Nagoya Hills

So shopping at Nagoya Hills is practically mandatory for the typical visitor to Harbour Bay because a) it’s not that far away b) Harbour Bay Mall is just sad and overpriced c) there is an actual A&W! SO I really liked A&W when I was a kid – especially their waffles and coney dogs and such.


It’s been such a long time since it closed in the Singapore zoo (no idea why) and I haven’t had one of those soft serve root beer floats since. It’s different with Mug root beer, or IBC root beer. This brought back so many memories! I guess you know you’ve lived in Singapore in the 90s when you remember when A&W was at the children’s section in the Singapore Zoo.

I had a fish sandwich, and LZ had a burger. The fried chicken looked the most amazing (after charlottido and hr ordered that), but I’m somewhat leery of unrendered fats (don’t like the taste) in fried chicken, so didn’t try it. I wanted to get a waffle (another fond memory) after the meal, especially since LZ and I shared a meal and ordered an extra sandwich a la carte as we do in Singapore (not being able to finish two entire meals) – but sizes are totally different in Batam and fast food meals have much less carbs and are thus more manageable by single people. But we didn’t get around to ordering a waffle because the A&W service staff take a century to take your order and another to fulfill it. It’s crazy. Throughout the entire duration of our meal there was the same group of people at the counter trying to get their food. And while Indonesians may be used to this speed of service, I certainly am not about to spend fifteen minutes trying to order a waffle (I could make 6 waffles in the Risley dining hall in the same time span) and then sit around for another half an hour while they make my waffle.

This experience is not unique to A&W. On our first day there we ordered bubble tea from a shop in the Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal, just a rather nondescript bubble tea shop that had 50% off on your second cup, but the place was swarmed with staff. They had seven people in total running the outfit. One to take your order, one to stand around looking over people’s shoulders, two to make your drink, one to call out of passers-by to buy their bubble tea, one to pass the bubble tea from the counter to the customers who were waiting for the order.. You get the gist. The Bishan Koi (the most popular bubble tea chain in Singapore which started the idea of luxury bubble teas which are actually brewed instead of being made from a syrup) is run by all of 3 people. One taking the orders, and two preparing the drinks. Each person prepares the entire cup of bubble tea – there is no assembly line where one person adds the sugar, one person mixes the drink, one person seals the cups – everything can be done by a single person. Why? Because it’s freaking bubble tea innit, it’s not exactly rocket science. But this shop had 7 people running it and still we had to wait. It was quite amazing.

At Intrigue, a home decor shop in Nagoya Hills, LZ managed to stand in line for a good half an hour (there was only one person ahead of him). Just so I could buy a pitcher and some easter themed napkins. I wonder if they make it their personal business for things to be run as inefficiently as possible. Even when Charlotte tried to buy her Hello Kitty electric fan, we had to wait 15 minutes for the salesperson to retrieve a new fan from the bowels of the mall and bring it to the shop (which begs the question – why is their storage not in the shopfront itself?) They weren’t intending to get her a new one otherwise, she actually had to request for a fan that was not the display copy. While ordering bubble tea from Cha Time (yes, we drank a lot of bubble tea here somehow), I ordered a taro milk tea with pudding and they had run out of pudding; so the waitress gave me my options and I chose to sub it with rainbow jelly (a sort of cubed fruit jelly made from coconut fibre). And she got that wrong and gave me grass jelly instead (which I hate), so obviously I told her to change it, which would have been done without much/any fuss in Singapore. Instead first she told me it was my mistake (Ha! Fat chance), and then asked me if I could accept the grass jelly one instead (no?), and then told me they were out of rainbow jelly (they literally just served Charlotte a drink with rainbow jelly), and eventually removed all the grass jelly from my drink and served it plain. Well done. The entire process was conducted with a huge scowl on her face (and derision/regret/what-was-I-thinking? on mine) – is it really that difficult to get an order correct? How many bytes of space are in a short term memory? I guess I’ll have to part-time at Koi to find out.

I don’t mean to be racist or nationalist or whatever but there is an enormous gulf between the crap service we get in Singapore and the crap service we got in Batam. I didn’t even know there were different levels of crappitude.

All in all, it has been a most educational/eye-opening experience – I’ll probably be a lot more savvy the next time in making sure that they get my order right or in dealing with difficult people.

p.s. there isn’t all that much to buy at Nagoya mall, you can order kueh lapis from Layers (a pretty established kueh lapis shop) and have your cake delivered to the Layers outlet at the Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal. They refused to give us extra paper bags to split the kueh lapis boxes amongst ourselves because they weren’t bought at the shop, which may explain the Cha Time salesgirl’s extremely bizarre behaviour at refusing to replace my drink. I think for small ticket items like bubble tea it is extremely bad business practice to put any glitches/wrong orders on the salesperson’s tab. Makes them crabby and ridiculous.
p.p.s. There are several amazing (and by amazing I mean hilarious) pirated products sold there though, like “A Body Shop” shower gel, fake gucci/miumiu/furla bags everywhere – they are simply obsessed with Furla
p.p.p.s. A taxi from Harbour Bay to Nagoya Hills costs 40,000 IDR. It will cost 25 000 IDR if you were going for a spa/massage near Nagoya Hills, since the taxi drivers get a 2% commission for bringing you to the spa. If you’re just going to the shopping centre like us, it’s 40 000 after a wee bit of bargaining (originally 50 000). On the way back, all the taxi drivers at Nagoya Hills have sort of banded together to charge 50 000 IDR back to Harbour Bay. It’s a really short journey, so it is possible to find some outlying taxis that will take you for 40 000 IDR, but most of them are reluctant to undercut each other – the price is even printed on a sheet of paper there. In the big scheme of things 50000 IDR is really peanuts ($5 for a cab fare), but at the same time I don’t like being “cheated”/having prices jacked up just because I am a tourist – just as a matter of principle. The drivers there drive with reckless abandon – it’s best to have some religion to hold on to and a firm stand towards where you go in your afterlife if you’re going to take a taxi in Indonesia.

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