Batam v Thailand
In December 2006 I had my first visit to Batam. I was sent there on a three to four week contract and, not having been there previously, I was looking forward to checking the place out. The following is based on factual experiences and observations while
If you’re comparing Batam to the LOS, then there is no comparison. The infrastructure base of Batam is well below that of Thailand. Nagoya has one western standard shopping mall but the availability of name brands and quality type goods is well short of what you can find in Thailand. Most of the housing there looks definitely sub-standard, in terms of design and construction, when compared to what you see in Thailand – I saw a couple of estate projects and my immediate thoughts were that it looked like something out of toy town. The roads are a potholed riddled nightmare and make commuting around the island a hazardous exercise.
The company that I was contracted to accommodated me and six fellow employees in the Harmoni Hotel. I would not recommend this place to anyone planning to spend a few days in Batam. The standard of the hotel is actually quite okay, it’s just that it’s directly across the road from a mosque. If you’re okay with the sounds of a wailing minaret, five times a day and beginning at four thirty in the morning, then good luck to you. Most of the tourists, staying at the hotel were Singaporean males who come across for some pay for pleasure action at weekends.
Step out of the Harmonis’ rear entrance and you’re straight into the bar scene / red light area. Regardless of where you are in the world – Bangkok, Pattaya, Angeles or Geylang, a whore is a whore. Most of the expats that hang out at the bars in this area are employed in the offshore / oil industry. The girls who go there know this and, just like the ladies that you find in the red light areas in Thailand, they’re not there for your long term benefit. The strange thing is that a lot of them seem to have this ridiculous notion that they’re not really doing it for money. In direct comparison to a Thai bargirl, Indonesian girls are shorter, fatter and less attractive but, just like their Thai sisters; they’re from the poorer provinces. Most of them, again just like their Thai sisters, have a local boyfriend or husband while an overseas sponsor, or two, sends them a monthly stipend. How do I know this; an Australian, who owns one of the bars (Lucy’s Oar Bar), filled me in on all the details.
The harassment that you get from the touts / motor bike taxi boys is much more aggressive than you’ll experience in Thailand. The attitude that you encounter from the locals who work in the areas frequented by tourists, or expats, is just the same as you’ll find in Thailand; you’re fair game to be scammed, ripped off and cheated. The nightclubs that I went to – the Marine Disco and the one at the Planet Hotel were ecstasy trip out zones. The music was that loud that I could feel my ear drums moving in out and the lighting was dimmed to point where you couldn’t see anyone, just blank outlines.
Batam, essentially, is a supply base to the offshore oil and gas industry and has been for the past twenty five years or so. The economy of Batam has been built on the back of this industry. Most expat foreigners living there have a reasonably high disposable income due to the fact that they work for one of the offshore contract companies. This fairly well sums up the main difference between Batam and the LOS; foreigners don’t go there to retire, they’re there for employment related reasons. Most of the locals living there have come from other areas of Indonesia and are there for one reason only; to earn an income. In this respect it doesn’t differ a lot from Thailand. You have, essentially, a large population of people, from poorer outlying provinces, moving in to take advantage of the money earning possibilities that are available. You can see, of course, exactly where this train of thought is heading to; it’s no different to the situation you have in Thailand where the poor, from the Northeast, move to the cities seeking employment. A poor girl from an Indonesian province is no different to a poor girl from a Thai province (apart from the fact that Thai ladies are better looking); if you get into a relationship with one you’ll still get an instant extended family.
To sum it up: Batam is nowhere near as good as Thailand. As I’ve said, the infrastructure base is well below Thailand’s standard. There are better paces in Indonesia to reside in than Batam; namely Bali and Jakarta. The women are shorter, fatter and less attractive than Thai ladies. Regardless of where you go in the world, a whore is a whore. Thai food is much better than Indonesian food. Thais, generally speaking, are more sophisticated when it comes to ripping you off and, they smile more. The best thing that I can now say about Batam is that it’s a sixty minute ferry ride to Singapore.
I have never been to Batam and likely will never go. From what you say and what others have said, there are far more interesting places in Indonesia.