Thursday, August 28, 2014

Weekend getaway to Bintan

Over the last weekend, I went to Bintan with 3 friends. We were all studying at the same junior high school in Jakarta before fate separated all of us to different countries during our higher studies before being united again in Singapore for work now. Funny how life works eh?

All of us had seen beautiful pictures of resort in Bintan although none of us had been there. Thus, we just anyhow chose the location to give it a try. We chose the cheapest package we found at groupon. The resort cost $99 and after all the +++, each of us paid $184. The +++ is not that bad because the return ferry trip would easily cost $44 and the fee for car rental at Bintan was $15 per hour or $80 per day. I guess $85 for the ferry tickets, the lunch, the tour guide, and the car was not too bad.

Our ferry departed at 0840 from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. Because it was considered an international journey, it works similarly to international flights in airport that we had to check in at least 90 minutes before. It only meant that we had to be there really really early! The previous time I took ferry was when I was very very small. Although I did not have any seasickness back then, I was quite worried for this journey. Phew... thank goodness I did not experience any, I was expecting that the ferry journey would be uncomfortable but our ferry, operated by Sindo Ferry, was surprisingly very comfortable. In fact, the aircon was super duper cold.

I thought Singapore-Bintan journey would only take 1 hour so it was kinda worrying that our journey took close to 2 hours. After arrival, we went for chartered City Tour and the guide informed us that there are 2 ferry terminals in Bintan. The one at the north, where those great resort pictures come from, is the one nearer to Singapore and the journey will be about an hour. We arrived at Tanjung Pinang Terminal at the south and the journey around the island to reach the south was what made us took 2 hours.
Tanjung Pinang is the capital of Bintan but it still feels very under-developed. I am actually very glad that I am born and live in Jakarta, despite all the shit things about it. Tanjung Pinang is even less developed than Pontianak, where my dad comes from, which I already find very boring. The first stop of our tour was Bintan Indah Mall. Before alighting, the guide told us that we could find branded goods here. Hearing branded goods + mall, you know what sort of things you would imagine. But what we saw really shocked us.
Bintan Indah Mall
It is just 2 rows of shophouses with a roof above it. There middle road, as you see above, is also a parking lot. There is no aircon. The 4 of us was not impressed and the thing that we could be bothered about was only the small minimarket there. Lol. We had our breakfast (Mie Pangsit or dumpling noodle) at the roadside near there and we were ecstatic. Haha.. Finally something very good for our tongue. The serving is considered generous, plenty of meat and 4 dumpling, for Rp 17000 or less than $2 only. Haha... Can't get any shit with that price in Jakarta. I also bought a char siew bao for Rp 8000 but it was not as what I expected.

Next stop was Ramayana Mall. After the first mall, we did not get our hopes up and we were glad that we did not. Haha.. The prices at the department store are not exactly very cheap so we spent the whole time doing grocery shopping. My friends even bought feminine pads and detergents for stock back in Singapore.

We had Ayam Penyet for lunch which I did not really enjoy as I hate eating things with bones. Then we went to a temple which was only 5 minutes drive away from the restaurant. The temple is big and amazing. With so much available land, it is not surprising that they could build something this grand. I wonder who are actually coming here as I did not see many residential areas nearby. At the side of the halls, there are giant statues of the deities. I don't know them but I think it is awesome if you know them. One thing that struck me was the similarities with Catholicism. In the Church, we can also find statues of the Saints.
Avalokitesvara Temple
Most of us fell asleep on our journey to the resort. Haha.. The van was too warm.. Sadly, the few months long of eager anticipation just evaporated when we saw the resort. It was nothing like those pictures we saw. Huhuhu... That's the result of not doing proper research and just bought the cheapest thing we could see. Those great resorts (Nirwana, Lagoon, Banyan Tree, Club Med) are all located at northern part of Bintan while our resort is in the east! Bleah...
Bintan Spavilla Beach Resort
There was welcome drink and the room was hotel standard. Outdoor slippers were provided too! I had to mention that there was a pretty large gap at the door. I was worried about mosquitos and insects coming in but that did not materialise. 2 of my friends went for massage while another friend and I decided to walk around to take photos. The 2 of us just did not like the idea of strangers touching our body. Haha..

We were not too pleased with our discovery. It took us only half an hour to walk to the other end of the resort, taking photos, and then back to our room. The beach is very narrow and not the clean white sand type we expected so say bye bye to swimming. One great thing about the beach is that it is not very wavy. So it was kinda relaxing to just look at the sea.
View from the balcony of my room
Can you see the volley net and the soccer goal posts?
Random trees
Not a beach we were looking for
When we go to a resort, of course we want to do the activity. However, it is a problem when the check in time is 3pm! Let's say we want to do snorkelling, it will take a minimum of 2 hours and it would be sunset and dark by then! I did not know where the other people were as we saw nobody and no activity around. If we saw some people do this or do that, we might be able to see what interesting and what not. But nothing was going on. Bleah..

After the massage was done, the girls went for jacuzzi but I was too shy to be shirtless and show off my flab. After that, we spent the rest of the afternoon playing billiard, table soccer, and dart. It was ironic that the table soccer was the most enjoyable part of the trip. We played, shouted, and screamed like mad. It was hilarious as we did not really know how to play. When we put the ball at the center, it was a position not kick-able by both teams. We were so eager to play and broke into laughter when it was so lame that none could kick the ball.

For dinner, we went to a local restaurant just next to the resort. We were told about the existence of this by our tour guide. It was a short walk away but it was very terrifying to walk at dark. It was really a village area that there was no street lamps. When we reached the restaurant, it was also rather dubious as we did not see people eating. It was Saturday evening.. weekend... how could it be so quiet? I was actually more worried about the freshness and hygiene of the food. In the end we just ordered the fully cooked meal. The fried squid was awesome and in total we only spent Rp 152000! That was about $16 for 4 people. In the resort, a BBQ of 6 pieces cost $29 per person. Holy crap! One memorable thing that happened during dinner was a giant lizard which dropped from the roof. I am not scared of house lizard but this lizard was gross: not only it was big, it was also black! Hiii!!!

We retired to our beds early as we were hoping to wake up early to see the sunrise. I woke up early but sadly it was cloudy and I did not see the sun rising from the horizon. Although I did not witness the sunrise, I still felt glad that I woke up early as I realised something great about this resort. When it was low tide, the beach was dry up to the far island that we saw from the beach!! No wonder one of the attraction listed in the resort was "Walking in the Sea". I was alone so I could not have any picture in this amazing landscape T_T Sea is really scary as within 15 minutes, the water rose again to the normal levels. Wew...
The boat is on the sand. Compare it with the picture above where the boat is on the water.
You can literally walk to that far island
Breakfast was not very exciting although I sat throughout the full breakfast period. Haha.. My friend and I were waiting for the other 2 who were still sleeping. We wanted to get the waffle but did not think that we could finish them so we waited for the other 2 to share. After that long wait, the waffle was quite disappointing. Haha..

I borrowed a volleyball for a bit of exercise. We walked to the volley net but after 2 serves, we decided to call it a day. Lol.. We were too full to chase after the ball and after 1 of my serve went a bit off, we were so worried that the ball would go to the sea. Haha..

On our way back to the ferry terminal, we were awake and we realised how secluded our resort is and how under-developed the area is. It is kinda sad to see how people are actually flocking to the resorts and paying big bucks while many parts of the island are so poor.

And that was the end of my trip. I did not sleep at all on the journey back and as a result, I was so exhausted until yesterday. That was why I could only finish writing this today. Haha.. Yeah I am old and it took me 3 days to recover. Lol.. I have not even uploaded the photos on facebook because I am still lazy and tired. And I don't know if I should publish the photos as I look damn fat in singlet. Huhuhu... 

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