As you might’ve noticed from social media, Club Med invited Richard and I to check out their Bintan Island resort, a gorgeous tropical paradise an hour’s ferry ride outside Singapore.
As far as breathtaking beaches go, Bintan is right up there with Thailand’s beach meccas (Koh Samui, Phi Phi, Phuket) and Indonesia’s more well known beach destination of Bali, but it has an even more favourable spot on the world map: right next to the breathtaking Singapore.
I used to love Bangkok & Hong Kong, but I fear I might’ve lost my heart to Singapore.
I figured I’d jot down my top 10 favourites things about the experience, in case you’ve earned a well-deserved break and need some inspiration.
#HonestyPolicy: the pictures below were mostly taken with my phone (no filters, no editing).
Also, we were the guests of Club Med and Singapore Airlines in Bintan. Our stay in Singapore however, was for our own account.
BINTAN TOP 10
# 10 Imagine a 2,5km strip of beach with bath water lapping its’ shore. Powdery white sand and water as clear blue as the best Thailand and Bali has to offer, only it’s not nearly as crowded. Did I mention that the Piña Coladas from the Matahari beach bar are free? Also, there’s no noisy motorised water sports to disturb your peace? Boom.
That’s the South China Sea, a.k.a. “The Bath”. Water temperature: 29 degrees Celsius.
#9 No prior visa required! Bintan Island is part of Indonesia. Singapore, however, is an independent city-state. This means you’ll get actually get two passport stamps if you take this trip, but as a South African you can relax. Green mambas welcome.
#8 As far as South East Asian travel is concerned, it doesn’t get easier than a direct 10-hour flight to Singapore and the 55min ferry transfer to Bintan Island. If, however, you need more than a stretch of beach to take the weight of the world off your shoulders, how about a massage by the water’s edge?
The Spa has 10 private treatment rooms on stilts with windows which stack back to reveal the soothing sounds of the waves lapping at the shore. Richard and I both enjoyed the best massage of our lives here.
#7 The FOOD! Club Med resorts include in their rates all food and most drinks. By that I mean ALL food. As far as most drinks go, look, Piña Coladas and beers are bottomless, but Moët will cost extra. What’s different to this resort’s food offering? Its’ magnificent Waterfall restaurant serves a staggering buffet of Indian, Malay, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Indonesian fare three times per day. (By the way, this section of the resort run is by a Saffa!)
This is on top of the basics they serve – like a variety of pizza’s, hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, wraps, fruit, salads and long beverage counters with everything from beer, coffee, a fresh juicer and all kinds of sodas on tap.
#6 You can see the beach from your bed. So, on those lazy days when you can’t move yourself and your holiday paperback novel much further than your own private patio or perhaps the hammock down on the grass, the beach is still right there. Winking. Waving. Waiting.
If your room’s view is not of the main beach, like ours, there are also rooms looking out onto a stretch of beach on the other side of the spa. This beach is rockier – but it’s the quieter side and gives you great sunset magic like this:
#5 FUN: For the more adventurous traveller – or the well-rested one – this resort offers two particularly fantastic activities, which I’ll get to in number 4 and 1. This is on top of the myriad other past-times. Snorkelling, kayaking, sailing, wind-surfing, yoga, archery, tennis, squash, volleyball, karaoke and pètanque are all available on site, free of charge. Complete with friendly instructors (Club Med calls them G.O.’s) at each station, ready with tips, lessons and demonstrations in a variety of languages.
#4 One of the major draw cards for us: the Gary Player-designed Ria Bintan golf course which borders on the resort. It has been rated one of the top courses in Asia by a range of publications and it has a spectacular signature 9th hole which I actually managed to clear. Golf is very much my handicap, although Richard plays off a 6. We both loved it!
If you know your way around a golf course, there is plenty of challenge on offer on Ria Bintan’s Ocean Course. If if you don’t, playing in it’s jungle-surroundings is pretty amazing. The monkeys who live on the course even helped themselves to my Snickers bar at one point. In their defense, I did leave it in my golf-cart unattended, so it was technically fair game…
#3 But what if you’ve never had the gap to learn how to swing a golf club? No reason to miss out. There are three very patient South African golf coaches, who work at Club Med Bintan’s own golf school. They’ll be able to get you putting and driving in no time and even helped me sharpen up my swing a bit. Don’t feel like lugging your golf clubs all the way there? You can rent a very decent set of TaylorMade clubs when you book your round and with the help of the friendly caddies the experience of playing one of the best courses in Asia is within anyone’s reach.
#2 Club Med resorts are known for their evening shows, which feature performances from all of the G.O.’s (resort guides) that you’ll bump into running the show at yoga, or golf school or even in the Mini Club, where the kiddie-guests get to spend fun-filled days.
Of the three Club Med resorts we’ve visited, the Thursday night trapeze show around the pool at Bintan was truly the most impressive, by a long way. The poolside buffet with it’s amazing array of seafood was spectacular and the entertainment breathtaking.
Of course it does help that the resort boasts dedicated G.O.’s who happen to also be able to sing, dance and act a bit – besides having actual trapeze instructors on site at the Trapeze School. What is remarkable is seeing the G.O.’s faces light up when they tell you over drinks on the beach after the show, how a golf G.O. is learning trapeze while working there and another is learning Mandarin.
The G.O.’s truly are the biggest asset of the resort, always ensuring that you’re included in as many of the activities, the fun and the adventure as you want to be.
You’re welcome to do as much, or as little, as you please.
NUMBER 1 *drum roll* The trapeze school!
I didn’t think that this would ever be something I’d be able to pull off. Getting to the top of that platform the first time took nerves of steel, but with the guidance of three fantastic instructors, a harness and a safety net, you really have no reason to not push your own boundaries just an inch. I have never been supple or co-ordinated, so the fact that I managed to pull off a pretty solid swing and a summersault dismount on my second attempt should give you an idea of how well you’d probably be able to show off after 15 minutes flat.
Hello circus/Olympics/YouTube fame!