“Sure, let me get my husband,” she said in Bahasa Indonesia.
A bespectacled man came out. He said he was the owner of the house and he is Singaporean.
While he candidly shared with us the details of how he came to own a single-storey terrace house in Batam and how much it had cost him, he was less forthcoming with his name and who the woman in his house is.
Wanting to be known only as Mr Chan, the 62-year-old retiree said the woman would look after the house for him when he’s away in Singapore.
He said she is a maid “in a way” and gets paid a “small amount”.
“She gets a free place to stay in return for looking after the place,” said Mr Chan.
He said he goes twice a month and stays for three to four days each time. The house cost him $40,000 five years ago.
Mr Chan was like other Singaporean men we approached – evasive and sheepish.
One of the wives from Happy Garden spotted a Singaporean man married to a local woman and alerted us. But when we approached him, he denied that he’s Singaporean.
The women, too, did not want to get their men involved.
The only Singaporean man who agreed to be interviewed and photographed was Mr Mohamed Abdullah, 34, an undertaker who first went to Batam 13 years ago.
He told us that met his Indonesian wife from Yogyakarta, Madam Stefany, 29, a housewife, in a shopping centre in Batam three years ago.
It was love at first sight and they married two years ago.
He spends most of his time at his home in Happy Garden, which he bought three years ago for $15,000.
Of his decision to move to Batam, he said: “I used to come here over the weekends to play jackpot, jalan-jalan (sight-seeing) and sing karaoke.
“I’m an only child. After my parents passed away, I sold my one-room HDB flat in Bedok and bought a house here.”
He travels to Singapore only when he gets a call from his boss for jobs or before his 30-day tourist visa expires.
Most of his days are spent working around the house and taking care of his wife and 5-month-old daughter.
He also helps out at his friend’s cargo company occasionally.
He said: “Singapore is quite expensive. To live and work there, you would have to work very hard.
“Here, it’s more relaxed and I feel freer.”
What does he think of Singaporean men who keep secret mistresses in Batam?
“It’s dangerous. If you’re not married and live together here, you can be arrested and fined. It’s also not right to (have two families).”
He said this was his second marriage. He was divorced from his first wife, a Singaporean, 10 years before he married Madam Stefany.
He showed us his marriage certificate and said: “We’re seriously married and have the proper marriage documents, unlike some who don’t.”
This article was first published in The New Paper.