Tourists to Singapore mostly go to Malaysia for a day or two of sightseeing. Well, we opted to take the unlikely route: Indonesia. There is this small island called Batam, quietly nestled an hour away. It is the largest city in the Riau islands, third-largest city in Sumatra, and eighth-largest city in Indonesia. Two nearby islands, Bintan and Bulan, are also quite popular for Singaporeans.
Batam has a tropical climate, similar to my home country. The people spoke of several languages, predominantly Indonesian. The locals were generally friendly and approachable. I would assume this is because we look like them. And because of that, it never really felt like a foreign country for me.
We landed at Sekupang International Ferry Terminal. One could immediately see the difference from where we came, the much-larger HarbourFront Centre. We rode Horizon Fast Ferry, which was relatively new compared to its competitors. We basically had no choice because this ferry was already a part of the package we availed. The entire trip was generally good and smooth-sailing. It was a cloudy day, and luckily, there was no impending typhoon.
We were greeted by a long queue of people in the immigration, and when it was our turn, everything went okay (almost).
And then, my mind was wandering. Where is our tour guide? We decided to go out of the main lobby and searched. Then a man suddenly approached us from behind, asking our names. At first, we stammered and got quiet. Then he showed us our passport copies (which we sent prior) and package itinerary. Oh! He was our tour guide! Thank God he found us. We exchanged a little greeting and proceeded to the small van waiting. I am not sure if it’s a good thing, but we were the only “guests” for that day.
First stop: Miniature Park. Locals used to call it Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. I heard that there’s another one in Jakarta, though. But this one would suffice. Various traditional houses from all over Indonesia have miniature versions in this park. It is free-of-charge.
There were so many houses! And they’re all so cute! After an hour, we went to our first temple for the day: Tua Pek Kong.
There were only a few people inside. And at first, they were looking at us skeptically. Then I realized we were wearing shoes inside. Big NO-NO! I saw our guide waving at us, showing us where to put our shoes. Our bad. It was really embarrassing. Anyhow, we went again to another temple.
A big buddha was prominently placed right at the center of the entrance. It’s the first thing you’ll see. The smell of incense was pungent in every corner. We decided to burn one and whispered a short prayer. Yes, we left our shoes outside (we knew better this time) as soon as we saw the clean and clear vinyl tiles. Our guide and driver also prayed with us. Theirs was longer, though.
We also went around, as there are many small temples behind. They all look relatively the same, just with different arrangements and design. We also found a vegetarian canteen which made us remember the time. It’s almost twelve! Back to the van, it was as if our guide read our minds. He asked if we are already hungry. We both nodded.