For the love of Taylor Swift - To Batam, to Johor, before Singapore: South-East Asia’s Swifties go the extra mile


Malaysian Awangku Hashrul (left) will be travelling by bus and train, while Ms Nyimas Larasati Utami will be journeying from Palembang to Singapore via a flight from Jakarta. - PHOTOS: COURTESY OF AWANGKU HASHRUL, NYIMAS LARASATI UTAMI via The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE/JAKARTA (The Straits Times): Thousands of Taylor Swift fans from South-East Asia will be converging on Singapore by plane, bus and even boat, as the singer’s Eras Tour approaches this weekend, beginning on Saturday (March 2).

With a total of more than 300,000 tickets sold for six concerts at the National Stadium, overseas fans have already snapped up plane tickets and hotel accommodation in Singapore.

But others are taking more unconventional routes.

To save on transport and accommodation, some Swifties – as the American singer-songwriter’s fans are called – will be staying in nearby Batam and Johor Bahru before making their way to Singapore on the day of the concert.

Malaysian yoga studio manager Awangku Hashrul, 35, will first take the bus from his home in Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru with a friend the day before the concert on March 3. They plan to spend one night there.

The next morning, they will take the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) train service from Johor to Singapore for the concert, before returning to Johor by train after the show ends. They will stay in Johor Bahru for one more night before returning home to Malaysia’s capital.

“I am trying to save on the costs. Doing it that way is much cheaper. We already spent much on the tickets,” Mr Hashrul told The Straits Times, adding that he bought a concert ticket for about RM2,000 (S$565).

“I am so excited. I think this might be the only chance that I might get to see her performing live. So, it is definitely the tour for me to go to. And I am glad I am going,” he said.

Mr Hashrul said that this way, he gets to spend a total of RM84 on transport, compared with the more than RM540 a round-trip flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore would have cost him.

Meanwhile, staying in a hotel in JB for two nights costs him RM357. In Singapore, a two-night hotel stay would set him back more than RM1,000.

He is not the only fan going the extra mile.

Indonesian Swiftie Tri Surinta starts her minibus, plane and boat journey from Jepara, in Central Java, to Singapore. - PHOTO: COURTESY OF TRI SURINTAIndonesian Swiftie Tri Surinta starts her minibus, plane and boat journey from Jepara, in Central Java, to Singapore. - PHOTO: COURTESY OF TRI SURINTA

Indonesian Tri Surinta, 26, will be travelling by minibus, plane and boat to catch Swift in concert.

Instead of flying directly from Semarang to Singapore, Ms Tri has opted to take a shorter and cheaper flight to Batam, where she will stay the night. The next day, she will take a 45-minute ferry ride to Singapore’s HarbourFront ferry terminal.

The merchandiser in a textile company said: “I choose to transit in Batam instead of flying directly to Singapore because of my budget.”

In line with strong demand for flights to Singapore for the Eras Tour, air ticket prices have increased.

In Indonesia, for example, air ticket prices from Jakarta to Singapore have surged by more than 100 per cent of the regular prices on the dates around the Eras Tour concert period.

A one-way Jetstar Asia flight from Jakarta to Singapore in early March, for instance, could cost 2.2 million rupiah (S$188), up 165 per cent from a month earlier.

Ms Tri took a 2½-hour minibus ride on Feb 29 from her home in the Central Java town of Jepara to the closest airport in the provincial capital of Semarang, where she will stay one night.

From there, she will board a domestic flight to Batam, and spend a night there.

Together with a friend, she will then catch the boat to Singapore on March 2 to attend the scheduled concert that evening.

They plan to spend a night in Singapore and squeeze in some shopping in Bugis Street and Orchard Road the next day before returning to Batam and making the reverse journey home.

Apart from the 5 million rupiah spending money she has, Ms Tri has spent about 4.8 million rupiah on transport and accommodation.

“I am very excited about it, as I have waited for this moment for years,” Ms Tri said, adding that she has already prepared her outfit for the show.

She will be taking friendship bracelets to the concert to be exchanged with other Swifties, an activity that has become unique to Swift’s concerts and is inspired by the lyrics of one of her songs, You’re On Your Own, Kid, which has the line “So, make the friendship bracelets/take the moment and taste it”.

It is not clear how many Swifties are making their way to Singapore via detours through Singapore’s closest neighbours.

But a check of hotels and ferry operators in Batam found that occupancy rates have gone up, while ferry operator Batamfast is offering a $5 discount on tickets for passengers who use popular Taylor Swift album names as promo codes during online purchases.

The occupancy rate at four-star Santika Hotel, which is across the road from the Batam Centre Point International Ferry Terminal, has hit more than 90 per cent for the concert period dates of March 1 to 10, said hotel spokeswoman Yossie Christy Tenu.

“The guests with reservations on those dates plan to visit Singapore to see Taylor Swift’s concert... (Most) come from outside Batam,” she said, adding that room rates have hit a seasonal high.

The room rates range from 800,000 rupiah to 2.5 million rupiah per night.

Still, they are lower than the room rates at a four-star hotel in Singapore, which on average could range from 1.5 million rupiah to 5 million rupiah each night.

Regional officials are stepping up their spiel to those who have yet to firm up their itineraries.

Batam’s tourism agency chief Ardiwinata said he hopes that such concerts by international artistes in Singapore would bring benefits to the Indonesian city, which can be a transit point for tourists.

“We hope those wanting to go to Singapore can stay one or two nights in Batam because the cost (of accommodation) here is cheaper,” he told ST on Feb 26.

Batam Centre Point International Ferry Terminal charters 49 trips a day, with five operators running ferries starting from 6am to 9.35pm.

Passengers can also reach Singapore via four other ferry terminals in Batam.

Still, some fans have been lucky enough to secure good deals for direct flights to Singapore.

Ms Nyimas Larasati Utami, who lives in Palembang, South Sumatra, had initially planned to travel to Singapore via ferry from Batam for Swift’s March 4 concert. But in late September 2023, she managed to find a discounted flight ticket from Jakarta to Singapore for about 800,000 rupiah.

The 27-year-old teacher will fly from Palembang to Jakarta on March 3, before taking an overnight flight to Singapore. After the concert, she and her two friends will stay in a hotel for a night before heading to Johor Bahru for a holiday.

With the cheaper ticket, her journey from Palembang to Singapore via a flight from Jakarta costs about 1.5 million rupiah, which is the same price as the initial planned trip from Palembang to Singapore via ferry from Batam.

“I was very lucky to get the discount,” she said. - The Straits Times/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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