GENERAL INFORMATION OF BATAM ISLAND
is one of the 3,000 islands, which make up the Riau Archipelago
and is closest to Singapore, which is only 20 km away or twenty
minutes by air-conditioned ferry. It has a rapid-growing population
of around 100.000. As the island develops into a major industrial
and tourist area, it attracts an ever-increasing population from
other Indonesian islands who see Batam as a haven of opportunity.
Once almost uninhabited, save for a few scattered fishing communities,
Batam's history took a sharp turn beginning 1969, when it became
support base for the State-owned 'Pertamina oil company' and its
offshore oil exploration. In 1971 a presidential decree designated
it as an industrial area and in 1975 the Batam Authority was formed.
In 1978 Batam was established as a bonded area.
In addition to the oil support industries of Batu
Ampar and a fast growing electronics industry, Batam now attracts
increasing numbers of tourists. Many come from Singapore for a short
holiday with friends and family, duty-free shopping and great seafood.
The visitors to Singapore hope over for a day or weekend trip.
International standard hotels and numerous economy
establishments cater to the expanding demand for accommodation.
Business, as they say, is booming. An island two-thirds the size
of Singapore, Batam progresses by leaps and bounds. Where virgin
jungle once stood are now whole new towns, mosques, churches, temples
and supermarkets, soon to be followed by reservoirs with enough
water to supply a population of 800,000 and for industrial use,
an airport-to become an international gateway - a fine telecommunication
system, well equipped industrial parks, and the beginnings of a
large new urban center.
Administratively, Batam enjoys a unique status under the Batam Island
Development Authority (BIDA). The island is duty-free. The holiday
market, this means duty free shopping in town, hotel shops and the
ferry terminal. For the businessmen it means wide-ranging opportunities
for investments. While all this change takes place, Batam has retained
pockets of rural charm, peaceful spots with quiet beaches. Fishing
villages supply delicious fresh seafood to visitors. White sand
beaches are fringed with palms and kampung life carries on almost
undisturbed. Batam makes a great break.
One of Batam's biggest attractions is the fresh
and delicious seafood. Giant prawns, live still crawling crabs,
live fish taken straight from nets in the sea, lobsters, clams and
shellfish are cooked in a variety of styles and all delicious. Try
the local 'gong-gong' conch shell where the succulent meat inside
is fished out with a pin and dipped in a spicy sauce before eating.
The native people of Batam are Malay origin, but with the rapid
growth and development of the area various ethnic groups from all
over Indonesia has come here in search for jobs and a better life.
Traditionally, most of the people live in coastal villages, while
the "Orang Laut" (sea people) continues to live on boathouses
and boats and generally fish for a living. Some of their catches
are sold to Singapore. 'Bahasa Indonesia' is the language used to
communicate among the multi-ethnic population here, while many now
also understand English, which is commonly used in business communication.
Even if Batam is multi-ethnic it is still the Malayan culture and
Islam, which forms the root of the local culture. Both daily life
and the ceremonies have religious and mythical elements, expressed
in dance, music and other forms of art. Some of the most popular
traditional dances are Jogi Dance, unique for Batam, Zapin Dance,
which reflects strong Arabic influence, Persembahan Dance, to welcome
honored guests and Ronggeng Dance, where the guests can be invited
to come up and join the dance and song.The Mak Yong drama is a dance
and song performance, which tells the story about a country named
"Riuh", commonly believed to be the origin of Riau province
name. This country is governed by a wise and popular king, who one
day to his surprise and embarrassment is told that his princess
have given birth to an animal called "Siput Gondang" (the
gondang snail). Upset by this event he orders the newborn to be
expelled to the jungle. A couple of years later he is told that
the snail has begun to grow, and he asks for the snail to be brought
to the Royal Palace where the shell is broken. To his surprise and
joy he can see a beautiful princess appear from the broken shell,
and he names her Putri Siput Gondang (Princess Siput Gondang), celebrations
are then held for seven days and seven nights.
But also other cultures contribute to the Batam
community, and in the "Padepokan Seni" art center in Sekupang
we can see arts and crafts from all over Indonesia, as well as various
kinds of performances, which are staged every day for the visitors
and tourists. Another art center in Sekupang is "Desa Seni",
Indonesian art village, which main objective is to "maintain,
conserve and develop the Indonesian culture", and also to manage
the Cultural Institute where qualified instructors conduct various
shows and courses.