Well, much to my surprise, I managed to make it out of Port-Gentil in Gabon and back to Libreville in time to catch my flight to London. It turns out that the airport in Port-Gentil is undergoing improvements so that it can handle direct international flights from Europe and that is why it was closed – except for the half day when I managed to escape!
After a few days back in London I’m now in the first city of a month long trip zigzagging across Southeast Asia. I’m in Batam which is part of Indonesia but only a stone’s throw from Singapore – just a 50 minute boat crossing covering the ten mile distance. It’s not the most vibrant place on the planet and the sticky heat and dusty roads are playing havoc with my body’s abilities to cope – let’s hope I don’t have a similar experience to India earlier this year!
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and the locals here have been celebrating Eid, the end of the month of Ramadan, for the past two nights. The rooftop across the street from my hotel room has been the launch pad for fireworks but fortunately the jetlag has meant that I’ve manage to sleep through the racket.
Batam’s proximity to Singapore has helped its rapid development over recent decades and it has become a major industrial port in its own right. Many international companies have set up factories here, taking advantage of cheaper labour and tax incentives not on offer in Singapore. However, if comparing the two, Batam is well behind its neighbour in terms of shopping opportunities and I’ve been rather disappointed by the goods on offer here.
Whilst researching before my trip I had visions of gleaming malls but it turns out the best one, Nagoya Hills Mall, is a tad tatty around the edges and the Carrefour supermarket here leaves a lot to be desired too.
I’m flying to the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, tomorrow and I’m expecting far greater things on the shopping front. I’m sure you’ll be eager to find out what I discover so come back to these pages in a few days’ time to find out!