Friday, March 01, 2013

Pasar Oleh Oleh @ Bintan Island

While researching on the activities to do at Bintan Island, we frequently read about this marketplace known as Pasar Oleh-Oleh; which was reported by many travellers as a tourist trap!

However, there were positive reviews of the massage and spa salons within the pasar and we decided to bring our dearest mummy for a well-deserved muscle relaxing session.

As you can probably attest from the above picture; the whole place was literally empty. I could think of a few reasons; the current monsoon season when visitor level is usually the lowest, the negative online reviews etc.

The appearance of a wishing well, in most cases, has a smelly reference to what i term as a tourist trap. To cut it some slack; this well is at least an exact replica of a well typical in villages in this region.

An eye-catching sign declaring that this is a free touting area was erected right at the entrance; a white elephant as we were approached by touts as soon as we stepped in! I didn't complain as they were well mannered and non-pushy.

D' Bintan Salon Day Spa - from memory, there were at least four salons in Pasar Oleh Oleh and mom was kind of drawn to this particular one.

To assure my mom and sister on the cleanliness, they were encouraged to take a look at the facilities before deciding on whether to engage the services of this salon's masseurs.

Rate of spa treatments and massages at D' Bintan Salon Day Spa for your reference - note that prices are in Singapore dollars and subject to change.

Please keep in mind the reservation number (0770-692898) and email ( as free transportation is provided for a minimum spending of S$50 at the salon! In case you are unaware, you have to pay for a Bintan resorts shuttle to Pasar Oleh Oleh which ranges from S$5 to S$6 for a two-way trip for each person. 

I don't profess to be an expert on massage parlours and spas but what from what i see, the environment was relaxed and soothing. Sadly, a traditional Indonesian massage was not on my agenda that day; after dumping leaving the mom and sister, i departed for my mini exploration alone.

The above was another company offering massages and spa treatment; Bali Mayura spa. Prices are generally similar although there might be some competitive discounts during off peak season.

Pasar Oleh Oleh was not big (around 20 to 30 shops) and i could easily cover the entire place within 30 minutes. According to the official Bintan resorts website, it is supposed to be "a souvenir gift market and shopping village set up to promote Indonesian culture, arts and crafts".

In a way, you can find a few shops selling souvenirs and Indonesia artwork and craftwork; most of which can be easily found back in Bintan Lagoon resort where i stayed for three nights. 

Prices were comparable to the resort even though you can try your luck at bargaining for a better price. In some cases, there were attractive promotions of as high as 50% off the original price.

Didn't bring enough beachwear? You can easily get some from the shops in Oleh Oleh. 

A travel agency was also located on site to provide arrangement for local tours, hotel booking, golf booking, car rental, taxi service, massage, spa etc. For those who would like to rent a car, you may click here for a review of my experience in Bintan. 

Temporary tattoos were available for those who wish to show off their rebellious nature in an overseas country and yet too chicken to have a permanent mark on their body (like me)!

You can get drinks, snacks, instant noodles, beer etc from two mini-marts in Pasar Oleh Oleh. Pricing wise, equivalent to what you pay back in Singapore! Two hundred meters away is another place where you can get the aforementioned items at cheaper prices. Want to know more? Look out for it in a future entry (i am expecting it to be posted in a week's time).

Hungry for food? There were two main eateries serving local, western and even Japanese cuisines; Helo Helo Cafe and Bintan Idol Cafe. Out of these two, Bintan Idol (sister company of D' Bintan Salon Day Spa) had more diners partly because it had an air-conditioned dining section. 

Menu of Bintan Idol Cafe appended above for your reference. See, i am so nice right?! As usual, please note that prices are subject to change! As i was still full from a great lunch my mom cooked back in the resort villa, i was only on the lookout for just a cup of coffee. 

My choice was Helo Helo cafe since it was right opposite D' Bintan Salon Day Spa where i could  peacefully play my game while waiting for the two ladies to complete their massage session. 

The layout of Pasar Oleh Oleh has a village (or known as kampong to many local Singaporeans) theme; clusters of kampong houses that doubled as shops with communal spaces in the middle where visitors can rest in any of the three sheltered pavilions. 

Despite its infamous tag as a tourist trap, there were subtle indications of similarity to my kampong days (i stayed in the village until i was six years old) which is incredibly memorable.

Kids playing carefreely in front of their houses.

Cats lazing under the hot sun until they were disturbed by a blogger who could not help taking a few photographs for his blog.

A family of wild long tailed macaques that frequently barged into the mini-mart for free food and drinks at the expense of an unwilling mini-mart owner who branded them as robbers! 

Elevated houses that were specifically built to prevent flooding and also acted as a cooling agent for the residents. Personally, i find this kind of houses on cement stumps to be really scary; imagine sleeping on the wooden floor and hearing someone knocking or crying directly beneath the floor!

Walk to the back where you can see more of the real kampong life; dirt path, small scale plantations of herbs and vegetables, cluttered arrangement of household items etc. 

Even to the extent of seeing a few pairs of freshly washed (i think) underwear. 


Township Bintan Resort Region
North Lagoi, Bintan Resorts,
Bintan Island

As above and slightly outdated. 

How to Go There?
The easiest way is to take a bus shuttle from your resort and pay a nominal fee per person. Kampong Lagoi, as indicated in the above picture, is right across Pasar Oleh Oleh.

My family missed the bus (result of a different time zone) and since we didn't want to waste time, we approached the customer service counter of the resort to book a taxi to bring us there. 

Cost - S$22 one way for the three of us. 

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