Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category

After exiting the protected confines of the Bintan Resort it didn’t take long before we could really see how the other half live. There were shanty’s and rucksacks with rubbish on the road and several hundreds of people doing nothing on the road all signs of a high unemployment rate. Although a huge portion of Indonesians are Muslim there are still other religions and we stopped by a Chinese Buddhist temple before heading to our guides house for a fresh baby coconut and some relaxation time on the beach.

Our guide was kind enough to take us his friends house as it was a beachside resort house. He offered us a fresh coconut and we spent a bit of time admiring the amazing scenery. The owner of the house spent a good portion of his time building up his house to make it suitable for local tourists to spend time on the weekends. His wife operates a small drink and food stall out of their house for the incoming tourists. Sitting here under one of these straw top pagoda’s was a relaxing experience straight out of Getaway. The slight cloud cover made the palm trees a darker colour and covered the ground with shadows. Life here is quite slow out of the resort area and everyone takes their time with everything they do. I can just imagine sitting here on the beach for several days doing nothing but drinking fresh baby coconut. We couldn’t stay here forever as we wanted to check out the main town. So we said our thanks and goodbyes to the wife of our last guide, jumped back into the cab and continued towards the town.

On the way to the town he took us to some up market housing (green house on the left) which some expatriates stay here and build as retirement homes. He informed us that building one of these houses on Bintan island is extremely cheap compared to western standards. We didn’t have time to get out and have a look around so we went straight into town to take a look at the largest city on the island. There wasn’t much here to be honest but walking around taking a look at how the locals live and eat was an interesting experience. It is unfortunate that there is a high poverty rate here when inside the Resort you can live like kings if you have enough money. In saying this because of the resort more jobs were created for the local economy which is always a plus. On the way back he took us a different way home which involved seeing the sand fields which use to be used for the land reclamation of Singapore before the Indonesian government forbade using it. There are just hectares and hectares of open sand and dirt fields that were excavated for the use of Singapore. This way meant using some back roads which are now being upgraded to cater for the Bintan resort project. We were also taken onto a wooden local ferry to cross the river. These ferries have been in operation for years but their very existence might seize to exist as the government is currently building a bridge to cross this section of water. Hoping that these ferries would actually be able to hold the weight of the car we crossed the river and continued on our way back to the resort. After the ferry trip it was several kilometers before we were able to reach the gates of the Bintan resort and after an extensive security check of our vehicle we were permitted entry. We had a couple more hours to kill before we had to board our ferry back to Singapore so our driver took us to see the resort elephants and one of the more up market beach hotel resorts.

After a quick security check again at the hotel entrance we were at the local beach in no time. These beaches are secluded and are for the use of Bintan resort guests only. Staying in one of these hotels is quite expensive but there are usually a lot of Singapore business men who come here with their families on their off days as a way to relax. Quite deserted as it is it was us and about 20 other people who had the beach to ourselves. We grabbed a pizza, a cocktail and a beer from the restaurant and just sat and relaxed for a good hour reflecting on the day we had, had. As time approached to head home we went back over to our guide and he took us back to the ferry terminal. We paid him and said our goodbyes and thanked him for a good day. We had booked a ferry leaving in an hours time so we still had time to kill, but fortunately for us we were able to change our tickets to the ferry departing immediately. We jumped onto this ferry and we were on our way back to Singapore. Exhausted we jumped onto a bus, then taxied all the way back to the backpackers for well deserved rest.

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Singapore is conveniently located to visit several other countries and parts of Indonesia are no exception. You can go to Bintan Island via ferry from the Tanah Merah Ferry terminal. The trip only takes an hour or so and is a nice relaxing break from the bustling every day life of Singapore. We hailed a can early morning to catch the first ferry out of the Tanah Merah ferry terminal. As we didn’t do any prior research at what time these ferries actually depart we were stuck waiting for a good hour and a bit at the terminal. After we were finally permitted entry into the customs we made our way through the metal detector machines and baggage scanning. For us it was the first time to leave a country via boat so it was a new experience, not to mention another stamp in my passport. I hadn’t forgotten to bring my exit pass this time though so that was a bonus and made things a lot easier. We stat down and grabbed a bite to eat at a curry soup outlet in the waiting area and just sat patiently looking through the available duty free and goods for sale. Eventually it was time to board so we made our way down the what seemed like 2 kilometer walk to the boat at the end of the jetty grabbed a seat and waited for the boat to depart. The voyage was quite rough as it was quite cloudy with weather conditions not being the best but we were optimistic nonetheless. When we finally arrived we had to go through Indonesia customs which gave us a nice huge full size passport page stamp after we paid the small USD fee. Before even exiting the terminal we had tour operators asking us if we wanted to do some tours. We chose a mangrove tour that was available on that day and jumped into the tour van that took us to grab something to eat while we waited for the tour to depart.

The tour office was more or less right next to the bus stop and we paid for our tour and were asked to hang around the area for a good hour or so before the bus would pick us up to take us to the location. Feeling a little pekish as we didn’t have any breakfast we had a look at our options for good food. We found a small restaurant at the end of Oleh Oleh tourist complex, sat down and ordered one of our favourite dishes: the Black Pepper Crab. The Indonesians have a slightly different spin on the dish compared to the Singaporean’s but it was a tasty crab either way. Wanting to try a Indonesian beer I ordered a Bintang off the menu and used it to wash down the succulent taste of the crab. Before I continue with the rest of the day I should mention how Bintan Island is set out: First of all there is the highly secure mammoth-several-hectare grounds of the Bintan Resort owned by a very successful business man. This huge area is protected by only one way entry with security guards and houses all the resorts. Inside this area everything is more expensive and you should expect to pay tourist pricing for goods, drinks and food. Once you exit the border of Bintan Resort you enter the real Indonesia, with small shacks, rubbish on the roads and where everything is dirt cheap it’s not funny. Most tourists only visit inside the Bintan Resort, however all you get here is exactly that a Resort with different activities. If this is what your in search for you have no reason to exit the resort. Us on the other hand wanted to see the real Indonesia and how the other un-resort half live. The best and safest way to see the outside of Bintan Resort is via hiring your own private taxi, and for a small fee of about $50 Singapore dollars for a good 6 hour trip its well worth it as you get your own guide. But more on the outside of the Resort will be posted in tomorrows blog. After we finished we food the time was approaching to get onto our bus. We had mentioned to the waiting staff that we wanted to visit the outside of the resort and he said his brother was a licensed taxi driver and he could do it. At this point we told him yes and that we would meet him back at the restaurant in a few hours time. Little did we know what the rest of the day would hold.

We jumped onto the bus to do our Mangrove tour and our tour guide introduced himself to us and we and about 6 other people threw our life vests on and boarded our small boat into the mangroves. There was several stops along the way and we got to see the old kilns that the locals use for cooking and other roasting needs and a large variety of wildlife as we passed through the Mangroves. There was a huge abundance of snakes in the overhead trees and we were assured that in all his years of doing the tour only one snake had fallen into the boat with some very startled tourists aboard. The tour lasted a good 90 minutes and it was definitely no green peace tour. Most tours in well developed countries now run on the motto of: ‘touch nothing, leave nothing’. But our friendly tour guide encouraged us to take samples of leaves and even different kinds of smelling barks. He was amusing to say the least. After we had done a complete loop of the mangroves we started to head back at pretty fast speeds. This tour was over and we mentioned to the guide that we had solicited a cab for the rest of the day. He informed us that we shouldn’t solicit cabs from locals that aren’t registered with the Bintan Resorts guides and asked us if we wanted to get a registered tour operator to do the trip. We said yes whilst feeling a little sorry for the cabbie we had asked to take us around earlier. We never ended up going to meet with the other cabbie, but I suppose he would of had other commitments in the end anyway – at least thats what we told ourselves. The skies were overcast so unfortunately we missed out on doing some of the other activities that we really wanted to do such as ride an elephant but we knew we would get the chance eventually on future travels.

The registered tour operator met us at the wharf and took us to his cab and handed us his card before setting off to exit the Bintan resort. Usually cars coming in and out must be checked for explosives and what not, but the tour operator had come through here so many times he didn’t need an exit pass. When we came back in later in the day there was a good 15 minute car check before we were permitted entry. (Continues tomorrow on Day Six Part B).

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