Sometimes you just don’t feel like taking another flight, but you really need a short break to invigorate your soul. That’s when we decided to go to Bintan, a beautiful Indonesian Island, which is just a 45 minute ferry ride away from the Changi Ferry Terminal. Photo of it’s white sand beaches taken by actual people on Tripadvisor swayed me. Here’s a tip, which I am sure you’re aware of. Never trust hotel images – you’ll be set up for disappointment.
You could pay double for a first class ferry ticket but I think the normal ticket is good enough. My sister and cousin felt a bit of sea sickness, but I am lucky as I never get sea sick (I love gloating about it too). I actually look forward to the rocking motion of the sea, which makes me feel so alive.
What you have do in Bintan is just one thing – hang out at the beach. This is where Singapore probably gets some of it’s imported sand from. We stayed at the Angsana Bintan, which is a cheaper version of the famous Banyan Tree Bintan Spa Hotel Line. It wasn’t luxury accomodation, but it was pretty good as we booked the adjoining suites which had a seating area in the middle where we played Scrabble at night. Yup, we are nerdy that way. We bring along travel scrabble and cards on our trips. The more arguing and challenges there are over the existence of words, the more fun it is. Especially when there is no dictionary for verification.
The view from the room was lovely and you could hear the roaring of the waves, from the South China Sea. Even through the night you could hear the thundering waves reminding you of the power of nature and how it could crush you if it chose to. Listening to it, you suddenly feel very small and insignificant in the whole scheme of things. I couldn’t help thinking how scarily loud the roar of a tsunami wave would be. I used to know one of the people who was drowned during the Tsunami so it’s particularly haunting to me. The winds here were already very powerful, violently blowing the leaves of the palm trees. We hardly get winds like this in Singapore where the air is usually still, which makes it even more humid and unbearable. All in all, It was good to be in this windy place and I welcomed the strong sea breeze. When we travel, we seek a difference in our environment. If everything is the same, how can that be a good journey. At least for me it’s not.
It was great to wake up each morning and get a glimpse of the beautiful beach. I was heavenly to walk along the beach, digging our toes into sand that felt like flour. This is the kind of exercise I would love to do if I lived by a beach. Walk the shore of the beach every morning and evening when it is nice and cool.
Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera when we went down to swim, but I did have this photo of the sand when we had our dinner, buffet style at Pantai Grill and Bar, which is at the Angsana’s restaurant by the sea. It was pretty dark and I could hardly see my food and the winds were so strong our cloth napkins got blown away. It was quite an experience and it was a thrilling dinner by the sea where we even got a group of live singers serenading us as they strummed their guitars. As I said, this would be a place more suited for couples on their honeymoon. The quality of the food was very good especially the freshly grilled meats and wide array of salads. The daily complimentary breakfast we had at the Lotus Cafe was so good too. I am usually not a breakfast person, but I forced myself to eat because there was so much good stuff including freshly baked buns and crossaints. My cousins went for the fruit and yoghurt as well as the poached eggs. You can have your eggs done any way you choose – scrambled, sunny side up, poached, you name it.
We were very lucky that it didn’t rain the 3 days we were there. Looking at these photos again remind me of how gorgeous the white sands were. It was heaven to sit in stillness by the shore and allow the strong waves to lap over you. To me this is the activity I most look forward to on a beach vacation. The waves were so strong that the deeper you went into the water, it felt like the currants could pull you deep into the sea. I even saw jellyfish and loads of seaweed. Getting seaweed tangled in your legs was the only annoying bit. Also sand stuck in your swim suit was tiresome. The sand was so fine that it was hard to wash it down the sink. Luckily we showered off most of the sand at the swimming pool outdoor shower area, but somehow it still didn’t help because the sand was that fine. I guess you’ll know what I mean if you’ve encountered this tricky problem before.
Even though we didn’t get to stay at the more expensive Banyan Tree Bintan, we were taken on a buggy ride there by the very warm and friendly staff at the Angsana resort which is also owned by the same Singaporean company. The buggy ride itself was fun and you had to hang on as you zipped about the sloping hills of the Banyan Tree Resort. We were brought to the swimming pool by the sea, which was stunning.
This was the view of the Banyan Tree Bungalows from the buggy.
Another lovely activity was going to a Spa that was in the town area called Pasar Ole Ole. The spa which was recommended by the hotel was very good. The hand and foot massages were so relaxing, you couldn’t help but fall asleep. I wouldn’t really recommend the hair treatments, but they were good at just a third of what you would have to pay in Singapore. My sister and cousins reported that their massages were blissful. I think one of them had a chocolate massage, just to try something new. They didn’t quite smell of chocolate after, if you want to know.
After the Spa, we walked around the little town and had a yummy seafood lunch there. We also bought back some tidbits. It is not really worth coming to this town unless you use the spa or have a meal. The place seems to be set up for tourists and has tourist prices.
In the evening we went back to the Banyan Tree poolside restaurant called Treetops for dessert and drinks. The dessert was good but the drinks we had were too dilute. I wouldn’t recommend the cocktails as you had to pay Singapore hotel prices for them. The moon was full and it was very cool and windy. I think it would have been more suitable for a couple. It was so lovely and the photo below hardly captured the beauty of that night.
I would recommend anyone who hates flying to take a ferry here instead. The beach doesn’t compare to the gorgeous pristine Australian beaches, with their wide shorelines – the best I have ever experienced. But the Bintan beach is lovely if all you’ve seen are our Singapore beaches. It’s a great affordable short getaway (within S$300) from Singapore. Although, to be honest, when I go on a trip, I prefer to go at least somewhat cooler than Singapore. Also I like going to places where I don’t see other Singaporeans, or else it doesn’t quite feel like a real holiday. This place is quite filled with Singaporeans, as it is is shorter distance than to most places in Malaysia.