and left.
Opposite the mini Indonesia, there was this empty amusement park. This place is either abandoned or that it only operates on special days. If I had the chance, I would have loved to try the ferris wheel. It looks really interesting.
7th Stop: “Batik” Shop & First Factory Outlet (Superdry “outlet”)
FYI, If you opted for the +$10 massage option, you will have it at this building which is next to the Batik Shop. We had our massage here during our previous trip and it was nothing fanciful. Thus for this trip, we booked a better massage place.
You can also visit the First Factory “outlet” across the road to buy your superdry shirts. Although I feel it is still not authentic, the material of the shirts in this shop is definitely better. If you buy 2 pieces and above, you can get a discount of 50,000 Rupiah *WOW* but I couldn’t find anything to buy.
Being the “adventurous” traveler, I went off the usual route and ventured into a wet market. Wanted to get mangoes but we didn’t as we had no knife to cut. Maybe next time.
8th Stop: Temple (no idea what name)
Alright, we did not alight from the bus and slept and played stupid handphone games.
9th Stop: Batam City Square (Shopping Mall)
This was supposedly the “highlight” of the trip as the tour guide emphasized that we will give you ample time for shopping – 1 hours to 2 hours. This place had nothing that interest us in the previous trip (except for the supermarket). As it was the final stop and the tour guide was done with all his “commission-based itinerary”, we were allowed to leave the entourage. We obtained the hotel voucher from the tour guide, grabbed a taxi (very pricey at 50,000 Rupiah) and went on a less than 15 minutes ride to the cruise hotel – Pacific Palace.
From the front, it doesn’t look that impressive as we cannot see that it is a ship.
We were lucky to went back to the hotel early. There was this random navy marching band performance right at the hotel entrance. I think it was celebrating some navy anniversary or something along that line.
The first floor of the hotel looks grand and majestic and the cruise-themeing goes all the way up to the lift lobby.
This is the 25m swimming pool.
Explorer-mode is turned on! We headed to the rooftop for amazing views from the 8th floor.
Would really love to visit the stilt villages one day. It reminds me of Gaya island in Kota Kinabalu somehow.
Novotel is just opposite Pacifc Palace. If I’m not wrong (according to my friend) there’s free shuttle bus from novotel to Nagoya Hill Shopping Mall. It would have saved us 100,000 for a return journey!
While we were waiting for our transfer pick-up arranged by the massage place, we explored the exterior of the cruise hotel, and of course take awesome photos!
Apparently, there’s a man-only spa situated at the back of the hotel. hmmmmm.
We went back to the hotel lobby and waited for our driver. Well, the driver couldn’t see us so the boss of the massage place actually sent me an email to inform me that the driver has arrived. Thankfully, Pacific Palace has free wifi at the lobby.
The drive from Pacific Palace to Go! Massage was a less than 5 minutes drive. We could have walked there but nobody really walks around in Batam.. Everyone either drives or gets driven.. I’m not sure if there are even public buses around..
We had the promotion full package at $42 which is a 2 hours 30 minutes session of Massage, choice of aromatherapy or Body Scrub and ear candling.
I know that $42 sounds really expensive in Batam context but I didn’t want to go to a lupsap place.. This place, though not a big brand, was clean and adequately decorated enough to charge a premium pricing.
I felt that my massage was pretty good but my friend said hers was not hard enough.. I guess it’s just dependent on your luck and your tolerance level and your masseur that day.
After the massage, we had a free transfer to the destination of our choice. We chose Nagoya Hill Shopping Mall (supposedly the largest mall in Batam).
Yes, there’s A&W at Nagoya Hill! Say Hi to Batam’s favourite bear 😀
We had dinner at coba cafe/restaurant (which seems to have other outlets as well)
Teh Botoh – worth a try. It has a pretty strong taste.
Anyhow whack restaurant also tastes good!
Then, we proceeded to the undisputed favourite shop in the mall – the super/hyper market. Perhaps it was the lack of hungry colleauges in my new job. I had no temptation to stock up on snacks. This was all we bought, between the two of us.
After walking around the mall to digest my dinner so that I can have enough space for A&W waffle, we ended up in my favourite place – the arcade!!
This old school arcade was one of the most amazing thing my entire trip. It actually has the game which I used to play when I was in primary school. I think I spent a lot on this game. It was like 1,000 Rupiah per token ($0.11) but I didn’t manage to get any tickets because the machine was spoilt!!! argh. and I couldn’t communicate in malay to the arcade guy in charge. (Random) but I’m determined to spend 2 hours in this arcade for my next trip to Batam.
Then, when we were wanting to go home, it started raining like cats and dogs (it was raining in Singapore too at that timing). After observing the crowd behaviour at the entrance of the mall, we managed to enter a taxi who did not overcharge us (50,000 Rupiah being the benchmark) due to the heavy rain.
Review of hotel room: room was pretty dark and the toilet was just shower without bath tub. The shower curtain and the arrangement was so bad that the entire toilet floor will be wet after anyone takes a shower. The Bed was somewhat comfortable or rather we were just too tired as we kept snoozing the next morning.
The TV channels were pretty decent and we were watching a few movies or shows randomly before we fell asleep.
The next day..
Breakfast at Pacific Palace was kind of dull and average tasting. There’s an omelette station and honeystars (with moon). The other food are not worth mentioning..
After breakfast, we had approximately 2 to 3 hours before our transfer to the ferry terminal. We had two choices, continue sleeping or go for a massage.
We eventually went for a 90 minute foot massage (160,000 Rupiah) at the hotel which was not too bad and, urm hard and painful. Each chair had a personal TV screen and headset and you won’t feel bored during the massage.
After the massage, it was time to pack up. We then proceeded with checking out and sat at the lobby to use wifi while waiting for the bus to pick us up. This time round, a 20-seater bus came, not the 40-seater bus yesterday 🙁
We were alighted at Ferry Terminal at Batam Centre. This was the biggest ferry terminal and also the only terminal which is connected to a huge shopping mall – Mega Mall. Having no clue of what to eat, we ended up at A&W with the coupons from yesterday.
It was my first time eating the fried chicken from A&W and it was really delicious! The waffle was as its best state – fluffy and light taste!
After lunch, we visited the happiest place in this mall – Timezone arcade but it was slightly disappointing as the prices were steeper than yesterday 🙁 There weren’t any old school games unlike the one in Nagoya and urm, when I showed my friend this photo, she thought it was a timezone in Singapore. I refused to purchase the arcade card and walked out without playing anything, not even the basketball machine.
Saw this interesting toy and the toy shop on the first floor but oh my gawd, the price was almost $70 after discount. Would have been a very cute gift.
After roaming around for less than two hours at Mega Mall, we returned to the ferry terminal. We were reminded to be early as the customs may take a while. Thankfully, we only spent 10 to 15 minutes clearing security and customs.
Our return ferry (at approx 4pm), Queen Star 3, was much bigger than the one we took to Batam. There were two floors and it was quite full. As it was in the evening, the waves were pretty rough. There was one bounce so bad that it gave me the heart-drop feeling which I usually get on roller coasters D:
Don’t forget to try this drink when you’re in indonesia =)
Do you remember the final night of the F1 race? This was how bad the haze was that evening. Anyone knows how to get to this place in Sentosa island? It looks abandoned yet interesting. I guess it should be somewhere near Fort Siloso but it may be out of bounds.
That’s it for the end of my 2D1N Batam adventure. After sharing my $38 experience, many people of the older generation seems really interested in Batam as it seems more convenient and relaxing as compared to Malaysia.
Despite visiting Batam twice, I have yet to visit the beach or the bridges.. I guess I would have to hire a driver for my next trip!
Where shall be my next destination?