Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bintan Discovery - Perfect Get Set and Go

Bintan Discovery - Perfect Get Set and Go

Bintan Discovery - Perfect Get Set and Go
By Adeline Wu

A quick pick-me-up just before we hit the books again. What perfect way is there to start the semester? With a tan of course! We had to leverage on the fact that Singapore is surrounded by numerous natural beaches belonging to our Southeast-Asian neighbours. A dozen locations zipped through our minds. But this was an eleventh hour decision, and being undergrads, our pockets are not that deep. So we went on a frenetic search of a destination economical enough and yet offer a decent beach to frolic in. Bintan came up tops. Firstly, we didn't have to fly. There was no hurry to look for last minute airfares. Bintan was just a 55 min ferry ride from Singapore. Secondly, and most importantly, we didn't have to get Rupiahs. Prices in Bintan are listed in Sing dollars.

Upon reaching the Bintan Ferry Terminal, we were guided to the complementary bus shuttle service which brought us to the resort directly. The journey took about 30 minutes.
Upon arrival at the resort, we were pleasantly impressed by the front desk staff, who rattled on fluently in Japanese to a group of visitors. Their English was also near impeccable. The resort itself imparted a relaxed mood as it was set in a style of individual wood huts as guest rooms. The room interior exceeded our expectations as well. Despite being sufficiently spacious, with a queen-sized bed and day sofa, the toilet was also clean and fresh.

After lunch, it was time to have some serious fun. We zipped to the beach, just in time for the snorkelling tour. Without any ado, we hopped onto the speedboat with our gear, ready for a whale of a time. We were instructed and booklets showing the type of fishes and corals that we might see while in the water were passed around. Indeed it was an eye-opening (literally) experience, as we kept our eyes wide open to spot the assortment of corals and fishes. It ended on a dramatic note when I panicked and pulled away upon seeing a jellyfish half a metre away.

Following an adrenaline-pumped snorkelling trip, our tummies were growling out for some food again. This time round we took up the recommendation by the front desk staff and were on the way to the local ‘kelong’ (malay for fishing village on the sea). The dinner was well worth the hour ride to and fro. A total of 6 dishes including snails, mussels, crayfish, fish, crab, kang kong, drinks and steamed rice cost S$65.

We had the snails steamed as recommended and dipped them into a delicious sweet and spicy sauce. They were so succulent and crunchy that I was pleasantly surprised by how much they bounced when we picked them out of their shells. The mussels were big and juicy, tasted more like oysters and went nicely with the spicy sauce it was stir-fried in. Our favourite had to be the crayfish. It tasted similar to its close relative - lobsters, and was enhanced to divinity by the melted butter and salted spring onions sprinkled generously on top. The fish came in a close second for me as I always love a good plate of teochew (Chinese) style steamed fish with a dash of superior soy sauce and generous helpings of chopped spring onions and coriander. The crab was disappointingly stale. The saving grace was the good ole' plate of belachan kang kong (vegetables fried in shrimp paste chilli). It was a truly unforgettable dinner set in a simple background, coupled with the ambience of light tidal waves, though I wished mosquitoes were not included in the package.

Upon checking out, we had the option of leaving our luggage at the front desk while carrying on with other activities before leaving for the terminal. We could also change our original ferry timings to a later slot at a fee with the concierge staff. We decided to do just that and headed to Pasar Oleh Oleh, Bintan Resort's own market.

It could be reached by bus which picks up guests from various resorts. The market offers local snacks like keropok (prawn or fish crackers) and dried seafood like ikan bilis (anchovies) and shrimps. There was also a shop selling supposedly authentic Polo Ralph Lauren t-shirts amongst others selling local handmade arts and crafts. I was fascinated by a particular shop which sold nostalgic paraphernalia so I bought one to satisfy my curiosity and also to support the dying trade. For more local flavour, get it from a local artist, who sells paintings reflecting the lifestyle of Bintan as a fishing village. His artworks are great souvenirs or home deco if you have a penchant for Indonesian rustic charm.

The idyllic and carefree lifestyle of the locals seemed to have effected a therapeutic touch on my much battered body, mind and soul.

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