Discovering Bintan Island in Indonesia
January 1, 1970
by Casandra Jordaan
My husband and I landed in a very sleep Singapore, just before sunrise. The humidity hits you as soon as you step out of the cool confines of the air-conditioned airport. Our guide helps us with our bags as we hop into the car that will take us to the ferry terminal.
It’s a small terminal and we have to wait a while before we can check our bags so we grab a cup of milky coffee at a small shop in the corner of the terminal along with the other early birds. Finally it’s time for us to board the ferry that will take us to Bintan Island.
I get bad motion sickness so I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the ferry trip but I tried to focus on the beautiful place that awaited us. The ferry ride took around 2 hours, 2 very nauseas hours for me in particular. The rocking motions and diesel fumes didn’t faze my husband as much. Finally we arrive on Bintan Island.
We have booked a room at a beautiful placed called Bintan Lagoon Resort. We head up the walkway to go through customs, one of the tiniest customs buildings I ever seen at that. The process is simple and we are greeted on the other side by a friendly porter. He drives us up to the resort in a golf cart along with several other guests.
Relaxing days at Bintan Lagoon Resort
The entrance to the resort is magnificent. We were greeted by music, dancers and some refreshing juice. The foyer is the biggest I have ever seen and check-in was quick and pleasant. Our bags are taken to our room so that we can unpack. The resort is huge so it’s not a short walk to our room but everyone you pass is super friendly and every now and then you will get glimpses of the ocean that spans out in front of the resort.
Our room is very neat and has more than enough space for the two of us. We have a small balcony that looks out over one of the pools at the back of the resort but we didn’t spend much time out there since the view from the front of the resort was much better.
There are several different places to grab a drink or a bite to eat within the main hotel. The Terrace Sports Bar has a happy hour every day, which we took full advantage of, and it’s also where we discovered Bintang Beer. We would usually grab a spot out on the balcony that overlooked the main pool and the ocean, and enjoy a refreshing Bintang can as the sun went down. Coming from South Africa, the beers were also one of the more affordable drinks options for us so the fact that the beer was really good was a bonus. The resort also had a stunning golf course that even non-golfers would appreciate.
That pool though
Their main pool was something else. It’s by far the biggest pool we had ever been in and the fact that you could swim up to the bar and order a cocktail was a dream come true. My husband and I literally lost an entire day in that pool. It was definitely one of the most relaxing days on the island. There are several other restaurants located around the resort. One of our favorites was Nelayan as it was located right on the beach. We soon discovered how lucky we were to come from a country where we can buy amazing wines for such good prices because a bottle of wine that we would usually pay next to nothing for at home cost a small fortune on the island.
I think my biggest disappointment was the fact that you couldn’t find a lot of authentic food dishes on the island. I got the impression that Bintan is more of a weekend away destination for Singapore locals so the restaurant menus were generally quite westernized. Other than that, the food was delicious and the service fantastic. We got to know a lot of the locals and they are by far some of the friendliest people we have ever met in our lives. So humble, curious and polite. We didn’t come across one unfriendly person during our entire stay on the island.
If you’re looking for something to do, there are a number of activities available. We decided to go snorkeling since we had both never done it before. The water is incredibly clear and even though we got to see a lot of beautiful fish, we were told how many species have already died out due to over-fishing, angel fish being one of them. You can actually see a large number of fishing huts scattered throughout the water from the shore.
Discovering Pinang City and the Banyan Tree Temple
On one of our days on the island we decided to venture out of the resort to see more of Indonesia. Our driver knew all of the best places and drove us to Pinang City. Along the way we passed several pineapple farms and almost every second house had a rubber tree on their property that was slowly collecting latex that would later be sold.
Our guide took us into Tanjung where we walked through the small village of Senggarang that has been built right on the water. We got to see the famous Banyan tree temple. The temple is situated within a building that has become one with a giant Banyan tree. It was incredible to see how the original building and slowly been lifted away by the branches, almost as if it was making way for the temple to come.
Even though Indonesia is the land of a thousand islands and there is just so much to see and take in, Bintan is definitely a place I would recommend if you’re looking to kick back and relax with a cold beer, take in the ocean views and meet some of the friendliest people in the world.