Singapore is a favourite getaway spot for Hong Kong expats – many go there for the city’s fabulous shopping and dining. But did you know that a glorious Southeast Asian beach retreat is just a 60-minute catamaran ride away? Bintan Resorts is an integrated tropical resort destination on the northern coast of Indonesia’s Bintan Island, and home to world-class accommodations, designer golf courses and loads of recreational activities; plus, you can venture beyond the properties to explore the island’s natural, cultural and historical attractions. Here are some highlights.
Discovering Bintan Island
Treasure Bay Bintan
This 338-hectare waterfront resort city is home to the largest manmade salt-water lagoon in Southeast Asia, the 6.3-hectare Crystal Lagoon. Activities on its spectacular crystal-clear waters include bumper boat rides, water tricycles, sea scooters, a Jetovater, and even a floating obstacle course. If you prefer to stay dry, try out the land activities such as electric scooters, two-wheeler transports and ATVs.
Located right beside Crystal Lagoon is The Canopi, providing campers and adventure-seekers a feeling of being one with nature, with modern-day luxuries including air- conditioning, barbecue pits, Wi-Fi and spa facilities. The Canopi’s safari tents are uniquely designed, inspired by 18th-century colonial explorers; each more than 400 square feet of space and can sleep up to four people.
Lagoi Bay is set to be the “Heart of Bintan”, a 1,300-hectare beachside development offering accommodations, outdoor activities, shopping, and plenty of dining options.
Grand Lagoi Village
This 196-room property is next to Plaza Lagoi mall and the beach, and is surrounded by Lake Lagoi, a stunning fresh-water fishing lake. There’s a rooftop infinity pool, an entertainment centre with interactive games, a movie room and a kids’ club.
Holiday Villa Pantai Indah
Set on the eastern quarter of beautiful Lagoi Bay, this tastefully appointed villa-only resort has modern one- and two-bedroom villas with private pools. The resort’s beach overlooks a cluster of three small islands well-suited for snorkelling and scuba diving with their rich marine life.
Lagoi Bay Lantern Park
At one of Lagoi Bay Bintan’s newest attractions you’ll find lantern displays of all kinds of marine creatures, along with endangered land species such as the Javan rhinoceros, Komodo dragon and Sumatran elephant. On a similar note, the Odong Odong (a mini car with music and lights) is available for families to ride around and have fun together.
Around Bintan Island
The Sebung River is home to a remarkable mangrove eco-system. On the serene 90-minute journey you’ll discover unique plants and spot animals such as monkeys, snakes, monitor lizards and kingfishers, and be amazed by the beautiful sights of a star-filled sky and fireflies lighting up the river on the night-tour option.
Panglong Village, Berakit
This is Bintan Island’s largest village of sea gypsies – nomads who are born, live and die on the ocean’s waters. Get a peek into local life – think rural villages, stilt houses on waters and salted fish being dried in the open. As with visiting a friend’s home, a gift for the children, such as snacks, will be appreciated here.
Home to the rulers of the last phase of the Malay Kingdom, Penyengat island has historical sites including the tomb of national hero Raja Ali Fisabililah, a custom hall, an old arsenal building and a palace. The brightly coloured Sultan of Riau’s Grand Mosque has a hand-written Quran on display that’s over 150 years old. Reach the island by water taxi from the jetty at Tanjung Pinang.
This Chinese village houses Bintan’s oldest temples, including the Banyan Tree Temple, now entwined by the twisting roots of banyan trees. Vihara Sengarang is a complex of four temples paying homage to different deities, including the Supreme Lord of the Dark Heaven; it’s said to be over 300 years of age. Visitors can join a South Bintan tour to visit both Penyengat Island and Senggarang.
Vihara Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
Opened in 2017, this Bintan Island temple is home to 500 life-sized Lohan (or arhat) statues – each one human-like and different from the next. Try finding Journey to the West’s Tripitaka or Romance of the Three Kingdom’s Guan Gong amongst the faces.
Vihara Avalokitesvara Graha
Also known as Kwan Yin Temple, this building houses one of the tallest Goddess of Mercy statues in Southeast Asia, made of brass and coated in 22 carat gold. An impressive dragon-fruit plantation sits at the front of the temple.
Grotto Santa Maria
Located near Trikora beach on Bintan Island’s east coast, the Grotto Santa Maria can be seen on a day-trip itinerary to Berakit, the sea gypsy village. Follow the trail up to the little chapel and look out for the statue of Santa Maria well preserved in a cave.
This article first appeared in Expat Living’s 2017 CityGuide. Get your free copy now!