Sunday, 23 June 2013

Bintan – Not a Cheap Nearby Getaway from Singapore

If you are staying in Singapore and want a quick visit to the Beach outside the country, Bintan Island in Indonesia could be considered the top choice because of its proximity. It is also easy to reach as there is a daily ferry ride to and fro SG and Bintan everyday that takes about 45 minutes. Two of our friends organized a trip to Bintan last May to celebrate the long holiday weekend. My boyfriend and I were invited the last minute and since we haven’t set something up for the 3 days off, we decided to join. Preparing for this trip was easy as everything can be done online. We bought our ferry tickets at Bintan Resort Ferries website and booked our hotel through Agoda. The date, time and hotel were based on the bookings done by our friend.

The ferries that will take you from Singapore to Bintan is located at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. To get there, one has to go to Tanah Merah MRT then take a few minutes bus ride from there. In our case, we took a cab since we are staying in Simei which is just a station away from Tanah Merah. It only cost us around 7 SGD. The terminal was spacious, there was no queue on the check-in counter and boarding the ferry was hassle free. When we arrived in Bintan, we were surprised to see a man holding a placard with my name written on it. We found out that our friends who arrived earlier that day booked us a car service that will bring us to Nirwana Beach Resort. Nirwana is one of the popular beach resorts in Bintan. It is preferred by many tourists since it is beach front, near the terminal and offers water activities. We weren’t able to stay there since it was fully booked on our travel date. To have a feel of the beach, we decided to spend our first day at Nirwana. Arriving at Nirwana, we paid 15SGD for the car service and 10SGD each for the entrance fee. This fee allows you to swim on the beach, use their lounge chair for sun bathing and borrow towels. These are the actual amounts they asked for as they are charging in SGD in Bintan. To those people who had been to other parts of Indonesia like me, one can easily notice the differences on the prices of services and commodities. The cost of living in Bintan is similar to Singapore so spending is not as fun compared to Bali and Jakarta which are two other places in Indonesia I had been to. 

The water activities in Nirwana are costly. I did not check the price myself but my friends told me it was at least 20SGD per person for a banana boat and the rate goes higher depending on the water sports. Hearing this, I lost my interest trying any as I know I can avail them on other places for a much cheaper price. The beach itself was surprisingly pleasant. The sand is gray but fine, the beach has very few rocks so it is good for swimming and it is not salty that I can open my eyes underwater and don’t feel a sting. The last beach I had been to was in Bali and the strong waves and the rocks all over the place made it more suitable for surfing but not for swimming. The car service picked us up at 5pm and we made our way to our hotel which is roughly 1 hour and 30 mins away from Nirwana. The travel from Nirwana to the hotel made us all dizzy as we went through a winding road.

Free and easy at the beach.
Tracy and KT. Our travel friends to Bintan.
Me and the Nirwana Beach View
It was dinner time when we arrived at Aston Tanjung Pinang Hotel. There were no supermarkets or eateries nearby so we had no choice but to avail of their nightly dinner buffet which costs 25SGD. This is a normal dinner buffet price in Singapore but since we are in Indonesia, the meal can be considered pricey. The only notable food served was the chilli crab which is an expensive delicacy in Singapore and the great thing was that we can have as many as we can. We learned that the hotel has a KTV room which we can occupy for 15SGD per hour so we can . We went to the KTV room and once inside, we checked their menu’s prices. Their Bintang beer, which was only less than 2 SGD in Bali, costs 7SGD, including GST and service charge. We really wanted to have drinks while KTV singing so we decided not to push through. Since we will go on city tour the next day, we thought of buying food and drinks outside the hotel on the way back then it is when we'll resume our postponed KTV. It was still too early for us to go straight to our hotel room so we had one Bintang Beer each before calling it a night. 

Candle light dinner buffet 
The next day, we had our buffet breakfast which was included on the room package. Afterwards, my boyfriend and I swim in the pool, relaxed in the room then prep for our city tour trip at 3pm. We rented the hotel’s car service. The only tourist attraction we intended to visit was the 500 Luohan Temple (500 Buddhists Temple). Then we asked the driver to bring us to a shopping mall. The mall he brought us to wasn’t what we expected. There were no boutiques and instead, the clothes are being sold in the middle of the mall similar to flea markets and there was only one fast food restaurant. We shopped for souvenirs and our food and drinks for that night’s KTV sesh. As expected, the beer there was significantly cheaper, 2SGD. To experience more how it is like to be a local in Bintan, we had our dinner at the mall’s lone fast food restaurant, Charlie’s Chicken. I ordered 1 piece chicken, fried rice, sunny-side up egg and bottled soda costing me around 5SGD. The spoon and fork need to be asked at the counter as the locals are used to eating using their hand. Afterwards, we headed home and ended our second night to a 3hr KTV sesh.

View from our hotel room
Manny and the pool at Aston Tanjung Pinang Hotel
Prepped and ready to go!
Statue at the entrance of 500 Luohan Temple
Lovin' the view behind us

Close up shot of one of the Buddha Statues
On our third and last day, we woke up a bit earlier than the second day to have our buffet breaky and make time for the in hotel massage service. We had 33 SGD worth slimming massage which lasted for 1 hour and 30 minutes. We called for the same car service that brought us in the hotel to bring us back to the ferry. Again, we had to endure the winding road on the way back. This service costs us 10SGD each, similar to what we paid going to the hotel. We boarded the ferry, and after two hours (there’s 1 hour time difference between Singapore and Bintan) we were back to Singapura.

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