Bintan Beach Bliss
I don’t know about you, but when a long weekend rolls around the first order of business is to LEPAK. Lucky me, here in Singapore I’m surrounded by some of the most gorgeous beach destinations, all within a 2-hour radius no less! Ah, to be spoilt for choice.
For a quick fix beach break, the three Bs – Bali, Batam and Bintan – usually come to mind. Bintan’s the runt of the litter, but this up-and-coming archipelago is every bit a recipe for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway as its two big sisters.
We spent 3D2N in one of Bintan’s most established resorts, Angsana Bintan, and here’s what we found.
Perks of staying at Angsana Bintan
1. It’s only 6km away from the jetty
Hotel check-ins make or break stays for me. Props to Angsana’s service staff for making us feel like royalty from the get-go.
We had all the dreary admin stuff done and dusted even before we finished the refreshments, without us having to leave the lobby chairs. Off to the rooms, in double quick time too!
Bathed in a warm orange hue, our Sea Breeze Room was flooded with warm natural light and decidedly bright and cheery. My favourite feature was definitely the balcony, where I could enjoy the night sea breeze, sans sun and sand.
2. You wake up to a stunning pool + sea view
Any self-respecting resort should have a kick-ass pool. And with three blue hues – the sky, sea and the pool’s cerulean waters – Angsana’s swimming pool is almost postcard-perfect.
We visited during off-peak season, so the pool was uncharacteristically empty; as were the plush fuchsia daybed canopies which we didn’t hesitate to snuggle up in, cocktail in hand. The poolside bar awaited our every beck and call, all we had to do was slip into our bikinis.
With no pesky high-rise buildings dotting the skyline, you’ll bask in the full-force of the Bintan sun, guaranteed to turn your skin tone three shades darker in half an hour flat.
Pity the pool closes at 6pm, barely late enough for us to watch the palm trees turn to silhouettes while taking a dip. Lucky for us, our private beach beckoned.
3. Revel in Angsana Bintan’s own PRIVATE beach
As a self-proclaimed beach bum, no aesthetic makes me happier than salty hair, sandy toes and sun-kissed skin. Post hour-long ferry ride, the 1.5 kilometres of white, powder-soft sand and waters clearer than any shore in Singapore made me happier than a kid in a candy shop.
My extensive research shows that Tanjung Said is a really isolated beach, since (1) it has no Insta geotag, and (2) can’t be found on Google Maps. Which means a people-free beach #OOTD, and pristine shores to channel surreal resort vibes, sure to make all your Instagram followers envious.
It’s only a mere 55-minute ferry ride, but the turquoise waters are a worlds away from that of our man-made coasts. Easily accessible yet not teeming with tourists, Tanjung Said Bay will make all your sandcastle-building, wave-watching, sun-seeking dreams come true. Be still, my beating heart.
The one thing between us and our fun-tastic beach days was the onslaught of nasty sandflies and mosquitoes. Bring this up to the resort staff, and they’ll pass you heaven-sent packets of insect repellent that’ll keep all bugs at bay. (In true Singaporean fashion, we stocked up plenty for our stay)
BONUS: It’s impossible to miss these rocks – photoshoot goals by day, they double up as a dreamy romantic dinner destination come nightfall.
4. Their breakfast spread is GLORIOUS
My favourite part of hotel stays? The breakfast buffet. My least favourite? The breakfast buffet – because arrive a minute after noon and you can kiss your fry-up goodbye. Thank goodness their in-room breakfast saved my lazy bum from going hungry.
If those hunger pangs persist, head down to the Lotus Cafe on the first floor for a solid breakfast buffet spread, featuring both Southeast Asian and International options.
Have their egg chef whip up your breakfast eggs à la-anyway you please, or feast on local delights while you soak up the Bintan sun shining through their full-length glass windows.
5. Rent bicycles for free and explore their gorgeous compound
We zoomed past countless construction sites that seemed out of place juxtaposed with the serene surrounds. Beyond this though, prepare to be rewarded with alternative vantage points for mind-blowing views of the shimmering ocean and pristine sands.
I may have been too engrossed in a photo-taking frenzy to complete the entire route. Imagine walking through the atas Sentosa Cove compound, with golf greens as far as the eye can see, and you’ll understand my struggle.
Fair warning, the morning heat can be as harsh here as back home. Though traffic is relatively light, there are no designated bike paths, nor are there convenience stores for you to seek refuge from the scorching sun. So if you’re looking to meet your calorie-burning quota, sunblock is your best friend.
6. Cry your eyes out as you release baby turtles into the wild
This was, hands-down, the most magical moment of our stay.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I’d witness baby turtles waddling ashore, let alone name and release my very own into the deep blue. Already I had resigned myself to living vicariously through YouTube videos and photos of turtle-hatchlings – until now.
We had no idea beforehand that our hotel stay would coincide with Angsana Conservation Lab’s second hawksbill turtle release of the year; as the hour drew closer we were two balls of excitement, documenting every second of these adorable little reptiles’ first steps.
142 turtle heads-popping up from the sand dune later, we were ushered to a designated spot and told to line up behind mini translucent buckets, each holding a baby turtle which we would later name.
A brief 10-minute encounter was sufficient for me to grow a serious sense of attachment to this little fella. Safe to say, I was reduced to a sobbing, blubbering mess long before he was swept away by the South China sea.
The Conservation Lab averages around 10 to 15 turtle releases per year, so I’d recommend checking in advance if you want to witness their mad dash to the ocean firsthand.
7. There’s SO. MUCH. FOOD.
My diet is pretty much limited to post-9pm discounted bread and ‘whatever-is-cheapest’, but when I’m on vacation, I go all-out. Yes, I’m talking 5 meals a day, errday.
Guests are free to dine at either of Angsana’s Lotus Cafe and Pantai Grill & Bar, or buggy over to neighbouring resort Banyan Tree if you’re in the mood for Thai (Saffron), Indonesian (Treetops) or Mediterranean (The Cove) cuisine.
Every meal was preceded by an amuse-bouche (bite-sized complimentary appetiser) of sorts. Though there were some hits and misses, it wasn’t anything we couldn’t forgive, and the impeccable wait staff made every dining experience just peachy.
You absolutely cannot leave without having their their signature mocktail Angsana Punch (Rp 143,000) – bonus points for being an adorable beach drink! Best enjoyed at The Cove or Pantai Grill, to make the most of the sea breeze.
View from The Cove
But the undisputed champion was – dare I say it – Banyan Tree’s Treetops restaurant, offering authentic Indonesian food fit for royalty. Our meal began with pre-appetiser kerupuk and rice crackers, along with SIX DIFFERENT CHILI PASTES.
Especially noteworthy is Treetops’ Sate Ayam. Served on a mini-BBQ grill, these meat skewers were incredibly generous, and paired with their sinfully addictive peanut sauce, resistance is futile.
When in Indonesia, a plate of nasi goreng is mandatory – this famous fried rice dish is to Indonesia what pho is to Vietnam and kimchi is to South Korea. Worth your time and every inch of stomach space.
1. Speed faster than on an expressway on an ATV adventure
“Very easy, like riding a motorbike,” our guide said reassuringly, though this wasn’t much of a consolation to the driving license-less me. Cautiously I took over the controls from our guide, but this surprisingly klutz-friendly vehicle had me squealing with joy as I whizzed through the rugged jungle trail.
Of course, you shouldn’t go all-out Fast & Furious on your maiden ATV jungle safari. It’s a powerful vehicle, and you’ll encounter the occasional fallen branch or sharp bend along the way.
The ATV does the heavy work for you, so even at a moderate speed you won’t disintegrate into a pool of sweat. As exhilarating as it sounds, don’t make the rookie mistake of hurtling through the jungle full throttle, unless you want to be combing branches out of your hair for the remainder of your stay.
2. Rip it up on a jet ski…
We also tried our hand at the jet skiing, which again proved easier than it looked. As with the ATV, herculean effort isn’t required to man this power-packed watercraft. The key is to keep your hands on the steering wheel, and avoid sudden jerks.
Feelin’ more beach bum than adventurous daredevil? You could let your guide take the wheel and still have a hair-whipping water roller coaster ride, but where’s the fun in that?
4. …or get wet on an old-school kayak
Confession #2: I’ve never kayaked before. Popping my kayaking cherry on the South China Sea was nothing short of daunting, but with the tides on my side (and my guide not far behind) everything went by without a hitch.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that paddling is now second nature to me, but negotiating the waters got easier with time. It amazed me how much leg room I had too, comfortable enough to laze back and enjoy the wind and waves without fear of tipping over.
The adrenaline junkie of your group will be kept thoroughly entertained at the Angsana Bintan Marine Centre – given the paradisal bayfront they have at their disposal, it’s water activities galore with jet skis, stand-up paddling, windsurfing, snorkelling and even stand-up paddling that’ll give you a full rush of adrenaline, good for a year!
5. End it off at Angsana Bintan’s award-winning spa!
Visit a resort without a spa and massage treatment? Blasphemous. I’m no spa-enthusiast, but I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity for a little R&R.
Angsana Spa therapists undergo at least 350 hours of training before they get to actually meet a client, so rest assured you’ll be in good hands. Packages include couple’s massages and Javanese lulur, a treatment once reserved for women born of royal blood. Choose from 15 rooms, 10 of which are open-air, sheltered rooftop pavilions where soft curtains shield you from prying eyes.
I plead guilty to automatically thinking of flights once holidays are mentioned. This resort stay was one of many firsts, including my first time at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. The only direct way to Bintan is via ferry.
I daresay our comfy cushioned economy seats were as roomy as those on Business Class planes. You’ll be well taken care of by the ferry staff, and their menu is pretty reasonably priced jic you get peckish. Unfortunately I fell into a deep slumber on both ferry rides, so I can’t speak for how good it actually tastes.
More than meets the eye
This vacay turned out a winner on all fronts, especially for its wonderful service and sheer accessibility. Even with 3 days we had to give many of their regular hotel happenings a miss, from yoga to a local fishing experience, and even an activity enigmatically titled “Jungle Survival”.
Our weekday stay saw few other guests, save when the turtle release occurred. I guess the best way to think of Bintan is as a ‘budget-Maldives’ of sorts, ideal if you’re looking for an idyllic resort vacation far closer to home.
Under the same family of brands as Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, Cassia and Dhawa, Angsana Bintan is a beachfront resort nestled in Tanjung Said Bay overlooking the South China Sea. Boasting a myriad of activities under the sun, an award-winning spa and stylish suites, they promise a back-to-nature experience that’s your perfect beach retreat.
Address: Jalan Teluk Berembang Laguna Bintan, Lagoi 29155 Bintan Resorts Indonesia
Price:: Average $200/night
Contact: +62 770 693 111
This post was brought to you by Angsana Bintan.