Sunday, 30 December 2012

Be with us in Bintan Island, Indonesia

Singapore is an island,  you would think, it's surrounded by great, white-sand beaches.   Not really. there are very few beaches for swimming here.   In fact, there are only about 3 (Sentosa, East Coast and Changi).   All of them are man-made.   Even so, very few people swim in these beaches at all. Unless you count the caucasians tanning themselves, but never really dipping in the waters. 

But then again, if you're seeing oil tankers, huge shipping vessels a few meters from the shore,  who would dare swim?  =)

sentosa island from

Most Singaporean residents, when they want real beach, they head-off to Phuket or Bali, which are just an hour or less by plane, or Bintan, Indonesia, an hour or so by ferry.

Bintan belongs to the  archipelago of the Riau Islands.  Indonesia is promoting Bintan as the next best tourist destination after Bali.

powdery white sand of Bintan

I've been to Bintan two years ago for training, courtesy of my generous Nu Skin family. This time,  I decided to bring my family so they can enjoy real beach.

From Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, tickets to Bintan costs about 65 SGD round-trip.  Don't forget to bring your passport!  There's a small duty-free shop at the departure lounge for all your alcohol needs.  We even brought along our own chips and drinks.  Everything is pricey in Bintan, and there are no big supermarkets.  Otherwise, we would be forced to consume the hotel room's snacks, price is more than double!   Plus, they use Singaporean currency in Bintan!

father & daughter at the ferry departure lounge

The hour-long trip is via catamaran across the Singapore Strait.  The destination is the Bintan Jetty Port.   As soon as you pass through immigration,  there are  buses/ vans, which resorts  normally sent to pick-up guests.  

Unlike Phuket, Bali or Boracay,  the island of Bintan is not crowded or even largely populated.   There are no major commercialized beach strips with ordinary locals doing business.   The island has a kind of  "exclusive" atmosphere.

Almost all of the resorts are huge, big names and pricey.  Club Med.  Banyan Tree.  Angsana.  Indra Maya Villas.  Most are equipped with  golf courses designed by top golf course "architects."

It is advisable to book one's accommodation, before going to Bintan.  I haven't seen any public transport. Mostly vans and coasters of hotels.  There are car rentals that must be booked, as well.

Bintan Lagoon Resort

I reserved two nights stay at  Bintan Lagoon Resort.   It's the only resort in Bintan, with it's own ferry that docks directly to their own port.   They have their own immigration services, exclusive for the resort's guests.

Main Hotel of Bintan Lagoon

This is our lovely room, which has a nice view of the grounds, and a bit farther, the sea.  

There are so many activities for the family at the resort, but first on our agenda, the Beach!

 The waves are a bit strong that day, because it was raining earlier & the day before.  But no matter, the sands were spectacular.

The kids NEVER want to leave, but I was concerned they're getting too much sun.  We moved to the pool area, which offers some shade.

While the kids and their father were frolicking in the pool.  I sneaked out to these lovely beachside cabanas, for some rub-down by these charming Indonesian ladies.

Aahh.... Bliss ;))   Food is not so much to gush over.   They have 12 restaurants in the resort.  During our stay, we would try about 4 of them.   My favorite was the Japanese Miyako Restaurant, where we had our 1st night dinner.    The Orzo,  Italian restaurant has cozy & intimate ambience.  I was embarassed with my noisy kids while the other diners are honeymooners. :(    But the staff were kind and pretended that dropping of cutlery was normal occurrence.

The next day, my husband was dreaming of the two 18-hole championship golf courses.  The Jack Nicklaus Sea View course and Ian Baker-Finch Woodlands course.  Well,  it remained just a Dream.

We instead, took the kids biking around the huge resort (750 acres).  It's been awhile since I did some biking (outside the gym) :) and I was quite wobbly on the two-wheels.  But I don't want to disappoint my Ivan, who thinks I can do everything :)   Hans,  is a bit cocky, since he can already bike on this own.

Biking is the best way to see the resort  (Ok! next to the effortless golf carts and All-Terrain Vehicles!). We saw all the beautiful villas, fronting the beach and equipped with their own private pools,  gardens, house-keeping, and  golf cart service.  Minimum stay is 30days is you wanna book one of these beauties.

Hay... so this is where the privileged Singaporeans & Indonesians seclude themselves!

For late lunch, I decided to take them to Pasar Oleh-Oleh  (pasar "market" and oleh-oleh "gifts)  It's a 30mins drive, small cluster of huts, with shops selling Balinese souvenir items,  restaurants with local cuisine.  It's very touristy, and not advisable to shop.  Better go to Bali, if you want similar items.  But the local restos, is a nice change from hotel food.

When we went back, the boys headed for the pools again, while Rania and I lazed and napped in the room.  :))

Before diner, we walked around the beachfront again... savoring the last rays of the sun.  Like Singapore,  sunset in Bintan is about 7-715pm.... plenty of things to do before feeling the need to hit the sack.

If you are the type of person who prefers quiet getaway, with none of the hustle and bustle of tourists sightseeing.   Bintan is actually a good escape.  Albeit, pricey.  I don't think,  we can afford go back in the soonest time, unless free :))  It was a good experience though.    Cheaper than going home to Manila, then flying to Boracay, or Palawan or Cebu.   But of course, nothing beats our own places.

As I close, I'd like to thank you for your support of my blog for the whole of 2012!  This is actually just a personal diary for me, and it makes me happy to hear that my friends enjoy reading them as well.. THANK YOU AND MUCH LOVE!

Wishing you all the best for the coming 2013 ......


If you want to read more about Bintan, here's my earlier blog entry, written two years ago.
Beauty of Bintan. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Little Ones in Legoland

The newest attraction in town is Legoland Malaysia.  Although it's technically outside the country,   I still call it  "town" since, we live only about 15minutes from the Singapore-Malaysia border.

Technically, Johor Bahru province is nearer to home than the glamorous Orchard strip, but the absence of MRT and the presence of custom check-points gives it an "out of this country" feel.

Johor is nearer to Singapore than Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  So, if planning to go, the most convenient enter via Singapore!

Legoland Malaysia is located in Nusajaya,  Johor province of Malaysia.   It's about 1-hour bus-ride from the border.  (Take Bus LG1 from JB Central, the Bus Interchange is directly below the Malaysia custom check-point. Bus Fare is 4RM one-way)

(Tip: the bus ride is long and boring. There's nothing interesting to see on the road side.  If you have kids, better prepare food to nibble and keep them busy.  There is one quick stop-over,  at the Larkin Bus Terminal, so make provisions to wiwi).

It's our 1st trip to a Legoland theme park.   We've only seen them from pictures of our relatives and friends in the US.  We're happy that they built one here, so can have a taste of Legoland without the need to go to the US or Europe.  Afterall, like most franchises, whether it's theme parks, restaurants, or stores  (Think Disneyland, Universal Studios, Ikea, Hard Rock, Forever21, H&M) You've seen one, and you've seen them all :))

Legoland is really for children ages 12 and below.   Most of the attractions and the rides are for tiny tots.  It's not like Disneyland, where you can squeeze-in with your kids and feel child-at-heart dancing with the mascots.   Here, everything seems to be child-size.


My sons' favorite is the Build +  Test.  It's an indoor play area  field with  lego blocks and accessories.  They can  create their own toys, and test them afterwards,  with the slides and circuits, playing with the other children's creations, as well.  

It's a good exercise for imagination and creativity,  and good time for the Mommy to rest :)) It's away from the scorching heat outside and is air-conditioned :)

My husband liked the 4D theater.  It was only the 2nd day since the park opened and they had some operational glitches.  They cannot manage the queuing and seat-counting correctly, many tempers flared waiting for their turn.  We found it hilarious that the "mist" effect of the movie came in "drizzles or rain-like' making everyone wet and reaching for their hankies.   

There is small train inside Legoland, which I do not really recommend because the Wait is longer than the train-ride itself!

There are 6 sections in Legoland  i.e. Imagination, Land of Adventure, Miniland, Lego City, Technic and Lego Kingdom.  But the property, land area-wise,  is quite small, and better to navigate on foot.

If you like thrill rides, you will be disappointed.  They have few rides, and only about 1 or 2 of them are suitable for adults.

There are plenty of play area where the little ones can run around, slide and play hide and seek.  But for me, it's nothing monumental.

The cutest part of Legoland and my personal favorite is the Mini-Land, where they reproduced miniatures of known landmarks in Asia, using colorful Lego blocks.

The Taj

a typical Philippine village with a Church and fishing port

Summer Palace


There's just too many, I love them all ~

Forbidden Palace

Singapore's Clarke Quay

the famous, Star Cruises, based in Singapore

Tanah Lot, temple by the sea, Bali

We visited Legoland just two days of soft-opening.  Definitely, there are more improvement now.  I know they are also planning to build a Lego hotel beside the park.   BTW,  entrance to the theme park costs only 140 RM adults and 114 RM children.

We are planning to go back one of these days,  just waiting for relatives or friends whom we can show around.  It's always more fun to visit a place with guests, seeing it for the first time, we love playing tourist guides.

Hope you enjoyed...
'til next adventure!