Saturday, April 17, 2010

Singapore Day 4: Banyan Tree Bintan Island

This was the day. This was the big day when we would be going for our very first do-nothing, all-relaxing  sleeping, eating & spa-ing 5-star holiday.

But wait. I could be wrong. We did something like that before on the Star Cruise last time. And the last time we did that, we almost became human pigs like the ones in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

But that morning before we set off, Sarah brought us to a food court almost next to her apartment. In Singapore, food courts conveniently go together with  the apartments. That's how good their town planning is. In Kuching, you'd be happy if you can find a tiny children's playground in a housing estate.

The food there was surprisingly good. We didn't expect that cos we were used to the proliferation of  bad hawker stalls & food court in Kuching. The mushrooming of 1001 food centres in Kuching gave us the impression that everyone who can cook Maggi instant noodles  & fry an egg want to get into the food business. You don't see as much passion anymore in this craft.

These were what we had:

Vinegar Pork noodles which I can still taste in my mouth ~ Fresh noodles with lots of minced meat ~ S2.50 or 3.00, I think.

Wanton noodles that you'll never find in Kuching. Springy noodles with nice big wanton ~ S2.50 or 3.00

Fish bee hoon ~ S5.oo with real fresh fish slices. Seriously good.

And after that, we carried that bit of Singapore over to Bintan Island, Indonesia. We took a cab to Tanah Merah ferry station. The one-way ferry ride cost about S$24.00 & I think it took about an hour. It was a very new & modern vessel, much like the ones in Macau-Hong Kong, with relatively comfy seats, Singapore TV drama series & food-drinks concessionary.

When we got off at Bintan Island, we were greeted by by a welcoming committee from Banyan Tree.

They even had a waiting area at the ferry point. I was wondering if they'd start the foot massage at that point but they didn't.

The hotel van then zipped us to Banyan Tree which was unexpectedly only 15 mins away (I heard 50). When we alighted, we were welcomed by the gong  (here in Kuching only YBs get gongs), cold towels & cool ginger honey tea while they prepared our check in.

A friendly Korean staff, who spoke English & Indonesian, personally attended to us. She actually knelt/sat down on the floor next to Nee while she explained the rooms & services to us, & that felt like a 5-star treatment. I think if she had prostrated herself on the floor, it'll bump up the stars beyond 5 to a 10. But we're glad she didn't cos we can't imagine what that would cost us.

The Banyan Tree resort is built on the contours of the island & therefore the pathways snake up & down the hilly slopes connecting the individual private chalets. Walking is obviously possible from chalets to restaurants & the small beach, but a trip from the lobby to the chalets would require a buggy ride.

Anyway, the rides were many and the buggies were everywhere. If you don't see them, you can pick up the phone & they'll zoom right up to the front of your doorsteps.

All rooms here are in the form of villas ~ garden or jungle view, ocean view, villa on the rocks and those with your very own private pools too.

This was the first chalet that we stayed in, the Ocean View Villa. Yes, I said 'first chalet'. You'll know why soon enough.
Most of the architectural designs here are Balinese in nature. with high slanting roofings. The bed sits right in the centre of the room looking out towards the sliding doors & the sea. So you can lay down and watch the sea the whole day.

The sexy bathroom opens up to the front yard. So husbands in Bali are usually pleasantly surprised every time they come home through the main gates.

All villas were equipped with Banyan Tree special aromatheraphy incense and oil.

You can see how the villas maintain their privacy even though they're next to each other. This was the Ocean View Villa & it came with our very own private spa on the balcony. So if you're an exhibitionist, you'll love all this stripping down & skinny dipping in nature.

This is the stretch visible from the verandah. I don't think Banyan Tree is famous for its beaches.
It had more of a resort in the jungle feel.

We signed up for a Health Spa package for couples which came with a healthy 5-star price tag of USD$120, foot scrub, body scrub, steam bath, rain shower (where you practical shower lying down) & massage. The masseurs were well trained & extremely polite but  I thought the whole thing was too gentle & commercial for me but Nee liked it.

When we got back to our villa, we found that 'something' had bitten through the candle holder & the wax candle was missing. Our first thought was 'things' from another dimension, but then we calmed down to a more rational thought. Maybe it was just rat. But the idea of a rat was reason enough not to stay on in the same villa. It didn't matter if the rat was a 5-star resort rat, we didn't want it with us under our sheets when we're sleeping.

With one phone call, the resort staff teleported to our chalet and we we were then upgraded to another villa. The rat turned out to be Indonesian squirrels which came down through the roof. Now that I can take. Think Alvin & the Chipmunks.

Our 2nd villa is another level up ~ Villa on the Rocks.
Villa on the Rocks was situated on the rocks (hence the name) by the sea. When the tide is up the chalet basically looks like it's on water and when the tide goes out, it's clearly on the rocks. 

This room was definitely brighter & seemed to have been refurbished recently.  If I remember correctly, we would have paid around USD700 per night for this chalet. Every night the resort staff will come up and put down the mosquitos nettings and light some incense in the room. That's 5-star service, I suppose.

This villa also came with His and Hers vanity top and a  sexy shower which overlooks out to the sea plus the usual fruit basket.

And of course, there's the little private spa on the balcony, which is the signature of this place.

There are 3 restaurants at Banyan Tree. This one is called Tree Top which had more of a Western menu.

We didn't know if this was the off-peak season but it felt like the resort staff was more than the guests. But we were not complaining.

We had nothing to complain about the food either but of course they came with a 5-star USD price. Really can't afford this sort of luxury all the time although it's nice to pamper ourselves once in a long while. Guess it is really, really nice to be rich.

Complimentary mayo and butter for the bread.

Ceasar salad

Deluxe Burger

Pizza with nice crispy thin crust

A word of warning & a reminder. Everything here in this resort is in US Dollars. So to have a full experience,  it's important not to think about it. Otherwise, it'll feel like you're eating US Dollars for dinner.

Nevertheless, Singaporean dollars still work on another level. I was able to bribe these guys to come over to sing a couple of songs for Nee. Singapore still got power but the Ringgit was nowhere in sight.

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