Finally, the real Batam

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Well folks, I have definitely placed myself in “it.” The senses have been energized. My mind is working like it hasn’t in some time. First, yesterday.

As I posted previously, I walked to the Nagoya Hill mall with my empty backpack, about 6-7 blocks. I thought I would be able to carry what I bought back to the apartment. Silly me. A taxi was definitely necessary. But I still need some housewares; maybe later today.

After putting everything away and then unpacking, a short nap was in order. To that point since I arrived in Batam Friday, I had had no more than 3-4 hours sleep a night. Just too much going on in my head to sleep.

When I woke, it was still light so thought I’d do my first exploring of the neighborhood, something I do everywhere I go in order to familiarize myself with the surroundings and to locate needed stores. Always on foot. I also needed some beer and Diet Coke, which proved to be a challenge, but I eventually found a Circle K.

In was turning dark at about 6:30 and I decided to have dinner about 50 yards from my apartment. As I sat outside at a warung table along the street, I could actually see my apartment windows, and realized I needed to close the shutters at night. A very gay guy waited on me and was somewhat helpful in interpreting the all-Bahasa (Indonesian) menu. I opted for the familiar ayam bekar (BBQ chicken), baby keylan and nasi (rice), with teh obeng (iced tea, which the waiter corrected me with teh es, which is how they say it on the island of Java – which prompted me to tell him that was where he was from).

I know I reported on this already but adding more detail here. The meal was OK, although I knew I would be hungry later. The best part was the price, about $2.50. As I sat there, I was approached several times by some young boys peddling newspapers. I couldn’t have read them if I did buy them but next time I will buy just so they get some money.

It was now only 7 p.m. and without TV in the apartment yet I wasn’t sure how I would entertain myself until bedtime. I tried to order cable TV online late in the day but they were closed for the day so will try today. So after catching up with Internet messages I settled down for some repeats of TV shows stored on my laptop. I was trying very hard to ignore the temptation to walk out into the bar district, which is going to be a challenge. Fell asleep sitting up about 10 and crawled into my new bed with its new sheets, the A/C going above me and one of the two ceiling fans whirring overhead. Although I woke several times during the night, it was not due to outside noise, just my restlessness.

At 6:30 this morning I was ready to go – after a couple of cups of too-strong coffee in my new coffeemaker. This was go-to-market day and I was anxious to tackle the challenge of buying fresh foods without very much language capability. Steve, the building manager, had volunteered to go with me but I decided it was important to do this myself.

I had been told the general direction of the wet market but I needed to ask directions and

Outside of wet market

Outside of wet market

even follow my nose to find it. You could definitely follow the smell of seafood. There is one outdoor vegetable and fruit market only a block away, and the wet market is a few blocks further inside a one-story building. It was shortly after 7 and I was the only bule in the place, which caused some interest. As you see here, I brought my camera.

I needed seafood, chicken, pork and vegetables, maybe some fruit, but first I walked around looking at all the fresh food and taking pictures. Of course, everywhere I went people wanted me to buy.

Finally, I stopped at a stall selling several types of fish (ikan), including some beautifulDSC_1361 tuna. A couple of young guys were running it and they, with others at nearby stalls, were having a laugh at my expense. Just good humor and I laughed along with them. The tuna was Rp30,000 ($2.50) per kilo (2.2 pounds), so maybe a dollar a pound. I picked out a good sized fish that weighed in at just less than a kilo at a cost of Rp57,000 (you do the math). They even sliced it up for me, including cutting the head in half. I plan to try making fish head soup with it, an Indonesian delicacy. The fish, after I cut it up further back home (really, home!), will make seven meals.

Right next to this stall was another selling prawns of various sizes. I pointed to a pile of

My new friend M Doni

My new friend M Doni

large shrimp and was told Rp100,000 per kilo (about $4 pound and there were 46 prawns total). The guys even posed for pictures and I asked one to take mine. The guy with me in the photo wanted a copy of mine so I found myself on Facebook on his smartphone (we are now friends) and will send the pictures after finishing this post. I was having an awesome time and not finding the experience difficult or daunting at all. Quite the contrary; it was interesting, challenging and fun.

Next, chicken. I had already seen a stall with whole and cut up fresh chicken so went there.

Whole chickens, heads, feet and all

Whole chickens, heads, feet and all

How fresh? There were cages in the middle of the aisles with live chickens for sale, presumably to be cleaned and butchered while you wait. I didn’t ask the price and just picked out four pieces. Price: Rp34,000 ($3).

Now I was ready for the vegetables, and there were multiple stall options. I’m not sure how you choose but I selected one that seemed to have the most options and everything looked fresh. Grabbing a plastic tray, I just started adding what I wanted, while dodging the increasing crowd. Potatoes, onions, garlic, keylan, cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, eggs, corn on the cobb. There were other vegetables I’m not familiar with and may try them later as I learn how to cook them. A very heavy bag came to Rp84,000 ($7.50).

Dried fish, eggs and more

Dried fish, eggs and more

I had one more food to get – pork – and had to leave this portion of the building to find it. They don’t allow the pork to be in the same area due to the Muslim ban on pork. Right  outside was a shop with various cuts of pork on a table in the open for inspection. I will note here that I didn’t see any signs of refrigeration but I also didn’t notice any flies or other insects present. The pork was cut fresh and lean. I bought a kilo for Rp80,000 ($7 or $3.25/pound). It should make 6-7 meals.

I was loaded now (and forgot my backpack) so headed back, all along the way being asked if I needed an ojek (motorcycle taxi). What I wanted was a bakery so I could get some breakfast but none were in sight so headed home to divide up and package my edible loot.

Still needed breakfast, however, so after going out and wandering around again, finally

My tuna

My tuna

settled on some pastry from the Circle K. I will find a bakery later. Home fries, boiled eggs, pastry, milk and coffee for breakfast.

Meanwhile, the apartment maintenance guys were working on installing a shower curtain in the bath and getting my TV to work. The bathrooms here often are open, which means there is nothing dividing the shower area from the rest of the room. I had asked for a curtain and rod to be installed. The TV now works, and there are a few English-language channels but the picture is fuzzy. Cable TV is on my priority list.

An aside: The Internet is actually better in my new home than what I had during my time at Smiling Hill.

Aside #2: I have been asked to provide the types of marketing assistance I can provide to an expat who runs a dive shop on Batam, hopefully my first client.


About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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9 Responses to Finally, the real Batam

  1. 2bagsandapack says:

    The food is pretty cheap but ask before ordering. Don’t worry about which stall. They will give you menus and just choose what you want from each menu. It’s sharing food, Chinese style, so 2-3 dishes should be plenty for two. Depending on what you order shouldn’t be more than Rp300,000. Steamboat (about Rp100,000) and black pepper crab most expensive (but excellent). Very safe for two ladies. Lots of families there.

  2. Kimberly Lee says:

    Hi, do you remember how much the food cost at Windsor Foodcourt?
    I heard there’s no prices stated on the menu.
    And there’s quite a few stalls there right? Which should I pick? Haha.
    If only two girls go there, is it dangerous? Hahhaa.
    Thanks so much!

  3. 2bagsandapack says:

    It’s all just stream of consciousness stuff. What I see is what I write. People question my photos sometimes, wondering why I’m not taking pics of myself and touristy shots. I tell them this is what I see and what my readers want to see.

  4. erikaarch says:

    Wonderful detail! Really makes this come alive…. Helping people with English sounds like a great idea!

  5. 2bagsandapack says:

    Maybe go together sometime

  6. i love to buy fish, veg and fruit in that market too,,

  7. 2bagsandapack says:

    I guess we can meet and discuss

  8. feliciaevandra says:

    Hi Ken,   I’m Putra, I  live in Batam, I like your writing style, I need a tutor to help me with my writing,  How much would you charge me per hour, if I want to do it like once a week. You can reply my email, you can also reach me at 082392599750. Thank you.

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