Sunday, January 31, 2016

Welcome to Bintan Island (Indonesia): An Overview

Because my sister could not join my parents and I in Bangkok because of work, we arranged a long weekend trip together as a family to nearby Bintan Island. My brother is also not with us as he had other stuff to do and remained in the Philippines.

Bintan is part of the Riau archipelago of Indonesia. For many Singaporeans, it is their playground for a quick beach weekend getaway when they have had enough of man-made Sentosa Island. It takes just 50 minutes with the catamaran from Tanah Merah ferry terminal.

General Overview of Bintan Island

Bintan Island I realised is actually an island with 2 totally different worlds. So different from each other that the contrast somewhat shocked me a bit. The island has 2 communities and these are:

1. BINTAN RESORTS - This is a protected international community of hotels, beach resorts and nature mangroves. The place is leased by the government to a Singaporean-Indonesian investment company that manages (and resells) the whole estate.

Our home for the 3-day weekend: Bintan Lagoon Golf and Beach Resort.

This area of Bintan is located in the northern part of the island with views to Singapore. It is a gated estate with security guards and a checkpoint. I am not exaggerating. The locals in Bintan are not allowed to get in here unless they work in the resort, have some business with any of the resorts or are a customer.

This is also where majority of the tourists coming from Singapore go to. That said, the prices here mimic Singapore and some will even charge you in Singaporean dollars. It is not a cheap place, which is why most vacationers come here for the weekend only (overnighters). Some do an extended weekend like what we did and a few western tourists stay a day or two longer.

2. THE REST OF BINTAN ISLAND – Is where the locals live.

This is Tanjung Pinang, the capital city of Bintan Island.

Once you step out of the gated and security manned Bintan Resorts into the real Bintan, the first thing you will notice are the cheap prices of everything, although mind you, the Indonesian Rupiah has a lot of zeros! Compared to neighbouring Batam Island, Bintan is relatively quiet.

Because we were looking to experience not just the beach and pool, we ventured out to the real Bintan in search of local culture, food, sights and some cheap shopping.

Just to give you an idea of the location between Singapore and Pulau Bintan:

Bintan Island is just 50 minutes with the fast catamaran service from Tanah Merah. Use the + and - signs to zoom in and out the map.

Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (Singapore)

My sister arranged all our tickets and we had to be here 1 hour before ferry departure to check-in and go through immigration.

I actually like travelling with the family because I do not have the burden to arrange everything, and because the costs are shared, I spend less. Sometimes the parents pitch in more which is much better. So that’s my tip on saving money while travelling. Travel with family =)

The Boat Ride

The sailing was uneventful. We did experience some waves but it was not that dramatic. My mom had a bit of sea sickness but managed to control it.

I think the worse we have seen was during the boat ride back when one of the passenger ladies became very sick. I was about to give her my white flower oil when the old man behind her gave his. The white flower oil helped as she calmed down after.

TIP: If you are easily seasick and don’t have any white flower oil, bring with you some lemon and menthol candies. It helps.

My mother who suffered a bit of seasickness and Myrhh. Welcome to Bintan!

My dad is more uppity. Welcome to Bintan =)

Immigration at Bendar Bentan Talai Ferry Terminal (Indonesia) 

There is an express immigration counter which you will have to pay extra for this service. This is really for people who can’t wait (fine!) and for those who prefer the privilege status of being pampered and felt special (yeah, those people exist). If there is no emergency, this express counter is just a waste of money.

In Hong Kong and Macau they only offer an express immigration counter for people with disabilities, senior citizens and diplomats. The rest has to queue up at the normal immigration counter.

Upon a quick look at the visa on arrival board, I thought I would have to pay for visa entry: US$15 for 7 days and US$35 for up to 30 days. But then a young man from immigration told me that the Netherlands have just been recently added to the non-visa required countries. That is good news to me =)

I travel with my Dutch passport you see. I also do not anymore have a Philippine passport. I could ask for a Philippine passport from the embassy in Den Haag but what for? I’m not the sentimental and patriotic type. I also live in Europe. It will just cost me time and money to get one. Moreover, I see myself as a world citizen.

Shuttle Buses to Bintan Hotel Beach Resorts

Anyone who has booked for one of the hotel beach resorts in Bintan Resorts gets a free shuttle bus transfer to their hotel beach resort. The shuttle buses are usually ready and waiting outside. We booked at Bintan Lagoon Golf and Beach Resort which is about 30 minutes from the ferry terminal.

Main hall of ther ferry terminal in Bintan.

Will be posting soon some of our Bintan jaunts and experiences.

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Bintan , Indonesia

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

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