Tuesday, May 14, 2013

First trip to bintan island in indonesia.

Linna, AJ, and a python at the Elephant
Show. One of the scariest moments of my
life, and I was simply taking the photo!
I titled this blog post "First Trip to Bintan Island in Indonesia" because we WILL be going back. It's so incredible that while we're living in Singapore, we can take a 50-minute ferry ride, and arrive on a tropical island in another country. We are so lucky to be here!

Being an expat in Singapore, it's pretty much "required" that we take a trip to Bintan. Almost every expat has been there, almost everyone talks about it, and before we made the decision to go, we had heard mixed reviews. Some people told us not to waste our time going there because it wasn't "that great", and others told us to check it out. I am SO happy we decided to take the advice from the people with positive reviews, because our experience was wonderful.

AJ took Friday off from work during the first week of May, so the three of us could spend three days and two nights at Nirwana Resort Hotel on Bintan Island. We chose Nirwana because of all the activities they have on their property (which is huge by the way), restaurants, and because the pool looked very kid-friendly. The ferry ride to Bintan in itself was a pretty cool experience, because you get to check out the coastline of Singapore, as well as all the cargo ships up-close on the water. We took Bintan Resort Ferries (I believe that's the only option) for about $60/person round-trip (children under the age of 11 are about $50 each - yes, even infants are required to pay the full ticket fare). You can upgrade to Emerald Class for about $40 extra per person, but I really don't see the need to. Emerald Class ticket holders have access to the upper part of the boat where there is outdoor seating, free refreshments (I believe it's just hot and cold beverages), priority boarding/disembarkation, and seating assignments. We arrived 40 minutes prior to departure time because we were running behind schedule (Bintan Resort Ferries recommends that you arrive an hour prior to boarding), and we didn't have to wait in any lines, and we got on the boat with no hassle. Our seats were perfectly comfortable, refreshments were made available for very inexpensive prices, and we had a great view of the water. Also, I have friends who took Bintan Resort Ferries and didn't upgrade to Emerald Class, and they were still able to go out on the boat's deck (don't tell anyone I told you that - hehe). Although I haven't been in Emerald Class on Bintan Resort Ferries, I feel Economy Class was just fine. You're only on the boat for about an hour anyway.

Just part o the pool at our resort.

Papa and Linna in the pool over-looking the South China Sea.

"I love the way this water tastes!"

Mama Saigh and the bug playing in the sea.

When we arrived to Nirwana Resort Hotel after a quick 10-minute car ride from the ferry terminal, we were greeted with a delicious cold beverage, and the friendly staff showed us to our room. Our room was in the newly-renovated part of the hotel, so although there was still some construction going on around the resort, we could tell our room was brand new! We had a great view of the pool and sea too. The only thing I found a little frustrating was the fact that we used our stroller a lot so Linna could nap on-the-go, and there wasn't a way to get to the pool without using the stairs. However, most of the time there was a hotel staff-member there to help carry the stroller up and down the stairs. The hotel's staff also had a crib set up in our room for Linna, so we didn't have to bring one from home!

Checking out the resort property via a horse and buggy ride.

Crocs at the mini zoo.

The storms over Bintan Island were spectacular!

Linna meets an owl. She loved this!

We spent a majority of our time on Bintan in the pool and on the beach. This beach was incredible! Other than the gorgeous sunrises/sets we experienced at our resort in Phuket, Thailand, I feel this beach was even better than the beach in Phuket! The water at Nirwana's beach was so clear, and the sand was white and soft. There wasn't much of a tide, so it was very breezy and peaceful on the beach. Linna loved the taste of the salt water (crazy girl), and she had so much fun playing in the sand. I even took the opportunity one afternoon to have a massage by the beach for just $34! Unreal. Is this really my life right now?!

Pool bar at the resort. Yes, the smoothie fell into the pool:(

Mama Saigh and Linna at The Kelong Restaurant.

The Kelong Restaurant at Nirwana.

Glorious food at Kelong.

AJ joining the Elephant Show.

Breakfast at The Coffee Shop at Nirwana is complimentary and pretty darn good. It's the perfect spot to grab a bite to each when a random thunderstorm hits, and you have to get out of the pool. Watching the rain from this restaurant is very relaxing. The food wasn't anything over-the-top, but we really enjoyed the daily breakfast buffet, as they had many different selections. Linna couldn't get enough of the banana bread and fresh fruit! On Friday night, we had dinner at this amazing place called The Kelong Seafood Restaurant, which was literally built on stilts above the sea. Our resort provided a shuttle bus to the restaurant which was about a three-minute drive away, and when we arrived, we were in awe! The restaurant has al-fresco dining, which we took advantage of because of the great breeze of the sea. We couldn't stop taking photos of the gorgeous views, and we were amazed by the fantastic sunset. Although this restaurant is very family-friendly, it did make me a little nervous to let Linna run around, for fear that she would fall into the water. I'm sure this has never happened, but moms always fear the worst when it comes to their kids, right?! If it wasn't for Linna's bedtime inching closer and closer, we would have stayed at this restaurant and enjoyed drinks all night long. The food was great (I highly recommend the Lemon Chicken), and the drinks just topped off our incredible evening there. If you're on Bintan, you must check out this restaurant, simply for the views and ambiance.

Elephant's tail up close. So cool!

Linna enjoying her dishes at Kelong.

Beautiful water at Nirwana's beach.

To get a look around the resort, we took a horse-carriage ride for about a half-hour. We stopped at the mini zoo to check out the crocodiles, birds, snakes, and other animals, which Linna found to be pretty cool (Mama Saigh did too)! There is SO much to do at this resort, including bowling, rifle shooting, archery, dune buggies, windsurfing, snorkeling, jet skiing, etc. There is really something for everyone! One of our favorite activities was attending the Elephant Show, where Linna and AJ actually became part of the show. How lucky is Linna to be able to dance right alongside huge elephants, while on a tropical island in Indonesia?! We were really close to actually getting on an elephant for a ride, but Linna took one look at it and said "NO". We didn't want to force her to do something she didn't want to do... even though it would have been pretty cool. We'll just have to go back when she's a little older:)

I can't wait until we have friends/family visit us in Singapore, so we can make another visit to Bintan. I would highly recommend Nirwana Resort Hotel if you're looking for a family-friendly location. Other than the Resort Hotel, they also have Villas available for larger families/groups. We might check those out on our next trip to Bintan. Trust me, you'll never be bored there, and when you get home, you'll want to come right back. We miss it already!

The Saighs will see you again soon Bintan Island.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,
    I loved reading this and it was really helpful as I am a mother of 2 planning a trip to Bintan Island in October 2015. I hope you don't mind but I have a few questions for you:
    - How did you choose Nirwana? My husband and I are currently deciding between Banyan Tree and Bintan Lagoon Resort but we don't know anyone who has visited the island so we are looking for some recommendations or some ideas of what to look for! Our children will be 3 and 1 when we travel so family-friendly is a must!
    - What (ballpark) prices were meals on the island? Some websites say that they are hideously expensive, but that doesn't seem right to me!
    - What was the ferry ride like? I'm utterly terrified of boats so I'm a bit nervous a full year in advance!
    - What was the beach like? I've read online about tar and jellyfish and sandflies and its made me a bit worried!

    Sorry if this is a bit rude! I'm trying to do my research online and its hard to find someone who has been there with a young child!!

    Thank you!