No sooner had my eldest sister Ruth and her husband announced that they were going to be moving to an island in Indonesia just 20km off the coast of Singapore and I had my heart set on visiting them and stepping onto two countries which I’d yet to visit. Just over a year ago they and their three children left Mebourne in Australia behind for a new life on Batam Island and the main point of this trip was to pop over to spend the weekend with them following a day and a half in Singapore.
There’s a one hour time difference between Singapore and Indonesia so after a 60 minute ferry ride I arrived at the same time I left that afternoon! On my arrival I must have been a bit over-excited as I nearly exited without picking my bag off the scanning machine thing! Luckily, I realised just in the nick of time and could pop back through and get it and then, to my surprise, I was met not only by Ruth but all her kids too who for some reason were very excited to see their uncle!
Following a quick tour of the house we headed up the road on their estate to the Sunrise Bar which I’ve got to say is a place they’re very lucky to have. The two older kids just walked in, sat themselves up at the bar, ordered a soft drink, grabbed the remote control, watched TV and kept themselves amused for pretty much the whole night! Meanwhile, Ruth and I caught up with each other as an endless stream of the foreign resident community seemed to drop by at some point which made for a really nice atmosphere. The Bintang beers just kept on coming and I have no idea what time Ruth took the kids back home! My night continued with my brother-in-law to what seemed quite a late time but in reality was probably only about 10pm……if not earlier!!
My Saturday’s are usually spent mucking around with, erm I mean teaching kids, but I gave that up for the day to come to Batam to spend my day with kids! Having been a pretty bad Uncle regarding birthday presents I thought I had better arrive with some goodies to hand out. Sadly the whoopee cushion (a success the last time I saw them in Australia in 2012) failed to last beyond a minute before it broke but the stickers, jigsaws and balloons went down far better than I ever really expected. Another gift was a mini chess set and my nephew Eifion was spared no mercy as I gave him a masterclass in having his ass whooped! He would later get his revenge on the wii!
My niece Anesta does ballet lessons on Saturday mornings in Sukajadi so I went along with Ruth to see some of her class which was a unique experience for me who has never really seen any ballet. The rain was absolutely lashing down during this time so our driving tour of the area (golf courses, decaying buildings, a deserted shopping arcade and a man selling chickens!) was a bit of a washout!
A bit later in the day, the six of us went for lunch at Montego Resort in Nongsa where a golf buggy cart transports you from the car park and reception to the restaurant. Even as an adult riding on one of these is still fun! Having had pizza the night before I thought I better take this opportunity to sample some actual Indonesian food in the form of nasi goreng which I hadn’t eaten since I went to Ayung Teras in Shibuya last year. Now, I’m known as the naughty uncle who once gave Eifion some cola (I didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to have it!) so was in a bit of a predicament when I saw Pepsi Blue on the drinks menu. Needless to say I ignored any proper responsibility and, with two of the kids curious about its taste, I had to relent and give them a rare treat!
Of course this (part of the) trip was never gonna be anything more than just hanging out with the family doing everyday things. That included just playing with the kids in the play area which included giant cuddly bears, table football, a slide, a ball pool and all other kinds of things.
Due to the crazy traffic on the roads of Batam we were out at about 7am the next day as we went on a quick tour of the island to give me an idea of its layout and whereabouts in the scheme of things. Later on, we went out to JCo Donuts at nearby Kepri Mall for some donuts and a trip to Carrefour Supermarket! It doesn’t get any more exciting than that on Batam I’m afraid but as a one-off it was all good stuff for me. En-route to the donut place Eifion said in the car that he didn’t want any donuts and that they were bad for you and so on. Ten minutes later he had had three of them!!
I was given a quick tour of the estate by my brother-in-law which was fun, not so much because of what I saw (lots of un-finished houses!) but due to riding on the back of the vespa.
Last time I saw Anesta in Melbourne she was very wary of me and I never really got too close to her. The youngest Sioned was like that this time herself but Anesta was quite the opposite and we bonded way beyond what I thought we would.
After a spot of light lunch at home we settled in for the Japanese F1 Grand Prix and once that had concluded we went to the swimming pool next within the Sunrise Bar complex. The return journey was one of my highlights as four of us (with bags and bodyboards) piled on to the vespa to ride home. Nothing compared to the numbers of locals who ride together on board these vehicles carrying all manner of things!
As always, it was an early start on the final morning as we took the kids to school before I had to say a sad farewell. We took a slight detour on the way so that we could get some shots of us in front of the Hollywood-style ‘Welcome to Batam’ sign!
As I headed back to Singapore on the ferry for another day there I felt very satisfied to have spent such a nice weekend with the family doing the simple things in life and thankfully it won’t be too long before we meet again albeit in a different location and setting.