BastIons of Bintan’s Beauty

A little strip of paradise nestled in the South China Sea that often skips the radar of holiday-goers in Asia is the island of Bintan.

Those who have been, often take it to be a part of Singapore, given that the fastest way to get there is a 45-minute ferry ride from the Lion City. The truth be told – Bintan Island is really a part of Sumatra, Indonesia. To add to the confusion, it is closer to Singapore than it is to Sumatra. Once it is settled that where Bintan Island is and who it belongs to, let me draw your attention to the one property that redefines luxury on this little island. Oops – a little more chaos – there are two! For those who are beginning to get a tad puzzled again, I am talking about The Banyan Tree Resort and Spa, and its friendly neighbour, The Angsana. Both, owned by The Banyan Tree Group, have changed the way holidays are had on this island. Seekers of all things luxe should head straight for the villa-only The Banyan Tree. Raised on stilts and staring at the sea, the villas come with regal four-poster beds, private pools, bathrooms with sunken baths, pillow menus and all the other hedonistic trappings that are synonyms with The Banyan Tree. Rejuvenation takes a different level at the iconic Banyan Tree Spa, where therapies feature traditional Indonesian ingredients such as coconut milk, avocado and scrubs pounded from native herbs and spices. The resort’s unique rock-edge pool and private beach add the perfect finishing touches to those languid afternoons. The Banyan Tree abounds in dining options, one better than the other. Saffron, the resort’s signature restaurant offers award-winning Thai cuisine – undoubtedly the best you will find on the island.

The Cove is where you would go for some delectable Italian and Mediterrean fare and the best pizzas in Bintan. Treetops, which, as the name suggests, is nestled among treetops and serves your favourite Indonesian dishes. Of course, nothing tops whizzing up and down cliffs in little buggies – another Banyan Tree signature. Those with their tots in tow, on the other hand, may want to opt for the family friendly Angsana. For starters, the chicly furnished rooms in bright hues of orange will catapult you right into the island vibe. The Angsana Suites, with their own sundeck, private gardens, spa baths and outdoor showers are sure to set every guest cheery. The pool at The Angsana is a clear winner with families, with a shallow end sectioned off for its youngest guests. For a sandier option, the resort’s private beach is a few steps away and is gorgeous – white powder strewn with shells in varied hues of caramel and warm, shallow waters that change to a different shade of blue every twenty feet out into the ocean. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here and saying that the beach at The Angsana is perhaps one of the best that I have seen in Asia. Head up to the rooftop recreation deck and spend hours on an end playing foosball, pool, table tennis, darts, carrom board or board games that have all been laid out for you. Those looking to do nothing but flop into a chair can watch a movie instead. For parent’s who are quickly scanning this feature, looking for the word ‘kids’ club’, fear not, for The Angsana has one of those too, and a great one at that. It is decked out like Santa’s grotto, with stacks of toys, puzzles, board games, art and craft paraphernalia, huge trucks, little kitchenettes and everything else needed to entertain the little tykes for hours on end. You can stay with your cherubs or drop them off and sneak off to the spa, while the trained staff engrosses them in one of the many activities like Riau dancing classes, baking, treasure hunts, sand castle building and pool games organized for children all day long.

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The award-winning spa at The Angsana pampers tired bodies and souls with freshly compounded body treats comprising locally derived ingredients, such as the rown sugar milk body polish and bengkoang coffee body conditioner and is a must-do during your Bintan Island sojourn. The Angsana offers some fantastic dining options as well. With sand between your toes and crashing waves providing a mesmerizing background score, tuck into freshly grilled meat and seafood at the Pantai (Indonesian for beach) Grill and Beach Club. Lotus Café, on the other hand, serves international favourites all day long. However, what one must not leave the island without experiencing is Destination Dining, a signature offering that is available on request at both The Banyan Tree and The Angsana. Choose from one of the many exotic locations like a traditional fisherman’s boat, large boulders in the middle of the sea or even the golf course for a dining experience like no other. Lovers of the wild should not miss the opportunity to go down to the conservation lab shared by the two properties and release the hatchlings of the hawksbill sea turtle and green sea turtle – both endangered species. So next time you are pondering over where next, think of Bintan – it will not disappoint. Neither will its two crown jewels.

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