“Expect the worst. Hope for the best.”
I recall one professor telling me this many years back. Though this quote may be too pragmatic for an idealist like me, it is actually useful in some situations. Like traveling.
Since my sister has been around a lot of parts in Singapore already, I thought of going on an overnight trip to Bintan, Indonesia. It was close enough that we didn’t waste much time traveling around, and it was still a trip to another country (and time zone). I’ve already been to the Nirwana Gardens side, so I looked for another place at a different area of Bintan. My first choice was Bintan Cabana Resort, an hour away from the ferry terminal. But as per the travel agency, they were currently undergoing renovation. So, she recommended Bintan Agro Beach Resort (also from the same resort group) instead. Our travel agent told me that the room (we chose the Superior) rate was higher in that place. However, because of the sudden change of plans, she graciously decided to shoulder the extra cost (yay!).
When I checked the reviews for Bintan Agro Beach Resort, I came across several low points and negative feedback. Hmm…okay. I told Gelli not to expect too much. It was just going to be a one night-two days vacation anyway. Luckily, she also had the same attitude about it.
Turns out, our chill vibe made us more adaptable to the unexpected situations and appreciative of the good surprises during our holiday.
At the resort, the receptionist happily informed us that we got a room upgrade because we came on a weekday (woohoo!). From the Superior room, we were moved to a Deluxe room. Complete with our own spacious balcony and view facing the beach!
We were located at the second floor of the hotel, directly facing the beach front.
During the two days, it was mostly drizzling and the waters were not that clear. But it didn’t deter us from having a good time.
First item in our agenda: lunch, of course!
The other restaurant was being renovated (this off-peak month must be the season of renovations, then?) so there was only one restaurant open to guests that time. I didn’t mind though, because the Sun Moon restaurant had a better spot – right by the sea.
The food was yummy and affordably priced, too. In fact, our orders reminded me a lot of Filipino food. There are a lot of similarities among Asian cuisines, after all.
Because it was a weekday, there were very few guests checked into the resort. With the huge size of the restaurant, it felt like we were the only customers. If you look closely, there are two people seated at the table next to us…
Although Bintan Agro Beach Resort isn’t in the top 10 as per Trip Advisor, I was still impressed with their service. The hotel staff were accommodating, pleasant, and answered all my queries patiently. We also got a free shuttle ride to the Sun Moon restaurant because of the drizzle (even if the place was just walking distance). The restaurant staff were really friendly and alert if we needed anything. I noticed, too, that whoever staff we came across greeted us cheerfully. I know this type of service is expected in any hotel and restaurant business. But unfortunately, not all places have consistent hospitality among their staff. So kudos to this group!
After lunch we went around the resort, mainly to take photos and enjoy the views. The beach itself wasn’t that spectacular but, like I mentioned, I didn’t really set high expectations. Any beach/sea/ocean view is relaxing to me, so it wasn’t an issue. Plus, the rains didn’t make it ideal for snorkling anyway.
We did manage to kayak for about 30 minutes. At that time, the low tide was setting in and our oars were already hitting the sea floor. So we packed up and just lounged by the beach front.
The sea sports were not at the top of our itinerary. It was the massage.
Oooohhh, the massage! THE highlight of our trip, for sure.
It was our first time to experience an Indonesian massage. And I tell you, after this, the bar has been set high!
Oceanic Spa is the resort’s in-house massage salon. And because we really didn’t spend so much on food and water sports, we chose the two-hour spa packages. Mine was the Exotic Balinese while Gelli chose the Traditional Javanese. The Balinese massage was more for relaxation while the Javanese one was rougher and targets aching joints and muscles. In the massage menu, it said that both packages included a soak in the jacuzzi, a scrub and bath aside from the regular massage. The other surprise we got was that, because it was a weekday, we get 10% off! Hooray!
I wish I had photos of the massage clusters because it was so much better than what I expected (see a pattern in our trip now?). Because we chose different packages, we had separate areas. Each one had its own shower and toilet, jacuzzi, and massage room – overlooking the ocean! The jacuzzi soak was first, a glorious 15 minutes in water filled with flowers. The massage followed. I really liked the masseuse’s style of being both gentle and firm (to relieve any hard spots). My muscles were so relaxed afterwards! The scrub was like a mud salt and felt great on my skin. I thought at first that I would go straight to the shower to wash it off. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a 15-minute tea bath soak in the jacuzzi first before showering. The whole spa package felt so luxurious! Prior to the massage, we were treated to a cold ginger tea drink. Afterwards, it was warm tea that capped off a lovely two-hour experience. Definitely one I would recommend!
We had to leave by noon the next day so we just decided to keep our morning free and easy, with the package buffet breakfast in our itinerary. Speaking of food, we each ordered one box of the local kueh lapis. The hotel sources their cakes from Super Sari, a popular bakery at Tanjung Pinang. In my head, the size of the cake was rectangular, much like the ones I had during our Batam trip years before. Imagine my surprise when we got our order the next day – it was double the size (another great surprise for us)! I wasn’t able to snap a photo but you can check it out at this blog post, which also has an interview with the shops owner, Seritina. Not only is it delicious, but it’s so cheap (approx $13.35) compared to its counterparts here in Singapore!
What a trip it has been. Lesson learned: whatever the circumstance, always be open and grateful. Because when something good comes along, it’ll be worth it. 🙂
Farewell Bintan! Until next time!
The Beach Bums