[TRAVEL] Japan in Winter (27 Jan – 6 Feb 2015) – Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Kyoto


Day 1 – Arrival at Kansai (12pm)
Day 2 – Rinkku Premium Outlets
Day 3 – We split into 2 groups, one went to USJ and we went to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Day 4 – Spent it sick =(
Day 5 – Himeji & Kobe
Day 6 – Move to Kyoto
Day 7 – Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine, Tofu kaiseki in Gion
Day 8 – Heian Jingu, Rozan-ji Temple, Imperial Palace grounds, Yoshida Shrine
Day 9 – Arashiyama, Togetsu Bridge, Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo forest
Day 10 – Nara, Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga Taisha, Kofuku-ji Temple
Day 11 – Kinkaku-ji Temple, Departure from Kansai (7pm)

*** Skip to the end of this portion if you don’t want to read about the logistics***

Air Tickets : Cathay  Pacific

Travel Time : 3hrs + 3hrs, and 2 hour layover in HKIA
Cost : Roughly SGD$650 round trip

Upon reaching Osaka, get your SIM cards or pocket wifi rentals picked up at the airport.
The ordering of the SIM card of pocket wifi usually has to be done 1 week before arrival. I didn’t use this company, but you might want to take a look : http://japanwifiservice.com/en/order-guide.html .
I previously used Veltra (http://www.veltra.com/en/asia/japan/ctg/160692:wi_fi_router_rental/) and it was good and cheap. No complaints about it.
I’m never ever going to order a SIM card again because
– the data was capped at 1GB (I ordered the 4G SIM card) and ran out on the last day
– I got it to put into my Huawei device, but discovered that my device was too new and the SIM Card wasn’t compatible, so I ended up putting it in a spare mobile phone and tethering.

Osaka 3 bedroom apartment, 6 days, SGD$1000+

CHEAP AND CHEERFUL! 3BR Namba!! in Osaka

Apartment in Osaka, Japan. A great little 3 bedroom in the heart of Nipponbashi’s Den Den town. Perfect for groups of friends, small families or couples who are travelling together, this is an awesome place for those who want to be near the action but are on a budget! ***… View all listings in Osaka

We stayed at an airbnb apartment about 10mins walk from Namba station. The location is pretty decent, lots of food and sights, and 5mins walk from Kuromon Market. It has an in-suite kitchenette and washing machine, as well as 3 bedrooms; which is good if you’re travelling in a group. It was comfortable, and decent sized by Japanese standards, and a pocket wifi device was provided, as were heat packs, bath amenities, towels etc

On to the cons : the heating consisted of 3 mobile heaters – 2 blowing out hot air and 1 used heating elements… something like how a toaster works. The 2 blowing out hot air also used gas, and I was in constant fear that the hose would detatch and kill us all at night. I guess it would be ok to stay there in summer or the warmer months.
The walls are really really really thin as well. I can hear the people in the next bedroom turn around in bed, cough, mumble… This wasn’t a problem for my other travelmates, but I’m a really really light sleeper, so it bothered me quite a bit.

Almont Hotel Kyoto http://www.hokke.co.jp/english/almont_kyoto.html


I’m going to go right ahead and recommend this hotel with 5 stars.
The rooms are soundproof, clean, comfortable… the service staff are helpful and polite. Getting there from Kyoto Station is easy because the road leading to the hotel is flat, and about 10mins walk – it was easy to push suitcases and carry stuff over.
What tipped the scales in favour of a 5/5 rating from me was the public bath. It’s open in 2 shifts a day, and there’s always a steady stream of people going in and out, a testimony of how popular it is. It took a while for me to wrap my head around the idea of soaking in a hot pool with other ladies, sky clad, but I’m glad I did. There’s something therapeutic about letting the heat from the water replace the winter chill in your bones, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a night.
There’s also a Lawson across the street, and lots of food in the Station.

***          End of Logistics section           ***

Day 1 – Arrival (12pm)
Day 2 – Rinkku Premium Outlets
Day 3 – We split into 2 groups, one went to USJ and we went to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Day 4 – Spent it sick =(

In Osaka, if its your first time, you might want to visit the Osaka Castle and gardens, buy a katana home and dress up as a samurai or something. We walked around dotonburi, denden town and stopped by kuromon market every day.
I planned to visit the owl cafe, but it didn’t work out because I was unwell and wasted a day.

If shopping is your thing, then the Premium Outlets is worth exploring. It’s not possible to finish all the shops in one day, so if you’re intent on combing through every single shop, you’ll probably need 2 or 3 days. I’m not a huge fan of shopping, so I could have given this a miss. It’s also only one stop from Kansai Airport, so you can plan to drop by right before you fly off.

The best part about Osaka is possibly the Kuromon Market. They sell Kobe Beef, Tuna Sashimi (ootoro, chutoro etc), soups and various other quality fresh produce, for much cheaper than restaurants.

DSC_8105 DSC_8107 DSC_8110 DSC_8113 DSC_8100

Osaka Aquarium was a nice trip. It’s not a very big exhibit, and their main tank isn’t impressive – the viewing wall is small and fragmented because the tank is a weird shape. However, they do have a resident whaleshark, which made it worthwhile. To me, at least.


A couple silhoutted against a tank of marine life.

Oh, and super cute whale shark plushies… =D


Day 5 – Himeji & Kobe

Himeji is a beautiful place. When you visit the castle (restoration works finish this month!) make sure you get the combined ticket to the Himeji kokoen too, its the castle gardens and there are something like 9 different themed gardens.

On the day this picture was taken, it was a clear day, with light snow flurries. The wind was killer, but totally worth braving for this view.


This is a little pavillion in one of the gardens, which you can sit in if you take your footwear off. Taking winter footwear off was too troublesome, and sitting around in winter jackets didn’t appeal to me, so we didn’t sit in it. There are huge ass fish in the ponds too.

It’s really quite amazing how much effort is put into landscaping and caring for the plants. Even in winter, they look beautiful, especially when a little sun highlights everything.


Unfortunately, for reasons, we didn’t get to spend much time in Kobe. We planned to reach Himeji around 11, have lunch there and explore, then move off to Kobe in the afternoon around 3, walk around and have a good  beef dinner.

We hit Kobe around 6pm and decided to try out A1. It’s not Kobe beef, but it’s still a tasty, nice steak nonetheless.

Day 6 – Move to Kyoto
Day 7 – Setsubun Festival at Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine. Tofu kaiseki in Gion

One of the rare times you’ll see a Geisha/Maiko performance in public, for free!
I have to say though, that Kiyomizudera is much nicer to look at in spring. In winter, it just lacks the colours, and the snow is mostly too light to stick.


Bean throwing festival at Yasaka ShrineDSC_8296

Geisha/Maiko performanceDSC_8313 DSC_8343
Day 8 – Heian Jingu, Rozan-ji Temple, Imperial Palace grounds, Yoshida Shrine


The Largest Torii gate in Kyoto (Maybe in Japan too), Heian Jingu

I believe this is a Setsubun ritual where they take turns to drink something.


Heian Jingu




Yoshida Shrine Setsubun festival and outdoor food and games stallsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tying the bad fortune on a tree so that it won’t follow you homeDSC_8534

Using ricepaper sieves to catch goldfishOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_8566
Day 9 – Arashiyama, Togetsu Bridge, Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo forest

I would love to wake up to this view every morning… Tenryu-ji Temple gardens.
We paid 600 yen to have access to the gardens as well as the temple itself. You have to take off your shoes, but it’s worth the trouble to be able to sit on the tatami mats with the warm sun in your face.


Here’s another view of the Tenryu-ji Temple, this time from the garden, directly opposite where I took the photo above.


Exiting from the Tenryu-ji Temple, you can head directly to the Bamboo forest.

Its so calm and pretty, and silent.
This is easily my new favourite location. There’s something transcendant about walking through the bamboo forest, listening to the leaves swish against each other… Except when there are drunk Korean tourists yelling at each other. After they passed through, though, it was very enjoyable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There was a couple having a DIY wedding shoot there too. I managed to sneak some pics of the bride as she was posing. It’s a really nice location to do a shoot!


There are lots of rickshaw pullers around too. They will try to sell you their services. The people I saw taking the rides seemed to really enjoy themselves. Kiyomizudera has plenty of rickshaw pullers around too, and it might be more exciting to take a ride there because it’s on a hill. Arashiyama is pretty flat.DSC_8781

Stopped by a little kushiyaki place for dinner.

This is my ultimate favourite… a meat patty with a raw egg yolk and teriyaki sauce. mmmmmm…!

Chicken skewers, with ume and wasabi topping.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This dessert was so good that I had 2 servings. Toasted bread with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup…

To die for.

Day 10 – Nara, Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga Taisha, Kofuku-ji Temple

Nara is the place to go for animal lovers. I had my funniest experience there this trip, and it didnt just involve deer.
At Nara, you can buy deer biscuits, it’s much much cheaper if you buy in bulk, I can’t remember the exact price though. So, once you buy the biscuits, the deer will throng you, so be prepared. They can get really aggressive, especially the males. We weren’t prepared and we got butted and bitten and one pile of biscuits dropped onto the floor and all the deer were munching it up happily. They even bit our unopened cookies and plastic bags out of our hand. So, just BE READY, once the biscuits reach your hand, you’re a target.


Stay away from the males if you’re worried. A couple of them were fighting each other and their heads were bloody from repeatedly butting each other.

Males can be identified by these bottle cap looking things on their heads. There’s an annual ceremony in Nara where they remove the horns of the males.

Speaking of ceremonies and festivals, there’s a hillside burning festival every year in January, and we missed it by one weekend. It’s the 3rd or 4th weekend of every January, and it seems it’s quite a spectable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Todai-ji Temple.

It has a pair of little golden horns on top, and plenty of deer milling around.DSC_8852

In the inner temple grounds, there are no deer, and you have to pay to enter.

This temple houses the largest buddah statue, and it’s really quite huge.DSC_8865

On the way to the next temple, Kasuga Taisha, I decided it was safe because there were few deer around, and I opened up a dumpling to eat. As I took my second bite, a huge crow flew over from behind and plucked the dumpling right out of my hand. I was kind of dismayed, cos I was quite hungry, but pretty amused at the same time.

So, just beware of other animals, other than deer!


Managed to trot over to Kofuku-ji Temple as the last few rays of the setting sun shone on it, making it look peachy.


Some school girls getting harrassed by deer at Todai-jiOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a well earned dinner at the market near the Nara train Station.
The beef sukiyaki was delicious, and the homemade tofu too. I’m still dreaming of the yummy flavours…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Day 11 – Kinkaku-ji Temple, Departure (7pm)

On the last trip, I visited the Silver Pavillion Temple (Ginkaku-ji), but unfortunately, it wasn’t a sunny day and the temple didn’t look that great. I discovered the difference even a little bit of sunlight makes to these temples at Kinkaku-ji this year. The exterior practically glows and comes alight, as though it has some kind of power source within it. It’s gorgeous.


The entrance to Kinkaku-jiDSC_9026

Some shots of the temple, from different angles



Along the main road, there’s a little restaurant serving what looks like fusion cuisine. This meal summed up everything I was craving for the whole trip – Japanese Curry, Raw Egg and coffee.
The curry and egg baked rice was awesome, and I think it was my favourite meal there.

The coffee was soso, a nicer coffee would have made the meal even more enjoyable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Places and things I missed doing this trip, which I would like to do next time!

– A good Japanese kaiseki meal
– A stay at a traditional ryokan
– An outdoor onsen
– Fushimi Inari Temple
– Owl Cafe
– A longer time in Kobe, and a proper Kobe beef meal
– Visit the snow monkeys at Arashiyama
– Rent a bicycle

DIY Hair

All in a day's work!

All in a day’s work!


I’ve been dyeing my hair since 2006 or so, and I usually go to X’pect Studio next to Lido. However, recently I’ve been looking to grow out my hair after I snipped it all off a couple of years ago (it’s taking a while, because I’m not really committed to having long hair again, so I keep going for cuts and trims and stuff) so I haven’t been needing to go to a salon to cut.

I have to admit that the bleached portions of my hair were done by X’pect and Assort (Tokyo, Japan) so that saved me a lot of time. X’pect did 2 segments on my left and 1 segment on my right a couple of years ago, and Assort did the entire lower 1/4 of my hair 2 months ago.

In the past year, I’ve been to Salon Vim (Bugis, Singapore) where I got a hot pink on my X’pect bleached segments and a dark brown base, then I had a friend do blue and purple when the pink faded.

So, if you’re interested in taking a look at the changes my hair has gone through, here are a few shots :

horrible photos incoming alert.

Early 2009

Early 2009, After my first bleach and dye. It was a bright blue, but faded to blonde here.

February 2009

February 2009, Did whole head reddish purple colour

October 2009

October 2009, Did sections of blue/purple

March 2011

March 2011, let it grow through 2010 til mid 2011.

October 2011

October 2011, I chose a striking purple.

November 2011

November 2011, the purple is starting to fade…

April 2012

April 2012, Did a schwarzkopf hair show, and went from waist length to above ear. Had yellow and copper.

August 2012

August 2012, Got the asymmetrical bits chopped off and went dark brown.

May 2013

May 2013, let it grow, let it grow!

August 2013

August 2013, Had ash and brown done in segments. the colour of the photo doesn’t show it too well.  I actually loved this cut done at X’pect Studio.


August 2013, this pic you can see the colours better, but the cut doesn’t look as nice.

October 2013

October 2013, had the bright pink put in at Salon Vim.

April 2014 (Before Assort)

April 2014 (Before Assort), This was in Japan, after my friend did purple and blue on the parts that were pink in the previous picture. It started fading a little, which made the blue look nicer.

April 2014 (After Japan)

April 2014 (After Japan), and this is the same blue, now greenish after being in contact with the chemicals during my session at Assort. The purple bits on the lower 1/4 of my hair were bleached twice and dyed.

May 2014

May 2014, SO FADED!!! That’s why I decided to just pluck my lazy bum off my bench and re-colour it myself.


Of course, it was inspired by my friend who did her own hair recently, with dye that I bought for her from Japan!

hair 1


She did this for her friend the day after. Don’t expect to achieve this yourself, the colours look like that only because her friend is an albino.hair 2



I decided to pick out a fuchsia, something like the colour I did at Salon Vim, for the inner 1/4 that was previously purple. I figured the colour will be able to cover, yet blend nicely with the previous shade.

So I picked this one called HB Jewellise by Napla. It’s a fairly large sized tube, and I think I got it for around 15-20USD at a shop in Shinjuku called Okadaya.

Pink dye

Pink dye

So I struggled through one round, trying to do so using a plastic bag around my hands instead of a proper glove.
Lesson 1 : Get a proper glove.
Lesson 2 : if it wasn’t evident enough, you should use a ratty old tshirt that you don’t mind getting hair dye stains on.

Tip 1 : it’s best if you can coat it layer by layer, instead of what I did to save time – I simply tied the 2 portions into pony tails and slapped on as much hair dye as I could.
It came out unevenly coloured and some parts were quite weak.

This was taken after my very unglamorous 1st dyeing session.

This was taken after my very unglamorous 1st dyeing session.

SO, I did a second round.
This time, I hunted down one glove, for my right hand and I did little sections of hair at a time, instead of one chunk of pony tail.
Then, I clipped it up neatly with the little clip you see in the picture below. I separated the unbleached hair earlier by tying it up with a rubber band.

After applying the second coat of dye

After applying the second coat of dye

The colours came out much better!
The right side of my hair is bleached to white, which is why I think the colour came out really really bright pink.

Right side

Right side

The left side isn’t as white as the right side, so you can still see the brownish shade and the purple tone near the roots.
I was fading at the tips, the bits nearer the roots were still quite purple.

Left side

Left side

After this, I let down the hair that was tied away with the elastic band, and tahdah! Suddenly I became a kawaii japanese chiobu with pouffy ringlets sitting on top of my coloured inner layer.

kawaii japanese look

kawaii japanese look

Anyway, on to the next part, which is to colour the faded 3 segments on the upper 2/3 of my hair.
I chose purple, because the other colours I have right now are yellow, orange, green and red. I thought that red would probably look too close to the pink, and the rest would be kinda clashing.

I used a gel type hair dye, and this one made my eye sting when it got too close. The pink one either didn’t get to close to my eyes, or it doesn’t sting.
This one is by Iriya Cosmetics, Two Way Colour Coat

Purple gel based dye

Purple gel based dye

Clipping all my little hair segments up after plastering the purple dye on them.

Clipping all my little hair segments up after plastering the purple dye on them.


The purple segment on the right side. You can see the pink peeping out from below!


Held my hair back so I could take a picture of the colours mingling with each other.


and a macro shot of the purple


All in all, I’d say I’m pretty satisfied with both dyes. They coloured on quite well, (I put the first application of pink failing down to my incompetency) and were as fuss free as it gets. I’m pretty sure it would be even easier if there was someone else who had a paint brush thingy to apply it on for you.

One thing you do need to look out for is that you should try not to let it dry out after you apply the dye on your hair. Usually, salon’s will wrap it up in foil or glad wrap, but I was too lazy to do that today. Salons also will heat it up for a few minutes to help the colour penetrate better, or make the chemicals work better. I didn’t wrap it, but I did heat it a little with my hairdryer (which made it dry out faster). But I left it in quite long, roughly half an hour, so I think that made up for it.

I’ll probably post a nicely groomed shot of myself somewhere, but right now, after washing out my hair like… 4 times, I’M A LITTLE LAZY!

[Review] Alienware 18

I’ve been using the Alienware 18 for a few months now, and if you’ve missed my initial post on unboxing and first impressions, you can check it out here : http://furryfish.me/alienware-18-unboxing-and-first-impressions/

Before I start, I’d like to clarify what kind of user I am.
I’m a semi-pro gamer, that plays primarily DotA2. I have some games which I play leisurely, and they change according to my mood. They are : Hearthstone, FFXIV, World of WarCraft, Diablo3, SimCity. I’m a little past FPS games, but I do have a few versions of CounterStrike, Halflife and TF on my com too.

For those of you who are curious as to which set up I have, here are the specs.
I’m considering getting an SSD inserted, but not through Dell. Once I do that, my rating should go up!
But currently, it’s really fast anyway, and it doesn’t get me super high to have a quick start up. So I’m pretty happy as is!

system info windows ratingStreaming on Twitch is really fun, because I can put in 2 webcams! HAHA… ok I know that’s a little lame, but since there’s an integrated webcam, and I have my own c920 Logitech, I can do 2 angles at once.
other than that, here are my settings, and I’m not even pushing it. I normally stream on 1280×720, and my FPS is consistent, unless I tab out. (I use borderless windowed mode on DotA2)
It’s so powerful, that I can even leave FinalFantasy xiv on at the same time as DotA2, AND stream. Then, I switch between games (depending on whether I hear a FATE around the corner or not!)

streamhttp://www.twitch.tv/pmsfurryfish/b/479913586 Here’s a sample, if you would like to take a look!

Unfortunately I don’t really have much time to play other games, like titanfall or battlefield. Maybe IF I am sponsored the game or I get some time, I’ll test it out and add it into my review!

Customer Service
Nothing is perfect, and neither was my Alienware 18. I suddenly had a problem where the whole com would freeze and blue screen, and eventually it just gave up working on me, and I couldn’t use the factory reinstall disk cos some data was missing from it or something.

Whatever it was, I called up the tech support, and they tried to troubleshoot the problem over the phone. It didn’t work and they discovered that my mSATA died on me. Accordingly, they sent down a tech guy to my house to get it fixed up, and it was back to perfect working order within 2 days.

So, I’d like to commend their support, it’s really the best out there, really prompt and hassle free. When shit happens, it’s nice to know that they’ve got your back covered!




(dog and sheep not included)

Keeping everything I’ve said in mind, I’d now like to drop another bomb on you.
I hook up my BenQ monitor to my Alienware 18 and dual screen it, and play 2 games and stream.
What makes me sad about this is that I can’t fully maximise the refresh rate of my BenQ, because the 120/144Hz is only applicable when you connect using the DVI cable. The Alienware 18 only has a HDMI port.
HOWEVER! It’s still great to have dual monitors up, it’s technology’s gift to streamers. =D

(I know you can see my x51 CPU in the background, and yes, when I do use the x51, I use the DVI cable, for my BenQ monitor. )

All in all…
The Alienware 18 is a beautiful work of art. The design is reminiscent of it’s earlier designs, which I absolutely loved. (I loved my Area 51!), and when you use it as a desktop replacement, like I do, it’s perfect. When you’re just doing admin stuff, or surfing, you can detach all the wires and just carry it to your bedside and use it, and when you want some gaming action, just pop the wires back in and you’re good to go!
It is kinda large to carry around overseas, and to be honest, I have not managed to find a carrying case to fit it into. It won’t even fit into my cabin suitcase… So that’s a problem I’m going to have to solve.

SteelSeries Siberia Elite – White

My Unboxing Video! (Sorry, a little rusty, hope you enjoy it anyway!)

Website link : http://steelseries.com/products/audio/steelseries-siberia-elite

I tried to do an unboxing video today… And I think I’m rusty cos I stammered through most of it.
I’m still going to upload it anyway, and hope that some people will be able to make some sense out of it.


When you plug it in with the USB soundcard, this window will automatically pop up :

There’s a nice little sticker on the USB sound card with the URL for you to download the software : http://steelseries.com/engine

It will usually prompt you immediately to update your firmware, just follow the instructions, it’s pretty straightforward!

Adding configurations and profiles is also quite easy! Just click Library, and you can link your games/applications:

I immediately went to check out different illumination colours!!

Here’s how the purple looks! I chose Steady :

purple(By the way, if you can see, there’s a white light on the mic. This means that it’s currently MUTED!)

You can add in different configs, and save them.My ffxiv profile has pink illumination, my default is blue, and steam is purple, and I’ve selected dolby on/off, music/mmo/custom sound profiles for each

After creating different configs, you can then just select it on the main page, which is pretty handy :



Been using the headset for a while now, and I’ve gotten the comment that the ear cups are way too big for my head. I have to admit they’re really generously padded, but they’re REALLY comfortable.
The 7.1 dolby also delivers a fantastic soundscape, that’s practically theatre quality.
The only thing about it is that it’s on the moderately heavy side, so after a while the top of my head gets a little tired with the headband pressing on one spot. So I do have to move it around a little to ease up the pressure.
Also, they’re white, and I’m TERRIFIED of staining them. So far it’s been doing fine, the white is holding up better than I expected. =D

So far, I’ve been using it for music, DotA2, and voice comms, and everything has been working perfectly, both with and without the steelseries engine download.

Oh, also, if you don’t use the USB soundcard, the earcups will NOT light up. (ie, if you use the 3.5 mm jacks, it won’t be illuminated), so, there’s another reason to get the soundcard set up with the steelseries engine installed.

[TRAVEL] Bintan Lagoon Resort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake a nice look at these 2 people here, because these are the two happy travelers who decided to take a weekend beach vacation at Bintan Lagoon Resort over the long weekend!

As a starting note, I took my pictures using my Olympus OMD EM5, 12-50mm kit lens, and my Panasonic Lumix LX3. I brought my LX3 to the beach, because, as much as I love it, I’d rather risk it getting stolen.

We spent 4 days, 3 nights there, and we booked the accommodation via Tripadvisor. They will give you a selection of sites with prices, and you can choose the one with the best price. We’ve been planning a trip for a while, so I’d been keeping an eye on prices. I ended up booking the hotel on the 10th, 2 days before we were supposed to be there. In general, hotel prices get cheaper nearer the date that you want to book. Something I learnt from booking Montigo Resorts (Batam) last year. It was roughly SGD160 per night when I booked.

I do have to admit that based on recommendations, I was looking at Nirwana instead, but because it was a long weekend, the rooms were all sold out.

Anyhow, when the shuttle bus from the BBT (make sure you book a trip to BBT, and not to Tanjong Pinang, we booked using Bintan Resorts Ferries and it cost about SGD90 for 2 people, 1 way) jetty drops you off at the main lobby at Bintan Lagoon Resort (BLR), you’ll be welcome by a group of dancing people in their local festive costumes along this walkway below. I felt that it’d be kinda weird to take a pic of them while they were dancing… so I took a pic when the coast was clear.

The check in counter is on the left, and the checkout counter is on the right, so that helps with crowd control somewhat. There are sofas and power points everywhere in the lobby, and it’s totally non-airconditioned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a typical corridor, and this particular one is leading from the west wing to the reception area. There are shops selling beach stuff, provisions (ie. beer), clothes and even a hair salon.
It’s all open air, but surprisingly, there are few bugs around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is our room! 2 separate beds (I like!) and a huge wooden platform at the far end. I never figured out what it was for, but there were bolsters on it. I put all my clothes in neat piles on it, and just tried not to trip on the edge of the platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe toilet. Pretty basic, and not extremely well designed. The towel hanger for the sink is built for midgets (look at the bottom left of the pic, its below my knee level!!) and the hose of the shower head is about 1 metre too short.

The toiletries provided are also quite basic, just bath gel and shampoo, 2 cakes of soap and some other random things like sanitary disposal bags. So, DEFINITELY bring conditioner and your shaver, toothbrushes, toothpaste, facewash… that kinda thing.

There are obvious cracks in the tiles and it’s quite obvious that the place is quite old, but seems to have been recently re-fitted.
Everything is clean enough though you might find some stains on your linen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe East wing, which supposedly offers a sea view. The balcony of our room opened up into a jungle, which was preferable to me. I’m pretty sure the sea would look very far away from these rooms because the hotel is set quite a way from the beach. The large field in front of the east wing, however, had the boy dreaming of bringing a soccer team of friends down to kick some ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore pics of the East wing. The building on the left-most is the nearest to RICE (a beachfront restaurant)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABirds-eye view of the pool from the reception. The pool is broken into 4 sections, all of which are joined together; the 2.2m deep pool on the right, the pool bar (aka Ripples the red roof building), the water sports section in the middle (its 1.3 metres deep and has waterpolo nets and basketball nets), the 1.3m play pool on the right.

There’s lots of deck chairs and even a small pavilion (the brown roof) for the visitors to sit and relax, all day, and all night. Yes, all night. Take a stroll by the pool in the evening and you’ll find people sitting in the chairs, chatting, reading their kindles, using their ipads…

The pool closes at 6pm though, which is kinda early in my opinion. The water feels heated, but I think it’s because it’s always exposed to lots of very hot sun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can try shooting some hoops… they provide balls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you can’t get the basketball/waterpolo ball, you can always grab a kid to toss around. Plenty of them!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s the pool bar on the left, the tiles have seen better days for sure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd… a bunch of teens playing waterpolo

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA kid finishing up her icecream (a Magnum costs SGD6 from the pool bar). Towels are provided, but you have to sign in and out when you take them from the counter.
As you can see, there are plenty of foreigners!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mojo Cafe in the hotel lobby offerrs window seating, or you can take your food/drinks to the sofas which are positioned all over the lobby.
The Mojo cafe also has 2 PC terminals, and you can surf the net there for free. They also have a printer, which is useful if you need to print out the hotel booking (like I had to).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile waiting for transport to town, or transport of any kind, there’s plenty of seats for you to stretch out on and enjoy the breeze.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beachfront restaurant with alfresco dining. I didn’t try the food there because the selection wasn’t that extensive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe decor is really nice though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s how RICE looks from the beach at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe resident Japanese restaurant. I definitely wouldn’t recommend dining there. They charge you Singapore prices, but give you terrible quality, and tiny portions. On that note, the currency that is accepted throughout the resort is Singapore Dollars.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAttempt at a zen feel, outside the Japanese restaurant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the whole, the restaurant I had the best meal at was Kopi-O, and that was on the night we arrived. They have themed dining, and that night it was steamboat and grill. Their selection of food isn’t extremely wide, but the seafood was fresh and tasted great.
We chose tom yam steamboat, and had a few servings of teppanyaki.



It’s a beach resort, so of course the beach is going to feature very strongly in your visit there!

Here are some important items that you’ll probably want to bring!
1. A donut float, or a large float of some kind (it costs SGD 18 at the resort, and SGD6 at Pasar Oleh Oleh)P10609342. Slippers of course!

P1060935The sand is decently fine and it’s very clean. The water is clear and clean too. You can see all the way to the bottom for quite a way out.
They do “restrict” where you can swim though, they mark out the area with some floats. I say “restrict” because I don’t think there’s actually anyone who will really stop you if you swim out of the area. No one tried though, there were warning signs posted up about currents and stuff.
Although the sun is scorching hot, there was a strong steady breeze which actually made me feel chilly after soaking in the sea then getting blown by the wind a few times.

P1060940Snorkeling gear and towels can be obtained from the seasports counter. There’s a separate counter near the beach where you’re supposed to get your towels from (They’re a different colour! And you don’t have to sign them in and out like you have to at the pool)

Towels are free, but the snorkeling gear is SGD11 an hour, per set.

P1060950Each set comes with flippers, which we didn’t use, because we had the donut float!
And in case you’re wondering if it’s worth it to rent, I’d say, yeah! We were floating around on the donut when this school of fish swam by all around us. There were at least 4 different kinds of fish, and maybe about a hundred odd of them. Some were as large as my 2 hands put together, and some were finger length. After seeing the school from the donut, we went to rent the gear and proceeded to stalk them.
There are also quite a healthy number of jellyfish around too, so expect to get stung. The pain wears off pretty quick, and it just feels like an irritation, not a sore.

P1060949Some people rented kayaks. And we spent some energy avoiding them because they were paddling in the designated safe swimming area. A little annoying, but tolerable.

P1060941You can also get your face painted. Seems like it’s quite waterproof too!

P1060942A view of the bay.
There are little pavilions and beach chairs to the right of this pic. They were all taken most of the time, and kinda far away from the water, so we didn’t bother with trying to get one.
I prefer to have my belongings in sight on the beach when I’m in the water. Even though I’ll probably never be able to swim fast enough to catch the person who takes my things, I still feel better knowing I can see my stuff from the water!

P1060943Pasar Oleh Oleh, the local Food Market and Massages!

A cab ride out (It’s not really a cab, more like chauffered) is SGD22 one way. If you do contact one of the massage/spa places there, some offer 2 way transport to and from your hotel.
Pasar Oleh Oleh (POO) is near the BBT Ferry terminal, and is about 15minutes drive from BLR. You can also catch the shuttle bus out, but the timings are weird, something like 10am and 2pm, which is probably the time you’d like to be at the beach or pool.

Here’s where you get swindled into buying “local” stuff at Singapore prices. I’d recommend only stocking up on provisions, and donut floats if you go to POO. Other items like shampoo, sunblock, conditioner etc are at decent prices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARandom pavilion at POO with many many bats!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpposite POO, there’s the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet. The prices are definitely better than retail, but I’m still not sure if they are authentic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocals lounging on the pavilion at POO.
Most of them will approach you to get you to go to their spa. We booked at Bintan Natural Spa beforehand and had to pay a deposit, so we didn’t really listen to their offers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA 5-10minute walk from POO is the local food market. This is the one and only best of the best nasi padang store (that’s how the locals describe it!)
Lamak Basamo closes around midnight everyday, and has a nice selection of food. My favourite is the rendang and fried/dried mutton. The fried fish with green chilli was pretty tasty too, and the nanka curry was very flavourful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClockwise from the 12 o clock position : nanka curry, fried fish with green chilli, rendang with potatoes, a dish of green chilli, and the fried/dried mutton with red chilli. There’s also some ayam goreng on the plate with rice, which was tasty, but kinda pathetic because 2 out of the 3 pieces was neck.

We were definitely overcharged, all that cost SGD10, but we were in no position to argue or haggle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also ordered a teh o. This was the tag! It had a nice floral taste to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADefinitely pay a visit to the provision stores next to the food market. Prices are cheap – SGD0.60 for a can of sprite!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are other stores there, and there are some dishes which they serve that Lamak Basamo doesn’t. Some suggestions on what you can order are kangkong fried with belachan, ayam penyet and nasi goreng.

On to SPAs next!
We visited 2 spas at POO, the first day we went to Bintan Natural Spa and 1 spent about SGD78 on the comfy aromatherapy massage and scrub package, and he spent SGD75 on a 120minute aromatherapy massage.
You get to choose your oils and your scrub scent. I took Rosemary oil, and had an orange scrub. He had lavender oil, I believe.
Bintan Natural offers complimentary one way transport back, and we met a foreigner there who was stationed in Bintan for the past 11 months and she was all praise for their treatments.
On the whole, the Bintan Natural was a good experience. However, they could have improved on the comfort of the customer by having some kind of neck support while lying face down. Most spas have a bed with a hole for your face to fit into comfortably, but this spa only had a flat mattress.
The staff however, we professional and experienced.

The next day, we went for a spa at Martha Tilaar, which is facing the food market. Bintan Natural is a block away, and is a little secluded.
The first impression upon entering Martha Tilaar was that the staff weren’t as professional as those at Bintan Natural. We decided on a leg massage each, because he was sunburnt and didn’t want his shoulders rubbed (lol) and because we just had a full meal.

One reason why I have photos of Martha Tilaar and not Bintan Natural is because Martha Tilaar didn’t have lockers (that I saw, at least) for us to put our stuff, whereas Bintan Natural did.
So this is him, next to me about to get our legs rubbed.
Despite the feeling that the staff weren’t as professional, their massage was definitely up to standard. We chose olive oil, aromatherapy oil is an additional SGD2. I think we paid SGD24 per person.


Some random decor on the floor.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Bintan Lagoon Terminal

The BLR has it’s own adjoining ferry terminal, so you can actually arrive and depart from here without going to BBT. It’s about 2 minutes walk from the reception, and it costs about SGD90 for 2 pax, one way, which is about the same as BRF from BBT.
BRF will always have shuttle buses available at all the ferry arrival times, so you don’t have to worry about not having free land transport to the hotel. BRF also has many departure times, whereas Bintan Lagoon terminal only has 2 arrival and departure timeslots per day. For this reason, we were unable to arrive here, and had to take the 5pm ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (TMFT) to BBT.
The return ferry also lands you at TMFT, and you can get the tickets at Journeyful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s the queue of people waiting to clear customs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge out to the ferry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA last look at the beach…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd that’s one of the ferries that docks at the terminal!


Other Comments and tips

*BLR couldn’t find our booking, so they had to hastily prepare a room on the spot and they didn’t offer any form of compensation etc. We had to wait quite a while for everything to be ready, so we went to eat at Kopi-o first.

*Remember to bring your hotel booking, printed out.

*Bring some of your own food along, in case you’re not super hungry and don’t feel like spending at the restaurants there. Canned tuna/salmon and bread/biscuits for example!

*Don’t buy anything from the provision shops/stores at BLR if you can help it, they have the same stuff at POO, and cheaper!

*There is NO FREE wifi available, it’s apparently the only bintan resort not to have free wifi in certain zones. The wifi in the room is about SGD20 per 24 hours, which is EXORBITANT. I applied for Singtel 3G data roam, which cost me SGD15 per 24 hours.

Closing thoughts :

4 days 3 nights was actually quite a good length for a getaway. Just enough time to experience the full spectrum of activities, but short enough so that you’re not bored yet, and would want to go back again in the future.
I’d probably opt to go to club med bintan the next time, if I’m looking to be a “captive audience” because at least most of the activities and food are an all-in fare.
I’m keen to check out Nirwana as well, since I’ve heard that the amenities are better… and… free wifi.
All in all though, it’s pretty chill and nice for a weekend getaway.