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.
This 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.
This 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Birds-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.
A 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!
The 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).
The 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.
On 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!
The 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.
Snorkeling 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.
Each 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.
A 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!
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.
Locals 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.
A 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.
Clockwise 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.
There 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.
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.
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.