Sunday, July 14, 2019

Batam, Indonesia

The Riau Islands are an Indonesian archipelago about 19 km (12 miles) south of Singapore.  The three main islands are Batam, Rempang and Galang.  These three are collectively called Barelang and there are a few other small islands.

Batam is the largest city with a population over 1,2 million people.  It is part of a free trade zone and is the second most popular tourist destination in Indonesia.

On Friday I took a 45 minute ferry ride from Singapore to Batam.

The Barelang Bridge is the only bridge in Batam that connects it to the other nearby islands.

It actually consists of six different bridges and stretches 2,25 kilometres (1,4 miles).

Bridge I is the Teuku Fisabilillah Bridge connecting Batam Island and Tonton Island.  It is 642 metres long and resembles San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.  It's a popular spot to take photos.

From Batam it takes about 40 minutes to get to the Galang Refugee Camp.  It operated from 1979 to 1996 and about 250,000 refugees passed through it.

The 80-hectare (about 200 acre) facility was a UN High Commission for Refugees camp that helped Vietnamese Bota People and asylum seekers with temporary accommodation until they were resettled in the USA, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Australia and some European countries.

Facilities included camps, churches, hospitals and schools.  Today the camp is a museum and about 6.000 visit every month.  Many visitors were once housed in the camp before being relocated elsewhere.

Dragon fruit is local to Batam and after riding around the islands for a while there was a quick stop for a dragon fruit juice.  Quite refreshing.

The Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Buddhist Temple is the biggest Buddhist temple in Indonesia.  Supposedly in all of Southeast Asia.

Batam made for an interesting day trip.  Though I think it is much more popular as a cheap holiday getaway.

Update:  March 2020 - The Vietnamese refugee camp on Galang Island is now closed to tourists.  The government has built a hospital there for COVID-19 patients.

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