Cheap + Beautiful = Bintan

I’m on the island of Bintan. The internet connection isn’t fast, but it works. I really enjoy the place I’m staying at. I’m staying in a wooden bungalow about 10 feet from the water’s edge. The view is amazing. Lots of little islands are right off the coast.

The cost of everything in Indonesia is so much cheaper than Singapore it is amazing. (and I think Singapore is cheap compared to Australia) I’m really surprised that more people don’t come here. Given the price and proximity to Singapore, I would have thought it would be packed with people. This would seem like a natural attraction for backpackers.

A can of beer here is about US$1.80, and that is at a hotel bar. I’m sure it is even cheaper if you went to a store. A case of beer in the outback near Uluru was US$60 (24 cans). It is even more expensive in Singapore because of the high alcohol taxes. My bungalow is US$13 a night, which is one of the cheapest places I’ve stayed on my trip. Its a single too, so I don’t have to share it with anyone.

The Indonesian currency has a lot of zeros. The exchange rate is 10,000 rupiah to the US Dollar, and the smallest bill is 1,000 rupiah. That means you basically have a wallet full of dimes. I did see some coins during my previous swing through Java/Bali, but they aren’t that common.

I got a cab from the ferry terminal to the place I was staying. As usual, the cab driver had an ulterior motive in trying to sell you something. In this case, he was trying to serve as a pimp. He had photos of girls on his cell phone and kept showing them to me. I’m sure that will only get worse in Thailand.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Bintan became the next big backpacker destination. It has the two biggest selling points of cost and access.

Well, I have to go have lunch and I have an active day ahead of me of doing nothing.


I’ve had a jammed packed couple of days here in Singapore. I’m currently at a McDonald’s at the Singapore Harborfront waiting to take the ferry to Bintan Island, Indonesia. Bintan is like a 45 min ferry ride from Singapore and it, along with neighboring Batam island, are cheap, close tourists destinations for people in Singapore. I have no plans to do any sighseeing or anything else while I’m on Bintan. I’m going to hunker down and edit video. I’m staying at a place on the beach which costs like US$13 a night.

Yesterday (Sunday) I went to the Singapore Zoo. I had heard it called one of the best zoos in the world, and I can see why. Like everything else in Singapore, it is top notch. I got about 30 min of video at the zoo and it will be its own podcast episode.

Saturday, I went with Dave and his girlfriend Mingko to Malaysia to visit a tropical fruit farm and eat durian. Durian is a fruit I’ve never heard of before I came to Singapore, but some people here are crazy about it. It isn’t anything like you’d expect from a fruit. It tastes more like a baked vegetable or a pastry. It is really hard to explain. The fruit itself is large with spikes, with a giant seed in the middle. In the wild, it is normally eaten by elephants or tigers who spread the seed. The smell of durian is so strong that you can’t bring it on the subway in Singapore. Some people at the farm at so much durian, they had enormous piles of durian husks on their table.

I’ve also done a fair amount of just walking around the city. Had dinner in Chinatown and at at a real vegetarian restaurant in Little India. (I’m defining “real” as a place where normally only Indians eat, most everyone eats with their fingers, and they have a sink to wash your hands in the dining room). A meal there was SG$2 (US$1.50). I also went inside a function Hindu temple for the first time.

In terms of sheer variety, Singapore is by far the best food city I’ve visited on my trip. There are hawker stands everywhere where you can find any number of varieties of food. (I’ll have a lot more to say on that in a few days in a post of its own).

I visited the Asian Museum of Culture, which is one of the better museums I’ve been to (Singapore….go figure). The museum covers most of Asian culture from SE Asia to the Middle East. (It omits anything from Korea or Japan which I thought odd. I was told later that it might be a matter of difficulty in getting artifacts from those countries.)

Everyone I talk to says Singapore is expensive. Compared to the rest of SE Asia it is, but coming from Australia, it’s like shopping at Wal-Mart.

I also got to talk at length to several native Singaporeans, and their thoughts on the country are interesting to say the least (more on that later as well). Suffice to say that Singapore is a truly unique country. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

I hope to have internet access somehow on Bintan, but we’ll see. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some sort of connection given its proximity to Singapore.