From tourist paradise to island with just one car: Can Indonesia's longest sea bridge narrow the divide?

Ms Ramdia rowing a boat at Kampung Air Mas on the Tanjung Sauh island, where Orang Asli indigenous people live in wooden houses on stilts.
Ms Ramdia rowing a boat at Kampung Air Mas on the Tanjung Sauh island, where Orang Asli indigenous people live in wooden houses on stilts.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

In Indonesia’s sprawling Riau Islands province, paradise and poverty collide, as Straits Times’ regional correspondent Arlina Arshad and photojournalist Kelvin Chng have discovered after a three-day trip to Batam and its surrounds on a rickety boat.

We set off early from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Batam’s Nongsapura Ferry Terminal on the morning of July 31. After 45 minutes on a BatamFast ferry, we arrive on the island’s upscale northern region where luxury beachfront hotels and pristine white beaches abound.

Our first stop is Nongsa Digital Park, a multi-million-dollar technological park where we see young Indonesian techies hunching over their Macbooks in bright and airy work spaces overlooking a pond with geese. The park was opened in March 2018 and many of the digital businesses are headquartered in Singapore.  

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