Bintan: The Cancun of Singapore


Bintan tree next to beach

Beautiful sandy beaches giving way to the incoming tide.

Bintan. Land of palm trees slowly wafting in the wind. Big, beautiful white sandy beaches. Beyond those sandy curves lay vast expanses of clear blue water… And, in a premonition of travels to come: monkeys playing on the side of the road. That was my first impression of Bintan, the beautiful island/resort/play area for Singapore’s middle class. Think Cancun in the Pacific. Under an hour away by ferry, it’s unsurprising that this little slice of heaven is so popular with Singaporeans.

The best part of a trip: someone to share it with!

What made this one trip special was the company. They are some of Liz’s closest high school friends, and they regularly plan events together (often revolving around food, by my understanding). This weekend, they welcomed me into their tight knit group.

  • Friends in Bintan poolAn amazing weekend with amazing friends.
  • Cannonball in BintanTwo cannonballs simultaneously, on camera! If that isn't skill, I don't know what is.

Together, we dined, watched movies, and drove golf carts manically around the resort – all very relaxing. I then joined them for what I thought would be a mild morning workout, instead experiencing the group’s intense athletic side. I was definitely not up to the task. I spent the rest of each day recovering and avoiding staircases like the plague.

  • Sunrise in Bintan, Kareem and LizLiz and Kareem enjoy the sunrise!
  • Sunrise friends BintanSunrise with some of our early-rising friends.

The resort, amazing amenities and all

The particular resort we went to – Bintan Lagoon – was a mixed bag. The facilities were great, if a little old. The location? Spectacular. Our beach villa (affordable when split eight ways) was right on the beach, overlooking a private pool. The view from the balcony was one you’d only expect to see in an ad, one that was heavily photoshopped from a blemished reality.

  • Bintan villa viewOur view to the ocean.
  • Sunrise in BintanSunrise in paradise.
  • Tide in BintanThe gently incoming tide washing over sandy beaches.

When we wanted to swim, we strolled down to the large pool and had the choice of ordering juice-filled coconuts from our reclining chairs or submerged bar stools at the poolside bar. Working out? We could take our pick of tennis, the gym, golf, or archery. And, when we returned exhausted from a day relaxing at the beach, we retired to our poolside villa for a very posh British-sounding high tea.

High tea foods in Bintan

Our very British-feeling high tea! The odd ones out were samosa and egg rolls…

If sports didn’t suit our fancy there was a sea plane that gave a bird’s eye view of the brilliant blue oceans. And the best bit was that we nearly had the resort to ourselves! Both the beaches and pools were nearly empty, clear of the hordes one would expect to be at such a beautiful resort. It was one of the most relaxing and dreamy vacations I have had in a while.

Bintan resort pool

Relaxin’ by the beautiful pool.

Some hiccups along the way

Of course, there was a catch. The management, which left something to be desired, squandered their opportunity. Despite the fact that we paid for one extra person in the villa, no one got the memo. We had to inform staff at breakfast, lunch, and checkout alike of that fact. It all came to a head when, at checkout, that confusion almost cost us a ride home. We nervously watched as bus after bus headed to the pier for our ferry, hoping they would resolve their internal dispute in time.

Additionally, the food was good but not amazing, even to my uneducated taste buds. That being said, but most cuisine pales in comparison to that we had in Singapore. We ended up eating a hearty seafood dinner in a beautiful restaurant set on a kelong (a traditional fishing platform house built on stilts) overlooking the ocean at nearby resort Nirwana Gardens.

  • Bintan restaurant entranceDown a narrow stilted platform lay our food.
  • Bintan dinner counterThe grand entrance to the delicious dinner.
  • Sweet dessert soupAlmond tofu with Long-un; think dessert soup.
  • Fried bananas in BintanFried dough + gooey sweet banana = delicious dessert.

On balance, it was still a great trip. As we boarded our ferry back, trip, we all wished we had just one more day in paradise.

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