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Batam, Indonesia

At least you never have to cut or rake the yard....

In the equatorial 'winter' of 97, Angie and I made a one day trip to Batam, Indonesia, with our friends Kevin and Scott.  It's a short ferry ride away from Singapore, but as brochure writers are fond of saying, 'A world away, in terms of stress and lifestyle'.

Not to mention hygiene and excitement, if you're a more cynical sort. Which I'm not (at least when I'm traveling, I'm not).
I was looking forward to this glimpse of what Singapore might have been like, pre-Lee Kuan Yew.

My main goal was to visit a kampung, a traditional Malay fishing village, so Kevin called his favorite Batam taxi driver, and we were off for the east coast of the island. In about 45 minutes, we reached Batu Besar, a collection of huts, palm trees, and seafood restaurants.

What can I say about Batu Besar?

A Kampung View

It's quiet.
Sodas are overpriced.
There is a resident monkey.
It's a 'world away from Singapore in terms of stress and lifestyle'.
The bands in the seafood restaurants are quite possibly the worst in the world, which makes them better than karaoke, but not as good as the sounds of waves lapping against the beach. This is my way of saying that there is really no reason for a waterfront restaurant to EVER have a sound system.
The people were Indonesian, which is to say that they were friendly.

After lunch, we headed to Nagoya, the biggest city on Batam. Not much excitement there. We walked through some stores, and looked around. 
Can't say we were looking for anything special. 
Can't say we would have found it even if we were looking.

Basically, Batam is an island that defines itself in terms of its' relationship with Singapore. 
This is like a woman defining herself in terms of her relationship with a husband who happens to be a effective, successful, but bland accountant*.
"I'm the wife of Bob Smith," she'd say to us, at a party. 
"Oh. Who?" We'd reply.

Which is to say that Batam is, like Mrs. Smith, a pleasant enough diversion, but not a destination.

* Here's an important intercultural lesson
- in America 'bland accountant' is a obvious redundancy, but this is the World Wide Web.
For all I know, accountants in some small European countries could be remarkably hip and sexy.
Certainly, accountants in Korea have been responsible for a lot of excitement lately. So the correct thing to do is state 'bland accountant'.

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Batu Besar-style partying