Hands up those who agree with me: beach holidays are the absolute best. For someone who’s spent all his life growing up in metropolitan cities, from the island city of Singapore to hustling-bustling London, it’s always a welcome relief to get away from it all to spend a few days out in the sun and letting the sea wash all your worries away.
Of course, beach holidays can be absolutely daunting. There are resorts out there that charge exorbitant prices just to get to the place alone, while the even dodgier ones are likely to hoodwink you with hidden charges here and there. Plus, in a world where work is constantly threatening to intrude on your rest time, you never really want to head too far away. So on our recent adventure out of Singapore, we decided on one of the oldest (but certain still the gold-est) resorts on Bintan: Bintan Lagoon Resort.
A Rainbow of a Thousand Colours: The Mozaic Ferry and First Contact With BLR
A quick introduction to Bintan Lagoon Resort (or BLR): BLR remains the biggest integrated resort on the whole of Bintan Island, even after 20 years. Only 75 minutes away by ferry, the resort even comes with its own personal ferry terminal, served by the Mozaic Ferry service! The service departs from Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal twice daily, and tickets can be purchased either in person at Tanah Merah or booked online. You can also refer to their website for their latest promotions which would include a return ferry. Do note that towards the end of the year, this ferry service will be paused for a few weeks to avoid the monsoons, which will cause the waters to get incredibly choppy.
Stepping onto the island after the ride, the first thing you notice is the wide expanse of beach. More on that later, but the moment you get off, it’s easy to see how the entire resort can accommodate 395 rooms, 18 suites and 57 villas. After passing through immigration, one can either take a short coach ride to the resort lobby already arranged for you, or if you’re feeling up to it, a short trek (it really is incredibly close by). The check-in process is incredibly easy, and you can count on the BLR staff to take care of you every step of the way, even offering you a welcome drink upon arrival. As huge as it is, navigating the way to our room was simple enough and we had no fear of getting lost at all.
For our stay, we were put up in a Deluxe Sea Facing Room, giving us a prime view of the beachfront. The ideal room for most travelers, the Deluxe Sea Facing Room was spacious, beautifully designed, had a television with plenty of channels to keep us occupied, and our own balcony for sitting outside and breathing in that superfresh sea breeze.
The bathroom also comes with its own bathtub, and we were more than happy to bring along one of our own bath bombs (from LUSH of course) to have our own little spa session in our room.
If you’re willing to fork out a little more, you can even get yourself one of the resort’s exclusive suites. Pictured above is the resort’s Forest Suite, perfect for a couple looking for a romantic getaway as you relax in the very lap of luxury, with some seriously fancy decor that’s just ripe for the selfie you’ve been dying to take. If you have a bigger group of about 6 or so, then we’d definitely recommend getting a villa, which we’ll talk about a little more later. For now, no time to stay in the room, there’s plenty more in the resort to explore outside!
Smile For The Birdie: A Golfer’s Paradise
Bintan Lagoon Resort is first and foremost, best known as a haven for golfers. With two 18-hole championship golf courses offering some seriously breathtaking views, it’s hard not to get dazzled by all the natural beauty that the resort has to offer. The course located closer to the seafront is the Par 72 Jack Nicklaus Course, with a glorious view of the city from almost 360 degrees and suitable for golfers of all skill levels.
The second course available at Bintan Lagoon Resort, closer to the woodlands, is the Ian Baker-Finch Course. Also a Par 72 course, this course aimed to encapsulate more of the natural landscape into the design, with plenty of natural lagoons and forested areas that provide photo-ready backdrops for golfers as they tee off.
Taking a quick tour of the courses on golf cart, we even caught a glimpse of some of the wildlife prowling the area in both courses, from pure white birds flitting around the lakes, to even a cheeky monkey or two awaiting unsuspecting tourists to wreak some mischief (we’re serious, keep your things close to you if you spot one of these critters).
With plenty of competitions and campaigns held annually, there’s almost always something to do on the fairway, and even an eatery (Haskell’s) that acts as a pit stop to chill out at for a post game beer or lunch, or arrange for a post-game massage to destress those muscles after a long game. Even as non-golfers, it was safe to say that we were pretty much enthralled by the splendid design of both courses, and how well maintained it was, no easy feat considering just how big an area the courses occupy.
Ten Thousand Lightning Bugs: The Mangrove Swamps and Natural Scenery of Bintan
We did say BLR has a gorgeous beach didn’t we? Stretching out for 1.5km, the white sandy beach is perfect for spending an entire afternoon just lazing in the sun and gazing into the crystal clear waters.
Or better yet, actually getting into these waters and taking a dip – we swear you can see your own fingers and toes past the surface.
While you’re headed to the beach, you’ll probably also be able to spot some of the resort’s villas as well, housing up to eight or so residents per building. Each villa also comes with its own buggy for easy transport around the entire island, not to mention the swankier ones even come with their own private pool, perfect for taking poolside selfies.
The villas are split into three types: Angsoka, Buganvil and Cempaka. Of the three, the Angsoka Villas are the swankiest and biggest ones, with two storeys and four bedrooms, even coming with its own kitchen.
The recently renovated ones are even taking a leaf from Santorini, and painted blue and white to evoke that Grecian island feel. Even if you opt for Cempaka, the ‘smallest’ option, the single storey villas offer three bedrooms, and make for cosy quarters for a group of friends or large family staying here.
Back to the beach’s beauty, we even heard that previous editions of Miss Singapore Universe have made the pilgrimage here for editorial photoshoots, booking up villas for the crew to get the girls ready, so you can imagine that there’s a certain level of quality associated with the backdrops here. The seafront also acts as the perfect location for a tropical beach wedding, and the glorious white sands soft and gentle underfoot.
We weren’t just spending time lazing on the beach though; there’s plenty of peripheral activities to do along the beach, and the resort offers over 50 land and water activities to take part in. With the clear waters, it’d be a waste not to get a little wet and take part in some unique thrills like snorkelling, canoeing or even jet skiing.
We weren’t too prepared to head into the water just yet though, and decided to stay on land. We went on an ATV ride (with a guide of course) and took the vehicle out for a spin along the coastline (gorgeous) and into the resort’s surrounding forests.
Believe it or not, it was actually my first time on an ATV, and it was an empowering experience for me to feel fully in control of a big vehicle and bashing our way through the greenery, no stray branches or muddy roads to stop us in our paths. We were rewarded at the midpoint of the ride with an exclusive view of a little private area of the beach, an alcove that allowed us to see some of the offshore islands, and was a nice little respite before we began the journey back.
In the evening, we also got a chance to check out the mangrove swamps of Bintan with Indo-Bintan Tours. Taking a transfer to the mangrove area from the resort lobby, we were a little shocked at first by how dark the swamp was once we got into the motorboat and donned our life vests, taking us right back to our army days in the outfield.
Being pitch black, it was next to impossible to take any good photos of the nightscape, and as we moved off we caught glimpses of ghostly Kampung Ayers on the water, illuminated by white light (and even saw a restaurant) before almost completely dissolving into darkness, save for the searchlight beaming from the back of the boat.
But once we got closer to the plant-life, we understood the need for the lack of light. With a little splash of water into the branches, suddenly, a handful of yellow-white dots appeared. Fireflies. It’s hard to describe, but it’s the kind of experience that makes you feel completely at ease amidst the encroaching blackness of the night, and definitely one for the memories as we sat back in the car and took the ride back to our room.
Bring the Kids…or not: Family Friendly Fun For All
If you prefer to stay within the confines of four walls, BLR has you covered there as well. Over at its very own Leisure Centre, families who’re exhausted from taking care of their kids can leave them in the care of the resort staff at the care centre. Of course, if you do want to involve the kids, they can always take part in fun family activities like learning traditional batik painting, or playing snooker and darts.
For the adults though, they can instead head to the small but spanking new gym with some of the latest equipment available, a karaoke lounge to belt out their most embarrassing numbers, or simply get a massage and treat yourself to a day spa from Kedaton.
Guests can even choose to do the massage in a beach hut overlooking the coast, or at your convenience, schedule a masseuse to personally come to them to do an in-room massage.
Remember we said there were over 50 water and land activities? Elsewhere in the resort, you can flex those sporting muscles and have a go at the driving range or archery range, located side by side, and for the trigger happy, the air rifle range.
Finally, for the nightlife starved, you’re in luck – every weekend, the resort’s very own Silk nightclub opens its doors from the early evening all the way into the wee hours of the morning playing all the hottest dance hits. Sleek and sophisticated, it’s also conveniently housed right beside the resort lobby, so even when you’re partied out, your room (and bed) is literally only steps away.
If you plan your trip well, you might even be in for a nighttime treat as the resort regularly sets off plenty of fireworks during festive periods, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and even Chinese New Year, making for a fitting blowout to the end of any holiday.
Food Glorious Food: The Many Restaurants of BLR
Now, having done all those activities, we were hungry. Thankfully, BLR has plenty of restaurants located all around. Walking straight from the entrance before heading down a flight of stairs, you’ll come face to face with Fiesta, the resort’s resident buffet restaurant. Coined as the place that serves ‘Good Mood Food’, Fiesta offers a mix of international and local cuisine across their buffet spread. When you’re there, be sure to have a taste of their Indian food, with delicious naan and parathas freshly made by their expert chef.
Fiesta is also introducing a new add on menu that might interest locals – the Satay Club. Grilled fresh over an open fire, the skewers served were a cut above the rest of the buffet offering. Although priced separately from the buffet, it was well worth the additional cost (ranging from IDR 60,000 – 75,000 for 6 sticks, about $6-7.50), tasting fresh and crisp in texture.
We’re big fans of offal, and it’s not something you can find easily, except during seasonal pasar malams in Singapore. As a result, we jumped for joy when we saw the babat and hati satays (tripe and liver) and were not disappointed. Their beef and chicken satays were nothing to sniff at either, and with a peanut sauce that had hints of pineapple in it, it really completed the full satay experience for us.
During the weird in-betweens, one would consider heading to the Terrace Sports Bar for an afternoon drink or snack, serving up Western food such as burritos, pizzas and Philly Cheese Steaks. These taste perfectly fine, and go nicely as you sit at the bar, sipping beers and watching the game on telly.
But being in Indonesia, you’d naturally make a beeline for the Indonesian food if you’re looking for something really tasty, and we had a taste of their mee siam. Served in coconut leaves, we found it was well cooked with enough flavour, and if you’re one who loves your food spicy, then you’re in for a treat with the sambal served alongside it. BLR’s Sambal Terasi (or Red Chili Sauce) is simply amazing, made in-house and automatically makes any food it’s added to that much better. It’s a side you’ll be seeing at every meal, so don’t be afraid to ask for more. We definitely wish they sold them in bottles to bring home.
Finally, BLR does encompass food catered to all walks of life, and for a classy end to any day, check out Nelayan, located along the beachfront. Designed by Singaporean architecture firm Ong & Ong, Nelayan is a beautiful restaurant that screams atas (posh), listening to the sounds of waves crashing over the sand bank as you enjoy your food. Nelayan, which translates to ‘fisherman’ in English, naturally specializes in seafood, and we had a taste of their special Rijsttafel set menu.
Taken from a Dutch word that literally translates to ‘rice table’, the rijsttafel is often an elaborate meal that consists of multiple side dishes and rice. If you do order this, then prepare your cameras for a bit of a theatrical show, as two waiters bring out all the dishes at once on a huge wooden serving tray they balance on their shoulders from a pole.
Some of the highlights of the meal included the pepes udang, which consisted of grilled sweet prawns cooked with lemon basil and grated coconut turmeric leaves, all wrapped up in a leaf. The prawns were delightfully fresh and offered a spectrum of flavours in a single bite. We also loved the gulai ikan, a mackarel fillet in a mild, creamy curry that used twenty different spices, as well as a very well done beef rendang that made us wish for many more servings. Needless to say, we were plenty full after the meal, and slept like a log, more than satisfied.
As you might be able to tell, we were pretty much enamoured by the entire resort, and we came back to Singapore relaxed, enlightened and jovial, ready to face the new day back in the city, and slept better than ever upon returning home.
Without a doubt, we would head back again when looking for a place to getaway to after a hectic week, or a place we’d definitely hint to our fellow family members to head to together with one day. If you’re heading down to Bintan, then picture perfect BLR is the place to be staying at for a fuss-free, no worry holiday to let your mind and body completely unwind.
Bintan Lagoon Resort
Address: Jalan Indera Segara Site A12, Lagoi, Teluk Sebong, Bintan, Kepro – Indonesia 29155
Phone: +62 770 691 388 (Indonesia)/+65 6223 3223 (Singapore)
For more information and to book a room, , email email@example.com, or visit their website at https://www.bintanlagoon.com/