Singapore is an expensive city, even for western standards. When I decided to visit Singapore and searched for a hotel I was pretty shocked and distracted by the hefty prices you have to pay for a moderate middle class hotel. And if you look at the reviews it did not sound very promising either.
I was already thinking about deleting Singapore from my list of destinations for this year´s Asia trip when I came across Batam.
Batam is a small Indonesian island around 20 km south of Singapore and connected to it by almost hourly ferryboat services. The ferry takes roughly 50 to 60 minutes from Batam Centre, one of several ferry terminals on Batam, to Singapore. The boats are pretty comfortable.
However you must take into consideration that each trip is actually involved with crossing borders between two countries, i.e. you must complete immigration cards, pay 10 US$ for the Indonesian Visa on Arrival and get through passport controls each time. A round trip costs 38 US$. And you must bring additional time with you. Be at the ferry terminal 30 minutes before departure and expect up to 40 minutes to get through the passport control if more than one ferry arrives at the same time. So in total one trip can last up to two hours. I travelled three times and usually immigration into Singapore or Batam never took longer than 10 minutes.
On the positive side you save a lot of money even if you include the ferry costs. I stayed at the Harris Hotel Batam Centre. It is located just a three minutes walk from the ferry terminal which was ideal. The Hotel has 4 stars and is really very good in every respect. And for four days I paid only 180 US$. I guess I would have paid three times this amount for a comparable hotel in Singapore.
And don´t forget, you have the advantage to visit two countries at the same time. Although Batam does not have too much to offer and to see. The main city is called Nagoya, where you can have some fun in the so called entertainment district. It is more like a small red light district spread over three or four small roads with lots of pubs, bars and a few restaurants. The food and drinks are very cheap. Over the weekends the male Singaporeans flock in to have their special cheap fun with the girls you find in any bar.
I walked around Nagoya in the afternoon and took some photos. The people are extremely friendly and always too happy to be photographed.
After a while I came across a small boot selling some drinks and small snacks. It was surrounded by a few plastic tables and chairs where local men were playing some sort of board games. I bought a Coke and sat at one of the tables. It did not take long until two of them joined me and bombarded me with questions. Most of them were moto taxi drivers. One guy was a seaman all his life. But now, at the age of 45, he told me, that he no longer gets a job on a boat because his basic skills are not meeting the requirements of today´s shipping industry. That´s why is forced to drive a moto taxi which does hardly earn him enough money to finance his own and his family´s life. He spoke very good English and does not miss any chance to get in touch with a Western foreigner hoping that he meets someone one day who could help him to find a better job.
He asked me to hire him for a few hours to take me around the island. But I had to disappoint him. Then he offered me to get me a nice girl. I had to disappoint him again.
By the way whenever you take a taxi the drivers all won´t miss to offer you a girl. Even if their Englisch does not exist, it is still good enough to ask “you want girl bumm bumm?”.
Click the slide show above the post to see more images.