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A luxe weekend getaway just a couple of hours from Singapore
(pictures from Banyan Tree Website)

Singapore is a convenient hub – parts of Indonesia and Malaysia are next door neighbors and as such provide great options for short weekend trips vs. the slighty longer destinations of Thailand, Bali and Hong Kong (2 – 4 hour flights). In particular, Bintan, Indonesia is just a short 1 hour ferry ride away from Singapore and several hotels and beach resorts await. I had the opportunity to visit the luxurious Banyan Tree Bintan Resort recently on a short 3 day trip for a work related event.

As we arrived at the Banyan Tree Bintan resort, I was immediately impressed by the vistas – dramatic views of the rocky shore. It reminded me a bit of the rocky New England, USA coast yet blended with the startlingly blue waters of SE Asia. I have an affinity for rocky and dramatic beaches….but to be fair, if you love white sand expansive beaches, this resort might not be for you. But if you enjoy sitting by the infinity pool and taking in a dramatic coastal view, then you will be in heaven.

As we were escorted to our room I was surprised to see one of the most romantic room set ups you can imagine – the bed in the center of the room, overlooking the sea and swathed in ethereal mosquito netting. This was funny (read: weird) because I was sharing the room with a female co-worker, Monica…and it wasn’t the twin bed set up we had bargained for. I called the front desk to correct the matter and was informed that this was the only room style available. Negotiations with Monica ensued, I confessed I snored and in the end we made the best of it 😉  But I will say it would have been just perfect for a couple. In fact the romantic vibe continued with a private Jacuzzi on the balcony perched over the rocky shore.

We spent a great deal of time strolling around the resort and it is truly gorgeous. Although, it is a little difficult since the resort is built on steep, rolling hills. As a result golf cart buggies are available to cart everyone around. My first stop was the spa – being familiar with the Banyan Tree Bangkok, I was excited to see if the Banyan Tree Bintan measured up. I only had an hour, so I chose to try the Balinese massage and within minutes was completely blissed out. It was among the best massages I have had and combined with the sea views had a profoundly relaxing effect.

While the room, spa and overall property were quite impressive, I am sorry to say I was a bit let down on the restaurants. With 5-star Ocean View Villas at $685USD / night, you would expect the food to be 5-star as well. This however is not the case. There are 3 onsite restaurants – Saffron (Thai / Indonesian), Treetops (international café where breakfast is also served) and The Cove (Mediterranean cuisine, dinner only). I had the opportunity to sample all 3 and came away completely underwhelmed. For example, in the Thai restaurant, even the basics like Som Tum Gai Yang (papaya salad with grilled chicken) were lacking…the salad dressing was too sweet and the chicken was flavourless. I felt the same at breakfast – lots of overly chewy rolls with no real flavour and not much else. After seeing that the breakfast offering was likely to induce a carb coma, I ordered eggs a la carte. They were inexplicably vinegary and well, hard to eat. I could tell you about the Mediterranean restaurant, but I think you get the picture…And unfortunately, because the resort is self-contained, there is no where to go off to grab a meal.

That said, all in all The Banyan Tree Bintan was a lovely resort and a perfect option for a weekend getaway from Singapore. Epic sea vistas, romantic and indulgent environs and an impressive spa. Shame about the food, but consider yourself warned.

Banyan Tree Bintan

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