Forget JB, here's 5 reasons why you're better off choosing Batam for your next quick getaway

With tight deadlines to meet, targets to hit and limited AL (annual leave) to take, Johor Bahru (JB) is the usual go-to destination for working professionals in Singapore.

It's great for those who want a short trip "overseas" (Sentosa doesn't count) for some much-needed R&R.

And thanks to our Yusof Ishaks being three times as strong, most of us are willing to endure hours of being stuck in a Causeway jam just to get a breather from our hectic schedules. 

But if you're starting to feel bored with the usual shopping malls, cafes and massage parlours, perhaps it's time for a little change in environment.

Consider Batam -- the seriously overlooked, often forgotten underdog for that one-day sojourn.

Before you eschew the tiny island known for cheap (but really tasty!) kueh lapis, here's why going to Batam may be a better use of your downtime compared to JB.

JAM? WHAT JAM?

If you're a frequent "tourist" in JB, you'll no doubt have experienced the bladder test -- of how long you can hold your pee till you cross the checkpoint. 

Singer Taufik Batisah told us he once spent four hours caught in a jam during the Hari Raya period.

Yes, one alternative is to cross the border via the KTM train, but you'll have to book tickets at least a month beforehand for weekend getaways -- impossible if you're thinking of doing a spontaneous trip.

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On the other hand, ferry tickets to Batam are usually readily available online

Rather than waste a third of your vacation stuck in a seemingly never-ending line, knowing your embarkation and arrival time allows you to plan your itinerary better to make the most of your holiday. 

Pro tip: Don't expect the ferry to always come exactly on time. Factor in at least a buffer time of 15 to 20 minutes because the boat might arrive slightly late.

Get on board, sit down and snooze your way through the journey. Exactly how a holiday should begin.

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CHEAP THRILLS

Since you're already on vacation to treat yourself, are you aware that you can pay a little more to experience the "VIP lounge" in Batam's ferry terminals?

Ferry tickets also have a VIP or business class option so that you get on board and disembark first, much to the envy of other plebeians forced to wait their turn.

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We checked in with Batamfast Ferry who told us that their VIP room rate each way is $150 (excluding ferry ticket cost) and can accommodate between two and nine people.

Note that reservations for VIP treatment must be made at least three days prior to departure date. 

Considering how people drop thousands of dollars to upgrade their seats on flights, what's shelling out a little bit extra for a comfier ride and pampering yourself more?

On the topic of cheap thrills, we're scratching our heads and wondering why the A&W at Jewel Changi Airport is still attracting snaking long queues when outlets in both JB and Batam are relatively empty.

Rub it in the faces of those waiting for hours as you sit back and sip on your root beer float and enjoy the even slower pace of life in Batam compared to JB.

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A "BUFFET" WHERE YOU PAY WHAT YOU TOUCH

On a recent trip to Batam, I discovered the gem that is Serdehana -- a nasi padang restaurant chain across the island with a dining experience like nowhere else I've tried.

Upon being seated, a variety of 15 to 20 tiny platters will be placed in front of you, but "only touch what you want to eat", I was warned.

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The restaurant only charges you for dishes that have been visibly touched based on the "next-level" observation skills of the wait staff.

What they do with the remaining plates of untouched food remains a mystery to me.

My bill came up to $15 for two people and we ate from seven or eight platters till I wanted to pop.

Not bad for a no-waste "buffet", eh?

CHEAPER MASSAGE DEALS

We're developing "horns" in our skulls and other health-related issues stemming from an addiction to our devices and constantly bending over to look at our screen. 

Bad posture is definitely a thing we should look out for and might be the cause of those aches and pains you're feeling.

Feeling up for a massage now? Two-hour ones are the norm in Batam and surprise surprise, they're cheaper than the ones in JB.

I dropped $28 on a two-hour long deep tissue massage at Eska, which is cheaper than all the "affordable JB massage parlours", according to this article.

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NATURE JUST AROUND THE CORNER

We already live in a concrete jungle. Why experience the same thing on holiday in JB?

Although beaches in Malaysia (read: Tioman or Redang) are more well-known, they're hardly accessible and require a lot more planning since they're further away. 

Although lesser known, Batam too has sun-kissed beaches and would probably be your best bet for a nearby seaside holiday that's not in Sentosa.

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If you're someone who loves water sports such as wakeboarding, windsurfing or even fun water-based activities like banana boating, then Turi or Nongsa beach is a good bet.

Batam is definitely under-appreciated and oft-overlooked, so the next time you're stumped for short getaway locations, why not give this tiny Indonesian island a chance?

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joeylee@asiaone.com