Day Tour in Batam, Indonesia [1]

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.

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.



On Getting a Tour Package



I initially wanted to write this post to serve as a reminder for future travelers out there. Is it really necessary to avail of a package when traveling? The answer varies, of course.

When we traveled overseas for the first time, my thought was to get one. It was our first time, so naturally we want to feel at ease with the fact that everything will be laid out for us. You know, less preparations. The price seemed a bit higher than usual, with the  extra charges topping it up. This is understandable. It was also a  good thing that I knew this travel agency’s reputation and that we had a previous experience with them for a local trip.

In the package we availed, we got the following: two-night stay at a four-star hotel, buffet breakfast for two days, half day city tour, seat-in coach to and from the airport, one-way ferry ticket to Macau, and a tour to Macau as well. Not bad, eh? We paid Php7,000 for all these. I purchased the airfare tickets separately because their offer was double the price. I decided to book on my own, and found it’s actually cheaper.

There were many benefits. First, it was such a comfort that someone waited and fetched us at the airport. We rode in a mini-bus with a bunch of others and thoroughly enjoyed the views. We were dropped off at the hotel and were given instructions for next day’s itinerary. We had our freedom to do whichever we want on day 1 and 3, which was really good. The hotel of choice was okay, although it could have been better. I mean, it could have been nearer to the city premises. We could have roamed more, given the time. But nonetheless, it was a great experience.

Downside? I guess, for me, it was the trip to Macau which we didn’t enjoy to the fullest. We only had a half-day. Of course, we were also given the option to extend prior to the trip, but we declined. It’s a small country so we thought half-day would be enough. Didn’t realize it actually offers a lot more and that we should have stayed a bit longer. We were not able to see the fireworks, although the nightlights did suffice somehow. Someday, hopefully, I could come back and relish more. And buy a box of my fave egg tarts! Yum!

Another downside would be the city tour as well. There were several stops that I think were not necessary anymore. It was neither interesting, too. Most of us just went along with the group but weren’t really excited to see what was it about. Later I discovered that the stalls actually had an agreement with the agencies to bring the tourists in. Of course, some of these tourists would purchase their products, plus they would also get some extra for that. Oh well, that’s how business works.

There you go. I hope this would shed some light on your decision whether to get one for your next adventure. I wish you the best of luck!

Royal View Hotel – Hong Kong

One crucial aspect of travelling is your hotel. Or wherever you are staying. Although you would only be there for a couple of nights, it is necessary to choose one of your liking. Proximity, cost, convenience, and access to train/bus stations are just some of the considerations. For us, the cost takes the highest spot.

After reading all of the reviews online, we have decided to choose one of the cheapest there is: ROYAL VIEW HOTEL. Main reason it’s cheap is because it is located far away from the city, although it is near Disneyland and the airport. We don’t have a problem with that anyway. There are no big hotels nearby, just the usual residential apartments and small buildings. There was a beach too, but we didn’t bother going.

We were given the mountain view room. I initially wondered if we can actually see the mountains from there. Not much, actually. It was mostly the beach I told you about. Still nice, though.

The size of the room was pretty good, well enough for us. There was one additional bed in place, too.


The bed sheet and linens were clean and smelled good. The room was clean, and there were two bottles water (replenished thrice), several coffee sachets, tea bags and creamer.


In the shower room and toilet, there was free shampoo, hand & body soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. There were only two sets of those, so one of us in the group had to use her own stuff.



Fresh towels were also provided. All three clean fabrics. They all smelled good to me. Good thing it was replenished at least twice.

The verdict? I would recommend it to anyone who’s on a budget. The rooms were clean and amenities were complete. There were several restaurants and stores inside. However, if you’d like to explore the city further, it would be best to keep searching. I am sure you could also find a similar hotel, albeit a tad costly.

Here are other points to consider:

  • The staff were all welcoming, friendly, accommodating, and speaks good English (especially the receptionists). There was one point when we had to borrow an adapter and they quickly obliged.
  • The general ambiance, vibe, and entrance lobby looks refreshing.
  • There are sofas in the lobby, near the elevators, that serves as a waiting lounge as well.
  • There was a spot for the luggages in case you cannot check-in yet. It is for free and is guarded by one of the staff.
  • They have a service bus that connects the hotel’s clients to the nearest train station. Round-trip fare costs $5. It used to be free of charge, though. You basically have no choice because it is  impossible to walk. The ride takes roughly 5-10 minutes. There is short waiting time, as there are many buses available.
  • The buffet restaurant was epic! For an additional $120, we got a two-day unlimited buffet (included in our tour package). The array of food was a feast to the eyes. There were so  much to choose from, and I believe it’s good until lunch. We maximized the one-hour limit (7-9AM) and were really full when we finished. There is a restroom on the same floor, so no need to worry.
  • You will be given two keycards. One is for the door; one is for the light and facilities inside the room. You can request for two more for free, if necessary.
  • The deposited cash upon checking-in was returned on time.
  • The staff were prompt and quick to respond to inquiries.


So there. Hope the pointers here will be helpful. 🙂


Hong Kong anniv thoughts

I can’t believe it’s been a year now. Time flies fast. Or was I just too busy?

Roughly  a year ago, we experienced our first-ever trip abroad. In Hong Kong, no less. I can still remember it. Almost every detail. To say that I was excited would be an understatement. I slept over at one of my friend’s house nearby the airport since my flight is at 5 AM the next day. I had work on a Sunday and my flight was on Monday. Yep, I barely had sleep..only two to three hours only. Half-asleep, yes. I had too many things to think of, and dream of.

2AM. My alarm woke me up, and had me jolting upwards. It’s time to shower. I slowly and quietly got out of bed (my friend was still snoring beside me) and grabbed the towel. After shower, I saw my friend preparing his bags (just now) and was asking me what else should she bring. I was prepared for this, of course. I gave her my to-bring list and she told me to go downstairs to have my breakfast. Oh, so thoughtful. She followed soon after and we had almond cornflakes and cold milk. Nice. I felt good. I am all set now. We packed some pancakes (her mom was so sweet to cook for us ahead of time), hotdog sandwiches and biscuits (which we bought the other day), too. We didn’t bring bottled water because it’s not allowed. And off we went back upstairs and got dressed. We discussed a little and finally brought our bags downstairs. We don’t have luggages, by the way. I only had a backpack (your average Jansport size) and a small carry-on body bag. She brought two big bags, way heavier than what I had. We went inside the car and bid goodbye to her family. I will say goodbyes to my mother later, when I’m on the plane.

Off we drove. It’s a half past 3AM when we arrived at the airport, I think. We called our other friend and said we are already at the terminal and asked her whereabouts. She’s on the way! After a few minutes, we saw her getting off the taxi. So we continued our way inside.

Everything went smoothly, good thing there were just a few people on queue. We are lucky. Or so we thought.

Immigration. The most dreaded part. I didn’t expect to be deferred. I honestly and simply answered all questions, showed my IDs, and filled out forms correctly. I am not exactly sure why. My other friend also had the same problem. We were instructed to another area where other people were also waiting. Daaaamn! Do we really have to do this?!? My mind was running wild again. Yes, the pessimistic me is resurfacing. Whew. I told myself to relax and focus. After what seemed like eternity, me and my friend were called at the same time, and was asked random questions. This time, we both told the IOs that we ARE friends, and as a proof, showed previous pictures of us together. We showed our company and health provider IDs to prove we won’t look for work in HK. And we got our stamp.

I almost lost my patience and composure there. But thank God we survived. Now I know what to do next. While waiting for our plane, we ate some snacks, and bought water inside. We discussed about what happened and felt great. We moved on from the incident and excitedly took pictures. I excused myself and called my mother. I was so relieved from what happened, and I told her everything. I thought of all the money, time, everything that could have been wasted if we weren’t allowed to get in just because of some random IOs attitude.

And then we were called to move to another area. As usual, there was a delay. This airline is popular for having regular delayed flights every now and then. But after ten minutes or so, we boarded the plane. And my heart was jumping for joy.

Our itinerary was quite simple. I made Day 1 and Day 3’s schedule. We followed the tour package’s itinerary on Day 2.

  • Day 1 — Disneyland (oh, was that difficult?)
  • Day 2 — HK: Avenue of Stars, Chocolate shop, Jewelry shop, T Galleria, city tour; Macau : Fisherman’s Wharf, Ruins of St Paul, Na-cha temple, The Venetian
  • Day 3 —The Peak Tram, Sky Terrace, Madame Tussauds, Ladies Market 


Looking back at all the pictures makes me feel accomplished. We were able to do all that I planned in our itinerary. I can say our first trip was successful. Except maybe when I lost my camera in Disneyland. But thankfully, the locals are friendly enough to return it to the City Hall Lost and Found counter. And it was returned to me in less than 24 hours. Again, another miracle! To think that that camera is not mine, and that tons of pictures are in stored there. Aside from that, everything went smoothly. We had fun.

Fast-forward to present. Year 2016, month of July.

Me and my  travel buddies met two Saturdays ago, and had buffet at one of the nearby restaurants in the office. We talked about travel plans, and was choosing from different options. There were some considerations this time, since it’s our third time already.

We had a good conversation and I think we’re on our way to our next destination, wherever it may be. That is, before I head to Japan, God-willing.


Hong Kong preps

And it’s finally happening! We are all having our first trip abroad. Yes, it is our first time – all three of us. That’s me and my two other colleagues, to which I consider now my official travel buddies.

We have been choosing whether to go to Hong Kong or Singapore first, but after much research, I decided to choose Hong Kong. Two basic reasons are: cost and proximity. But of course, Singapore would follow next. Soon enough!

Anyhow, I spotted a good seat sale online.I made a few calls. After getting their details and approval, I immediately booked flights and voila. It’s a done deal.

confirm 2


Next, I called my friend who works in a travel agency. Me and my friends have long decided that, since this is our first trip overseas, we’d be getting a tour package. But since it’s hard to trust nowadays, I have chosen a credible agency I knew about. We were given an array of choices (whether to go to Macau or Shenzhen, China as a side trip), several hotels, with or without breakfast (buffet, nonetheless!), etc. I made the final arrangements, deposited the payment, and received the voucher the next day.


Everything’s settled! Yay! Now off to packing our bags..And oh, let me show you a preview of our first few minutes in Hong Kong. Enjoy!