You see, our timeshare comprises of one resort and four apartment locations. Not a bad deal huh? All of them are in Thailand, save the odd one that is Angsana Bintan. For some reason it is part of the deal. Well, since we have not been there, why not try it?
Bintan is 45km southeast from Singapore and an hour’s ride by ferry. While it cannot compare with the pristine waters of the Maldives, it offers somewhat a good alternative to rest, relax and rejuvenate before getting back to the hustle and bustle of Singapore.
Take the 11am ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry terminal. After a disappointing visit to Plaza Lagoi we returned to the resort to spend time exploring the place.
|Tip: check it in. No space for a trolley luggage onboard.||Like the airport, we had to check in the luggage if we are not planning to carry on. And we came to the terminal about 1.5 hours ahead. Bintan is Indonesia, so passports needed!
We had time for breakfast of mee rebus and toast before heading in the boarding area.
|It will be an hour’s journey.|
|The journey to Bintan itself is uneventful and the ferry has a small café. Most folks are headed to the same cluster of resorts. While there are shuttles that can be arranged at Bintan, best make this ahead of your trip.||We are on our way to BBT, a terminal in the northwest part of Bintan.
It is also the nearest point to get to our destination – the Angsana, which is located on the Northern coast of the island.
|Upon arrival, we took the transfer to the resort and dropped off our luggage.
Taking the free shuttle to Plaza Lagoi, we searched for lunch and found this one restaurant where we had our first meal in Bintan.
|Plaza Lagoi is not fully developed and much of the place is still unoccupied.The daily shuttle to Lagoi bay is at 12pm and the return at 3:30pm. We wasted time here and nothing was noteworthy of a visit. Today’s Sunday and quite a crowd as the locals headed to the beach. A series of stalls selling food was open.
Perhaps it will be bustle with more activity when the place is fully opened and all the hotels slated to for development is complete. There are 4-5 hotels signage that we saw on the way back.
|We had ourselves a one-bedroom unit, which comprises a hall with kitchenette and a large connected balcony. Not that the kitchenette will be of any use, since we found out that there are no amenities to support self catering. However this trip was not meant to be cooped up in the room and we soon set about to explore our environs.||First stop – the beach.|
|The beach has pure white sand and is really rather beautiful. No oil slicks here or smelly water. What a surprise!||The rock boulders that the site is known for (pictures of it are in all the brochures) separates Angsana from the Banyan Tree. It will take a flight of stairs to get to the Banyan Tree resort.
The boulders are said to be naturally formed over long periods of time and deposited all over the beaches of the island. Large and small, they form a natural protection against the sea waves pounding the shoreline.
|In the evening, you can have dinner on one of the larger boulders, overlooking the sea. It is one way to spend the evening enjoying the setting sun.
We continued our exploring and walked up to Saffron restaurant that overlooks the cove and beach area. Recommended for lunch with its views.
|Today our dinner will be at the “The Kelong” restaurant. It is not a real kelong in the sense o fishing platform – just the name.
It is a seafood restaurant located in within the Nirwana group of resorts. Every evening at 6:30pm there is a free shuttle from the Angsana to the restaurant. The return is at 8:15pm.
The pricing here is slightly better than at the resort restaurants and of good quality.
|Be careful with ordering fish and lobsters, as they are charged by weight.||Prawns on the other hand are not (by plate serving) and quite a good value for quality.|
|In addition to the restaurant, there is an adjoining bar (the “Calypso”) that juts out into the sea. Enjoy the breeze here over a glass of liquor perhaps late in the night. It is suppose to be a reggae bar, but when we were there, no music was pumping…just a few couples enjoying the quiet and the stars on a cloudless night. Nice if you like it that way.|
The thing about the Angsana Bintan resort is its “isolation”. If you are one for a quiet solace without the hustle and bustle of thousands of other people, AND you do not mind the prices (as in money is no object), then this is the place for you. This applies to the entire resort cluster that is actually remote and relatively inaccessible to the public.
Plaza Lagoi is touted to the next nexus of resort with a supposed generous dose of public access. But then as you would have seen in the preceding sections above, it is largely under developed or progressing at this time (Sep-15).
Melvin went for a trail walk in the morning while Suan slept in. We then spent some time playing at the recreation center and went to the conservation center for turtle watching.
|Today Melvin went on a ranger trail walk in the forests just around the resorts while Suan enjoyed her beauty sleep.
The guide took me through the mixed forest, showing me large pandan, Tongkat Ali (local aphrodisiac plant) and pitcher plants along the way, before we headed up to a look out that affords views of both the Banyan Tree and Nirwana resorts.
|We are facing north and the “mountain” like features that we can see in the distant would be in Johor, Malaysia.|
|It’s really that near! Well its only 45km from the little red dot right?
Of course we could also see to the west, in the distant which will be Batam island. We cannot see Singapore from here as Batam blocks the way but the sea view on this sunny day was gorgeous!
|Continuing on the trek, we came across dead falls – evident by the large fungus that are growing on the bark – ie that the tree is rotting on the inside.|
|The afternoon was spent playing pool at the recreation centre, to work off the heavy lunch. For a first timer, Suan did pretty well! She beat Melvin! The centre is also where kids can learn to paint batik prints on canvas all day long ↓||Lunch today was at the Lotus, the resort restaurant. Prices here may be higher, but we actually found that some of the items are actually good value for money.
For example, we had the “Catch of the day” – which prepared in the Jimbaran style, is not only savory but also generous in portion.
The preparation and the quality is very good and well justifies the price charged… My King Prawns were a little less bountiful, so ordering the “right” item will be key!
|Coming back to the resort, Suan joined me at the conservation centre of the resort. Banyan Tree has a conservation programme – one in which both Hawksbill and Green turtle babies are nursed before being released into the sea. In the late afternoon, it was time to visit the conservation centre once again for a presentation by the resident biologist. It was explained how the resort is attempting coral planting (just like the other resorts of Banyan Tree).
One interesting nugget of knowledge : you cannot make hard boiled eggs out of Turtles’ eggs!
|We took an evening walk by the beach and rock boulders once again, this time spying on the structures set in the sea. These are dinner platforms for couples that seek privacy and exclusivity. Our dinner would be at the Kelong restaurant again, taking the 6:30pm shuttle.||Our fare today is humbler,|
|though we still had the usual prawn dish – it is the only seafood that is not priced by the gram. Be careful when ordering fish or lobsters! Don’t overpay and verify with the waiter. Then it was back to the resort where we enjoyed a nice evening drink before turning in for the night.|
If you are a Banyan or Angsana regular, you would know that the all their oceanic resorts comes with a conservation station. Fulltime biologists, zoologists man these stations. They conduct talks for guests and frequently organize treks too.
In Bintan and also their Maldives resorts, there are turtle sanctuaries where the babies are incubated and nursed till they are deemed fit enough to be released into their natural habitat. And in most of their resorts (not this one), there are also programs to support local crafts and cultures. For budding YOLOs, this might be a good avenue to go travel the world…
Again today Melvin went for a bike ride with the resort guide to the nearby kampong. It was a rainy rest of the day which we spent playing table tennis and when the rain stopped, took to the beach for walks.
|As with yesterday, Melvin was the sole participant of the guided bike tour. It was been quite many years since Melvin last cycled and was initially wobbly. We biked around the golf course first but as we had time, we headed across to the nearby kampong, where ~60 families still live on their farms.|
|The population of Bintan is ~300,000 on an island of ~2400km². Its history is closely tied with Johor, for which it was part of for a long period of time since the 16th century. It is considered the centre of Malay culture when the sultanate was based in Bintan.
Its reputation as a “pirate island” dates back centuries and it is said that Chinese ship logs (up to the Sung dynasty) reported being robbed or forced to trade when entering the narrow straits that stand between Bintan/Batam and Singapore.
|In the afternoon, we took a stroll by the iconic swimming pool of the resort. We had not swam here these few days as it was normally packed with Chinese tourists. However at the height of the heat it was quiet here.|
|Our lunch today was again at the Lotus restaurant. It was such a chore to get a transport (which costs RP175k one way) to restaurants outside the resort.
The cost of transport added on to the “cheaper” meals outside the resort probably negates the expected savings.
|At least here the portions was generous.||In any case we were just plain lazy.|
|It was raining and so not to||waste any time, we are back||at the recreation centre again. Seems we are the only ones to frequent the recreation centre regularly. Here you can learn and practice painting motifs for batik and bring home your art with you! We simply decided to play table tennis.|
|It was a good thing we stayed indoors for it poured tropical for nearly 2 hours! Now you just need to be prepared for this. It’s the tropics right?||Surprisingly no one came to the recreation centre despite the rain! So we had the place to ourselves and played till the rain ended.|
|It’s time we took a walk on the beach where there was almost no one. We had a private beach all for ourselves! Again the swimming pool was void of people, who have all left for shelter away from the rain. Perhaps they went back to their rooms?||Empty pool greeted us as we||stepped out after the rain.|
|The rain’s over||and the rainbow has emerged. There must be a pot of gold in the sea just off the beach! Now if this was Ireland…perhaps there would be a Leprechaun
We are back on the beach again to take photos of the natural phenomena of light and water…
|and there is no one else to share room with! Again!|
|Time flies and pretty soon it was close to dinner time. This evening we had hoped to catch some star gazing on a clear night and it appears that the clouds were still around.
At least the air adventure folks have continued to fly their ultra light seaplane – they were buzzing in the air. We sure want to try it out the next time (costs RP1.2mln for a 20 minute flight per person).
As the evening came to fore, the sun clouds began to dissipate and
|we have long shadows cast on the beach.|
|Seems like we may have a chance to see the stars tonight!
The setting sun provided many photo opportunities and fun with shadows. We walked to the end of the beach (demarcated by rock boulders) before heading back.
|As the sun disappeared over the horizon we made our way to the Lotus for our dinner. No heading out to the Kelong tonight!
We finally had Pisang Goreng tonight with chocolate ice cream. The resort did not have this for the last 2 days!
|Topping off the day, we took a night walk by the beach where we were able to gaze at the stars on this near cloudless night. They say one of the best spots to view the stars is at the Calypso bar at the Kelong restaurant! If you are staying at Bintan lagoon resort, you may see sky lanterns every Friday-Sunday.|
Be prepared for short but heavy showers. The sun that comes out after that will make it look it never rained. But beware of the seasons. No winter or summer, but there is a Hot or Hotter as well as a Wet or Wetter pattern in the year.
Today we said farewell to Angsana as we took the ferry home…
|This morning was a lazy one as we woke up at 9am and tossed in bed till 10am. Then it was packing up and checking out at 12pm. No charge here, we were using our time share for the four days.
We spent an hour at the lobby reading and playing games before taking the transfer at 1:30pm to Bandar Bentan Telani terminal, 10 minutes’ drive away.
We decided not to check in our trolley luggage as they were light and probably faster to clear customs than to wait for the download from the ferry.
|The terminal is small and only a few shops – mostly tour companies with 2 small cafe/shops. Laguna/Banyan has a counter for concierge services. Outside the terminal, coach buses wait for the incoming folks to be transported to the various resorts. The view of the bay area is nice even at low tide and we could see the terminal is being expanded.|
|In an hour, we had sailed back to Singapore and the images of the city (one of the MBS far left) welcome us home.
Singapore is an hour ahead and we arrived at 4:30pm and were fortunate to get out first, and manage to get a cab for the onward journey home. otherwise, take bus route 35 to Bedok.
Probably because of its proximity with Singapore, prices seem to be very much “aligned” to the little red dot. Probably because we are in the resorts on the northern end of the island.
Our conversations with other travelers revealed that it is probably much more affordable in the southern part of the island nearer to the town of Tanjung Pinang. But that’s 67km away by road and there isn’t much in the way of developed public or even privately offered transport. Unlike places like Bali or Yogja, there are no Tuk² or Jeepneys…
So this is not the cheap getaway that is close to Singapore. Melvin’s colleagues also liked Batam. Perhaps we can consider that too.