A Weekend Away from Singapore

June 2015 - Lagoi, Riau, Indonesia

What I like the most about living in Singapore is that it's a central hub which makes traveling to nearby countries so convenient. So if at times Singapore is becoming a bit too much, the nearest sweet escape from it would be either Johor Bahru or Kulala Lumpur in Malaysia and Bintan or Batam in Indonesia.

But what I wish Singapore has is a natural beach to go to for a lazy-sunbathing-book-reading-weekend. Bintan would probably the closest thing to this type of weekend fantasy.

Situated in the Riau archipelago of Indonesia, this lovely island is only about a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore, which makes it a popular weekend getaway destination. Similar to Hong Kong and Macau's close proximity and ease of accessibility, the ferry ride operates for almost every hour. It is advisable to book your ferry tickets in advance.

Birthday in Bintan

2015 marks my 30th year! And for this year, I have promised myself to travel way more than I used to. Fortunately, Singapore has a lot of long weekend holidays for this year which made my plan even more feasible. I have been traveling insanely since February (Australia, Boracay, El Nido and Hanoi) and still my list of places to go to never seem to make it any fewer!

I kept putting off visiting Bintan as the occasion to do it never really occurred, until I was out of options for a weekend birthday celebration! 

I was in a state of dilemma of where I can celebrate my birthday for just the weekend. I've already had my birthdays in Singapore for the past three years that I have been living here and felt like I should do it differently this year since it's my thirtieth anyway! It was a perfect excuse to splurge and treat myself. That's when the occasion to finally visit Bintan arises!

Mayang Sari, Nirwana Gardens

Bintan offers a lot of resorts and this made it quite a conundrum for me to choose where to stay. In the end, I chose Mayang Sari as recommended by one of my friends and I couldn't be any happier having to celebrate a happy birthday indeed at this resort. Part of the Nirwana Gardens Resort, this is just the perfect birthday by the beach I could only wish for.

The place is entirely well-kept, very tidy and spacious. Accompanied by two of my closest friends, we felt like our room was still huge enough to cater for more people. The only thing I quite didn't like is that their check in option is only at 3 PM which makes an overnight stay not that practical.

View from our cottage
The beach was surprisingly gorgeous and tranquil. To think that this paradise was just a 45 minute-ferry ride away from Singapore felt and looked like we have missed a lot by not going here sooner! It has pure, white sands, almost powder-like soft. The weather was a bit gloomy and it did shower a little but we were still able to enjoy swimming the calm, wave-less sea. One thing to be aware of is that it has a lot of jellyfish lurking around so you have to be very careful on which part you will swim.

Mayang Sari Beach

We had the beach to ourselves!

The whole complex is enormous and they have made it easily accessible to their guests by offering free shuttles, which runs every 30 minutes, to get into other resorts. You can also hire a golf buggy and drive around.

One of the many free shuttles of the resort.

Golf Buggies for Rent

Birthday Dinner

Off to my birthday dinner with my girls!

As recommended by one of the hotel staff, we chose to have my dinner celebration at Nirwana Resort since they have a weekend barbeque dinner. A bit too pricey for *SGD 60 per person, there is a wide variety of food selection to choose from. (*They only accept Indonesian Rupiah for payments.)

The place is huge that can sit quite a number of people. With a stage at the middle, it has several programmes for the night - live band, cultural dance and a very impressive wine-juggling performance.

Being the only celebrant of that night, I was called on stage, thank God not to sing, but to be serenaded with a Happy Birthday song. It would have been almost perfect only if the vocalist got my name right as she kept singing "Happy Birthday, Mara!" Ha!

I'm with the band!

What even made that evening more special is that everyone, the hotel staff and even our fellow guests, were being extra attentive to our table. As I was about to blow my cake (a slice of cake from the dessert buffet table) and the "30" candle I brought with me, everyone of them sang altogether. It didn't even feel like I only had two friends with me to celebrate with, but rather a whole crowd of strangers from different parts of the world who were there with me that night.

With the friendly staff of Nirwana Gardens

More than Just a Beach

Apart from its long stretch of white sand and undisturbed sea and an infinity pool, there are a lot of activities to do to pass time in this resort. They have a recreational area wherein guests can enjoy bowling, archery and even an elephant ride.

The next day, we still had a whole day to bum by the beach 'til we take our late night ferry ride back to Singapore. We started the day by having brunch by the beach. The hotel staff was generous enough to give us a complimentary cake as well. A cake to share with two amazing friends and a charming beach that backdropped the setting, what better way to start the morning!

We took this time to check out the Nirwana Resort with an infinity pool, which Mayang Sari Resort doesn't have. In comparison, Nirwana Resort has more guests, which makes the pool and beach areas a bit crowded compared to Mayang Sari. 

Infinity Pool at Nirwana Resort

Beach area at Nirwana Resort

Though it was only for a night, we were able to make the most out of our stay and had an awesome time at Bintan. We would have loved to stay for another night if we only we could! It was indeed the easiest, most convenient weekend getaway from Singapore.