Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A journey, a Christmas, Batam Island - Indonesia

So folks I am finally back on the road after it seems like ages, but actually just over a year. I blinked and it's Christmas too. Luckily, I have been saved from a Japanese Christmas this year. Yes, Christmas exists in Japan, and quite a big deal it is too. There are trees, decorations and on Sunday we went to a shopping centre in Kamiooka that was nearly as busy as some of the ones in Melbourne.
BUT there's no real understanding of Christmas. Christmas cake is white sponge with a lot of cream, and the most popular place for a Christmas meal is KFC. Well, they do have Santa's colours I guess.
As for understanding the religious significance of the day, which even your staunchest atheist understands, forget that!

Just before midnight we flew out of Haneda Airport on the 23rd. Haneda is Tokyo's second airport, much smaller and quieter than Narita. My Japan Post debit card didn't work in the ATMs there (and it doesn't work anywhere overseas) so I was a little miffed at that. To say the least. Seems they shut down ATM services at night even if the ATM you use is working. And over holiday weekends (which it was) it also shuts down - the network that is.
I slept better on the bus to Tokyo than the packed flight to Kuala Lumpur. It was a bit of a shocker - full plane complete with screaming kids, nine seated across so very little room. But for the price Air Asia can't be beaten and their service is easily the best I've experienced on a budget airline.

Transfer over five hours at the budget terminal in KL was fine - slept a couple of hours on some very dirty seats, then double checked details for this place - Batam Island.

We arrived in Singapore shortly after midday Monday and customs and baggage were so fast it was almost painless. Took the MRT to Habour Front where ferries for Batam Island left. Similar to Japan, everything is sort of centred around the shopping malls in Singapore. We entered one side, walked through a seriously busy mall to the ferry terminal, still inside the mall. Bought our ticket (boy were we tired by this point) and had to clear customs again to take the ferry.
Above is the inside of the ferry. It scooted across the bay between Singapore and Sentosa Island. Last year I took the cable car ride above the ferries. This time I was on the ferry looking up!
Looking up from the ferry.
I probably should have got up on the ferry roof for better photos, but bang! Out like a light. Woke five minutes from Batam Island. Customs - nice and easy, visa on arrival, nice and easy (if a poor exchange rate. 10 US dollars does not equal anywhere near 18 Singapore dollars) and I was in country number 68 - Indonesia.
It's poorer than Singapore and Malaysia, that much you see right away, but this place half operates on Singapore dollars. It's not nearly as poor as some places, and is a special economic zone, I understand. Hotel is very nice for the price, Christmas breakfast even included roast chicken but I presume that turkey won't happen today. Driving on the left - not what I expected but chalk another one up for the southpaw drivers! 
This place is supposed to be a bit seedy - it's called Nagoya and a far cry from its Japanese namesake. However everything I've seen so far has been well above board. It has a huge shopping mall too, where Christmas Day should include a chance to see 'The Hobbit'.
Wherever you are this Christmas Day, 2012, Happy Christmas!
View from the hotel room

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