Bintan Island. Not Bintang Beer. (Although you can buy Bintang on Bintan.)
There was a reasonable amount of confusion amongst my friends and clients as to exactly where I was headed to. Bintan Island, Indonesia. Just off Singapore. “Oh, you mean Sentosa!” No, I mean Bintan.
It’s only fifty minutes by (choppy) ferry southeast of Singapore, but you may as well be another world away. A lush, dense rainforest canopy envelops you; clean white sand lies beneath you; the beautiful, clear South China Sea stretches endlessly before you.
It’s quiet here, and while the tourism board suggests that there are plenty of things for you to do, the real reason to be here is simply to relax and unwind within the comforts of your resort. My pick of where to stay is the private, tranquil, all-villa Banyan Tree Bintan. The resort cascades down the hillside through the rainforest to the beach below. The villas are stand-alone thatched buildings with wonderful views, private balconies and a traditional Indonesian feel. The variety and quality of the dining options at Banyan Tree Bintan are excellent, with opportunities to sample both local specialities as well as signature international dishes.
If you are after relaxation, there is little to do here other than unwind. Spa treatments, swims in the ocean, cocktails by the pool, romantic candlelit dinners, quality time with a good book – you will be exhausted from such a strenuous day out.
If you do wish to be a little more active and adventurous, there are kayaks, quad bikes, jet skis and snorkelling gear for hire. There are also some stunning golf courses, some of which have been designed by pro-golfers including Jack Nicklaus, Ian Baker-Finch and Greg Norman.
Bintan does also have its share of quirks. Be mindful of the wet season – it is monsoonal for at least four to five months of the year (October through to February). Bintan’s location close to the equator also means that it can be very humid – however this is not so much a problem if you are pool-side, Bintang in hand!
Not all visitors to Bintan are enamoured with the cohabitants of the resorts. Remember it is a tropical Indonesian island, and while you are not exactly emulating British adventurer Bear Grylls hacking his way through the Sumatran jungle, you may come across some less-than-desirable locals. Monkeys, bats, squirrels and snakes are common sightings. As the resorts are integrated with the rainforest, don’t be surprised if these creatures make their way onto your balcony! It didn’t bother me in the slightest – in fact, I liked the constant reminder that I was indeed on an Indonesian island, nestled amongst the trees and the vines.
So next time you are considering a stopover in Asia but have already ticked Singapore off your list, consider a little hop across to Bintan instead. Two or three nights is an easy and relaxing stop on the way home to Australia from Europe. It also makes for a great getaway for a week if you wanted a few days to shop and sightsee in Singapore coupled with some rest and relaxation by the beach.