Saturday, April 08, 2017

Two Days, One Night Bintan Trip with My Singapore Polytechnic School Mates @ Angsana Bintan [Indonesia]

My schooling days in Singapore Polytechnic 20 years ago were the best times in my life and with travelling being part and parcel of a relaxing experience for a group of adults who has been working for quite some time, it's a given that we would plan for an overseas trip!

For this inaugural overseas trip, we wanted to keep things simple and eventually settled with a resort island less than an hour from Singapore; Bintan!

Without further ado, let me share with you my short itinerary. Links will be provided in due course although departing from the usual, i will not going into the details for each day since it's just two-day, one-night. :)

Reached on time at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to take the ferry which was supposed to leave at 11 am. Based on a recommendation by a friend, we went for the Emerald Class which gave us seat assignment and use of the exclusive Emerald Lounge (with complimentary beverages, biscuits and WiFi)!

Purchasing the Emerald Class tickets also gave us priority embarkation / disembarkation! Shall update with a separate post in due course so that you would be better informed of the differences.

Did you see the big fish in the water?! The ferry took about an hour and i didn't take many photographs as i was down with seasickness and purged out quite a bit of my breakfast that morning!

Extremely relieved to have both my feet firmly planted on concrete ground! Anyway, please remember to adjust your watch as Indonesia is an hour behind Singapore.

Remember, you have priority disembarkation for Emerald Class and that means we were the first few to clear immigration! Those who wish to stock up on cigarettes, snacks, rent a car, book a resort, buy some souvenirs can do so at the Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal (BRF) itself.

My friends were just fixated on one - beer! A pity i am not into alcoholic drinks and honestly, i don't even know if it is cheaper at 25,000 rupiah a can. Want a carton?  Inquire within!

Taking the shuttle bus for Angsana Bintan Resort! I think this is a complimentary land transfer service for the resort although i am a bit confused by its webpage here; what's the difference between coach transfers and land transfer?

On our way to the resort that's 8 kilometers and about 10 minutes away; i have been to Bintan but it was Bintan Lagoon Resort that i went too which had a dedicated ferry terminal!

Welcomed by the sound of a traditional Indonesian gong and the dispensing of a cold towel, we arrived at Angsana Bintan Resort! As with most decent resorts, there would be a small glass of welcome drink and a tiny slice of cake.

Resort lobby that would lead us down to the main restaurant down a flight of stairs. The most interesting lobby i ever went to was in Maldives where natural, fine sand made up the flooring.

Checking in would take some time and our two alcoholic friends couldn't wait to quench their thirst; the beer drinking shall begin! As i am not too keen in beer or any alcoholic drink, i proceeded to do what i like best.

Explore the surroundings!

I didn't take long as i was with a group of nine polytechnic friends, the husband of a classmate and a toddler! The time should be spent together, rather than apart!

Daily activities were published on a screen at the lobby and some might be complimentary; do keep in mind to book in advance for those with an asterisk and note that some activities (e.g. jet ski safari) might be chargeable.

Official check in was at 3pm and there's only so much beer you can replace for lunch; hence, we chose to satisfy our lunch at the Lotus Cafe within the resort.

The Indonesia Mie Goreng (fried noodles); obviously priced a lot higher than the local hawker centre with nicer plating and more "accessories" like crackers, satay etc.

We were in discussion to go for ATV when it started pouring! There goes our plan and the ladies in our group opted for massage sessions with the resort's award winning spa! The two words "award winning" said a lot on its pricing though; a factor that the guys find hard to stomach!

We checked in to our assigned hotel rooms first; like finally and after a short rest where i took a much needed shower, the guys met at the lobby for the arrival of a vehicle.

Yes, we would be travelling out and this transfer didn't cost us a single cent as we would be having our massages outside the resort, at a fraction of the price!

D'Bintan Spa - i got this contact when i visited Pasar Oleh Oleh in 2013 and arrangement for massages and land transfer can be easily made via WhatsApp / LINE! I only gave like a 30-minute notification and the vehicle arrived at the lobby as promised.

As D'Bintan Spa is located next to the local market within the Bintan resort cluster, do remember to pay it a visit. Beer would be a lot cheaper at the provision stores there and the two male friends didn't hesitate to purchase a dozen even though they had already bought a carton back at the ferry terminal.

Not everything is cheap so do remember to compare and do your calculation well; the staff for this seafood restaurant claimed that the prices were cheaper than the resorts. It might be true but at 600,000 rupiah a kilogram for crab, it's frankly about the same price in Singapore!

A yawning cat.

On our way back and i spotted a Sumatran tiger cutout on the power grid tower. Think it's just for display since there's no tiger on the island.

Met up with the rest of our school mates for seafood dinner at a kelong! It's not so easy to get to the kelong though as we had to walk along a forest path and took a boat!

Food at D'Bintan Kelong Seafood Restaurant was pretty good and we had crabs, gong gong, satay, fish, squid, vegetables and prawns; the shocker was more the price though as it was close to S$300! However, we did have a lot of food and it worked out to about S$30 a person which wasn't that bad. There shall be a separate post! :)

Seven of us broke from the group as we had signed for another activity!

A final look at the kelong restaurant which looked kind of eerie when i took the photo. Strangely, it was a Saturday yet we were the only group dining there. Guess our spending that day had met their sales target that evening.

My camera skill wasn't good enough to show you the blinking lights at the mangrove trees that appeared just like lighting on a Christmas tree! Nevertheless, i doubt you would even know how a firefly looks like. See if you can spot it in the above photo.

After the firefly tour, we made a stopover at the same local market where D'Bintan Spa was. The ladies stocked up on snacks even though the main aim was on the Magnum ice cream bar at only 20,000 rupiah!

We rejoined the rest of our classmates (those who didn't sign up for the firefly tour) for a noisy session of card games; including UNO!

Funnily, most of us couldn't remember how to play the game even though it was one of the most popular card games in our teens! We recall a bit although not good enough to proceed with the game. Thankfully, we had parents in our group (hello, we knew each other for two decades) and it didn't take us long to start the game!

Sadly, it took us really long to game and for the beer-thirsty individuals, a faster game would be required - let's play a much simpler one; draw a card and if you are the lowest, drink! The above was necessary to illustrate the suits on a deck of playing cards as some didn't know which was the smallest; we had a great laugh as the entertainer in our group would throw questions ( heart 5 and spade five, which is the lowest etc) suddenly.

Lady luck wasn't shining on me and i had like four cans of beer! This is coming from a person who doesn't drink beer and is weak when it comes to alcohol. Of course i got a bit high and eventually slept together with my friend on the same bed!

By the time i woke up, it was 7am and i had to climb back to my own room! We had already agreed to meet at 8am for breakfast and there wasn't much time as we would be leaving for Singapore in the late afternoon.

Back in my own room and all alone as my assigned roommate wasn't able to come for the trip. Oh well, i had the entire room to myself and had a satisfying shower!

Breakfast at Angsana Bintan; this was tied in with our accommodation and you don't have to pay extra. Offerings were decent and i strongly recommend the juice station as the numerous glasses of natural fruit juice i had weren't charged separately!

With an hour plus to go before we departed for a traditional massage at D'Bintan Spa, i didn't waste any more time at the breakfast and left to explore on my own.

Weather had cleared and i guess we might be able to go for our ATV finally. As the pricing wasn't cheap, further coordination would be required from our activity organiser.

An infinity pool on the side of the resort - unlike the main pool, this was isolated with lesser users. If you prefer a quieter spot to soak in clean, chlorinated water and ready a novel, this would be it.

Did you spot the littler bugger?

A boardwalk leading to a group of large boulders; it may not seem much at this time but i guarantee you it would be much nicer during high tide! I shall show the photograph later in this post.

Please remember to drop by the resort's conservation lab and smile at the dozens of baby sea turtles under the tender care of the centre staff until they are about three months old! Do request for permission before you pick them out from the tank.

Building sandcastles; an activity lost on the older me even though i do occasionally build some, especially during the seasons when TOTO prize money snowballs to a few million dollars.

The vehicle from D'Bintan Spa had arrived; i was late as i had to move my belongings out of the room! By the time i am back after my massage, it would be way over the official check out time imposed by the resort.

Thankfully, our powerful classmate with contacts in the travel industry managed to get us one room with a late check out at 4pm! Anyway, i had passed by the same spot as above no less than eight times in my short one-night stay.

After a fantastic, 2-hour traditional massage at  D'Bintan Spa, we had a wallet-friendly lunch at the local hawker centre and then checked out the kueh lapis at another shop in the same vicinity recommended by the spa.

Batam Layer Cakes had a good reputation for buttery Indonesian-style kueh lapis and on Bintan Island, there's also a BLC but it's Bintan Layers Cakes! You can sample before you buy.

I recognise that everyone has varying taste preferences and while i personally thought it wasn't not as buttery and as oily as the ones in Batam, others might not feel the same one. My major grouch was actually the prices as an original kueh lapis would result in an outlay of 300,000 rupiah!

It was already 1.30pm when we got back to Angsana Bintan and even though we were keen to sign up for  the ATV, it was already fully subscribed!

There's always a backup and i went for snorkeling with the guys using my snorkeling mask from Decathlon! See the above photo? That's the same place with the boardwalk i shared earlier. I would have loved to include pictures of the snorkeling i had but i didn't realise the battery for my Olympus Tough underwater camera had gone flat! 

On our way to the ferry terminal via the resort's bus shuttle after an insanely fast shower at the only room with late check out! We didn't resort (pun unintended) to bathing together although the last guy (and literally the rest of us in the room) gave a loud wa kaoz when we heard the sound of hair dryer coming from the bathroom! 

Ten minutes later, we alighted at Bandar Bentan Telani ferry terminal and right opposite the entrance, you would find a gigantic statue of a garuda, a holy bird in Hinduism.

Remember the 300,000-rupiah kueh lapis from Bintan Layers Cakes? You can get a box of homemade kueh lapis for a much more reasonable pricing at this provision shop without the ferry terminal. It's not 60,000 rupiah as indicated above as that's for a much smaller piece. 

The usual 1-kilogram box cost only 190,000 rupiah here! For ease of reference, do refer to the picture of the shop as above. p.s. compared to the delicious Batam Layer Cakes, this was drier and also not as buttery. 

Long line of queue just to get your bags through the immigration's x-ray machine! Fret not if you are an emerald class ticket holder; you should be given priority access to use the x-ray machine! 

Crowded departure lounge where everyone would wait for the ferry.

There were shops within the area where you can spend your last Indonesian rupiah (maybe on kopi luwak coffee). A friend had advised that it's best to spend all you have since the currency undergoes design change quite often and old notes might not be accepted.

Again for the Emerald Class ticket holders, you have access to the Bintan Executive Lounge! p.s. it wasn't as nice as the Emerald Lounge at Tanah Merah ferry terminal and no one bothered to check my ticket. Maybe that's the reason why it's also as crowded inside...

Priority embarkation too! 

Big and comfortable leather seats; i think i am getting too pampered in this trip. The usual me would be satisfied with just the normal free-seating arrangement but now that i am aware of the Emerald Class, there's no going back....

This boat came with an outdoor seating area which was also smoke free! That's good news for me as my body doesn't operate well at seas in a contained vessel. 

Supposed to be showing the dark clouds as I am worried it would start drizzling again and i would condemned back to the enclosed area.

We didn't quite make use of the luxurious seats in the ferry as almost everyone was out at the outdoor deck. Reason being we were planning for our next overseas trip and it was confirmed to be in Bali, a year later; amazingly advance planning! 

Back to Singapore.

That's the whole group of us from Singapore Polytechnic DMKT Class 02; the trip was extremely fun and it's a pity we didn't manage to have everyone on board. Oh well, looking forward to next year! 


Accommodation: Angsana Bintan

As above. 

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