One Day in the South: Bintan & Batam

Yesterday, because my itch to see new things and breathe new places got the better of me; because I was adamant about letting Recess Week slip and sleep by without doing something new and going somewhere novel; because school and its fair share of imbeciles had gotten me paceless and cagey – I decided to slip away from routine and rote for a bit.

Two hours on a ferry southward, to the Indonesian island of Bintan was the best fix I could get for my spirit-itch, with the limited time I had, but I’ll call that enough for the moment. Yesterday I saw a mangrove snake – thick and yellow and indolent – lazing in the trees of a mangrove forest. I saw a small boats sitting low in the water, chugging patiently across narrow channels. I spoke in the tongues of my grandparents, and felt an unfamiliar, unexpected sense of intimacy, belonging and pride at being T’ng Nang. I marvelled at a humble mosque layered with eggwhite and eggshells.

And at the end of the day, at the tail-end of my little arc across Bintan and Batam, I came across this sight at Batam Centre, really a town aimed toward Singapore. Unwilling to go home just yet, I sat awhile at the little square opposite the Ferry Terminal as evening life went on around me: the resonant ‘sproing’ of shuttlecocks as they bounced across rackets; the excited screams of little children at play; the immense deep peace of a day ending.


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” | Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Sometimes we venture out to find once again the peace inside us that was always there.



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