Strip away the glitz and glamour of a getaway, hunker down to the basics and what you get is a refreshing escape with plenty of space to reconnect with others around you and to be one with nature.
Time slows down and serenity unfolds when you arrive at Blue Mountain Kelong. Was it the cool sea breeze, the lull of the waves, being surrounded by the remoteness of it all or the digital detox having an instant effect?
I wondered too if our urban nine-year-old would survive the next three days and two nights (without air-conditioning). Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find never a dull moment for her and to experience the enchantment of new discoveries through her eyes.
Living with Water Below Our Feet
Built in 2002 by Singaporean founders – the late Lincoln Ong and his wife Daisy, Blue Mountain Kelong was designed with the concept of self-sustainability and a vision to propagate change and empowerment, to benefit the locals.
The offshore platform, located off Pulau Jemera, is about two hours south of Singapore (a 70-minute ferry ride from Harbourfront, a 20-minute bus ride away from Batam’s city centre and a 25-minute domestic boat ride from Telega Punggur Domestic Ferry Terminal). On the long weekend we were there, Blue Mountain Kelong was full house with about 40 of us, so we arrived in style via a chartered speedboat instead of a motorised sampan.
I broke out into a smile as I stepped onto the kelong made of Javanese wood, with the waves lapping beneath my feet. The vast expanse of the sea before my eyes thrilled me and I could not wait to check out our living quarters and the island beyond.
There is a choice between a four-bedder room and a family room with four bunk beds (for eight persons). Both options come with one and two en-suite bathrooms respectively.
Despite being around for 15 years, the rooms are well maintained, beds comfortable and bathrooms clean.
The long structure also incorporated decks for fishing and stargazing, a few cosy areas for get-togethers, a corner stocked with books and board games, hammocks for lazing around, as well as a private area for great traditional Indonesian massages.
Fun with Fishing
Like any kelong, this was constructed for fishing, with nets positioned according to the direction of the tide, and with light bulbs to attract mollusks at night.
We saw a huge squid in its translucent skin sashaying amidst the schools of tiny fishes below our feet. And when we dropped the hook and line into the clear green waters as amateur fishermen, we were quickly rewarded with garfish, parrot fish, zebra fish and more species than we could identify.
Squeals of delight reverberated each time someone made a catch and a communal celebration ensued. I couldn’t decide which was better – the joy of fishing for them or having such a fresh catch to eat.
But to the youngest in our group, fishing was the best fun to be had. With her squid bait and rod, courtesy of Blue Mountain Kelong, she even reeled in baby crabs with purple shells.
Jungle Trekking Adventure
50 acres of preserved forestry beckoned us from our kelong, and we set off on a hike inland not too long after settling in.
Unlike the manicured paths we are used to back home, the trail was thick with vegetation and our guide slashed away to clear the way for us.
A friendly family of four kampung dogs accompanied us deep into the forest as we trudged along with our poles, and made our way back via an interesting coastal walk filled with rocks, shells and tiny sea creatures.
Loot from the Eco Garden
Near the coast sits a rustic kampung and an eco garden where the staff of the kelong tend fruits and vegetables for our consumption and for commercial sale. It was an educational walk for our young one to see how food actually looks like at ground zero.
It was a fruitful trip too, as we brought home half a small suitcase full of freshly harvested Indonesian bananas, papayas, melons, brinjals, ginger and chilli, all for just S$6.
Sampan Ride to the Tunjuk Beach and Island
Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the nearby Tunjuk Island. With an in-house powerboat at our disposal, we waited for the skies to clear and headed to the beach.
Along the way, we found out that our masseuse lived on that island. She kindly showed us around, and led us to her kampung home where she had set up a quaint mini provision shop on the front porch.
It was a poster picture of an idyllic island life with chickens, cats and dogs living in harmony. There was a mix of wooden and mostly concrete houses, with water from wells, solar panels and a satellite dish to serve them.
Our next most exciting find was a starfish along the white sand beach amongst tiny hermit crabs and more fish.
Fresh Home-cooked Indonesian Cuisine
We had plenty of seafood for our meals, from sweet crabs and gong gongs to fish, prawns and sotong. And because of our catch, we had fresh fish as an extra dish with every meal.
The cooking was home-styled and served as a buffet spread, and none of the dishes were repeated.
From start to end, Blue Mountain Kelong took care of every meal and the transport arrangements from Batam Centre Ferry Terminal. We could order beer and freshly plucked coconuts for juice from the “canteen” on the kelong. The staff remembered our orders the old school way with no accompanying paperwork, making us feel very much at home rather than at a commercial entity.
With a slower pace of life, no chock-a-block itinerary to follow, time to play, reflect, marvel at the sunrise and bond over shared experiences and new discoveries, the trip was a meaningful one for young and old alike.
Throughout our stay, I kept pondering on the meaning behind the name – Blue Mountain Kelong. In Teochew, the island is called “ou sua”, which means black hill because it looks black from a distance. The owner, Aunty Daisy, shared that they changed the name to the more pleasant-sounding Blue Mountain.
Indeed, after the short but rejuvenating getaway, we could look up to the blue skies with fresh insights and perspectives of life and nature. With renewed relationships and newfound strength, we could conquer mountains before us.
Blue Mountain Kelong
Tel: 9384 2929
Location: On Pulau Jemera, an island east of Pulau Rempang, Riau Islands Province, Indonesia. Pick-up and drop-off from Batam Centre Ferry Terminal.
From S$188 per adult, or S$148 per child for a two-day one-night stay during the peak seasons.