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Smiling Hill Development in Batam

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Batam Lifestyle

Batam is a warm, welcoming, relaxed, colorful, interesting and cosmopolitan community with increasingly modern facilities and services.

Its strong economy and business and employment opportunities have made it a magnet for newcomers and a melting pot of ethnic groups from throughout Indonesia plus Chinese-Indonesians, Singaporeans, Indians, Japanese, Koreans, mainland Chinese, Filipinos, Taiwanese and Westerners.

The climate is pleasant, costs are low and it is an ideal base from which to explore the fascinating Southeast Asian region.

Batam has five championship-standard golf courses with first-class facilities and modest fees plus several major resorts and two marinas. It is surrounded by extensive waterways and interesting island communities (many of the kampong people still live semi- traditional lifestyles).

There are plenty of restaurants (many offering international foods) plus traditional open-air food courts where you can enjoy inexpensive and delicious local cuisine and cheap beer under balmy evening skies (seafood is a specialty).

As in most of Indonesia, the local people are hospitable, tolerant and generally welcoming and helpful. Newcomers who attempt to speak some Indonesian are particularly well received.

The price is right

House prices, rents, local food, clothing, cars, transport, appliances, household goods and personal services are cheap. A man's haircut will typically cost around US$2, a one-hour therapeutic massage less than US$10 (including tip) and a typical taxi ride around town about US$3.

Large, modern, conveniently located and well-stocked shopping centers are already operating and more are being built. Domestic help costs are low. A live-in maid to take care of the cleaning, laundry, shopping and food preparation will cost approximately US$100 a month and a driver/handyman just a little more.

Batam residents have easy access by modern fast ferry to the medical, financial, commercial, shopping and cultural facilities of Singapore, one of the world's great cities.

They also are only about 90 minutes from Changi Airport - Southeast Asia's busiest hub and regularly voted one of the world's top airports.

From there, you can fly with cheap budget carriers to Asian cities and easily reach just about anywhere else in the world (the flipside is that it's just as easy for friends and family to visit).

Expats can also easily and cheaply explore the fascinating Indonesian archipelago from Batam's small, but decent Hang Nadim Airport.

Hang Nadim boasts one of Southeast Asia's longest runways and offers a busy schedule of domestic jet services throughout Indonesia. From August 2008, Air Asia commenced direct international services between Batam and Kuala Lumpur.

Frontier vibe

Amid all of this, Batam remains young, brash and new and has many of the elements of a "frontier" or modern "Gold Rush" (or perhaps "Oil Rush") town. Extensive development continues and much of the island is inevitably unfinished, unkempt and messy.

Until recently, authorities have struggled to keep up with infrastructure services (electricity connections increased by an average of 29 percent a year from 1993 to 2003), meaning many businesses install backup generators and supplementary freshwater supplies. Municipal services like the maintenance of public areas and refuse collection are deficient.

Heavy industry and construction traffic (plus periodic tropical downpours) mean many of the roads are broken up and in a seemingly perpetual state of disrepair.

Still emerging

In short, Batam is still emerging from a "third world" look and feel and sometimes experiences interruptions to power, water, telephone and Internet services (though progressively less so).

Yet more and more areas of leafy suburbs and substantial public buildings are emerging to provide a hint of the Batam of the future, particularly in established downtown areas. Long-time residents from Australia, Europe and North America invariably comment on the rapid improvements over the past five years.

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