HERE COMES THE SUN

Go be­yond the sun-kissed shores of Bin­tan Is­land and dis­cover its wild side in one jam-packed week­end. By Jes­sica Chan

Epicure (Indonesia) - - CONTENTS -

72 hours in Bin­tan

It’s not hard to see why Sin­ga­pore­ans are flock­ing over to Bin­tan Is­land on the week­ends. Just an hour away by boat, it makes for a fuss-free beach hol­i­day. The re­sorts that have mush­roomed along its coast­line are one-stop des­ti­na­tions, be it for a girls’ trip, new­ly­weds or an an­nual fam­ily get to­gether. There’s ev­ery­thing you’d need at the drop of the hat; a va­ri­ety of wa­ter sports, a much-needed spa day or the de­lec­ta­ble In­done­sian spread. That, how­ever, barely cov­ers what this trop­i­cal par­adise has to of­fer. Here, we ex­plore the oft-over­looked side of Bin­tan Is­land, from the quaint fish­ing vil­lages and lo­cal haunts to the hot­pots that will have na­ture buffs weak in the knees. Best of all, three days is all you’ll need.

DAY 1

Catch an early ferry to Ban­dar Ben­tan Te­lani Ferry Ter­mi­nal and spend a day at Trea­sure Bay Bin­tan (Kawasan Pari­wisata, Jl. Raja Haji KM 01, Teluk Se­bong, Lagoi.

Tel: +62 770 692259). Opt for a seafood lunch set within lush man­grove forests at Kam­po­eng Ke­long Seafood Restau­rant

(Jl. Langsat - Sun­gai Ke­cil, Lagoi, Bin­tan Re­gency. Tel: +62 812 7000 206), which mar­ries Chi­nese and In­done­sian flavours with the is­land’s daily catch for sump­tu­ous plates of steamed gong gong (conch), grilled man­tis shrimps and their sig­na­ture black pep­per crabs. Set­tle into a ta­ble by the lake and you may spot a cu­ri­ous king­fisher hid­ing among the gnarled man­grove branches.

Con­tinue with Trea­sure Bay Bin­tan’s Max­i­mum Ad­ven­ture Pack­age ($100, with en­trance ticket). It in­cludes four ac­tiv­i­ties, start­ing with a Man­grove Kayak­ing Tour. Pad­dle along the coast and en­ter the man­groves as you’re guided through the re­gion’s myr­iad wildlife. There’re also of­froad trails for UTV and ATV and un­lim­ited

ac­cess to their thrilling Slip & Slide.

Make your way to La­mak Basamo (Jl. Gurindam Dua­belas, Teluk Se­bong Lagoi. Tel: +62 811 779 597) for a hearty nasi padang din­ner, served in the tra­di­tional Hi­dang-style. Nu­mer­ous plates, rang­ing from the crunchy paru (beef lung) and kari ikan (fish in co­conut curry) to tem­peh stir-fried in home­made sam­bal, are laid on the ta­ble for your choos­ing. (Pay­ment is de­pen­dent on the plates you choose.) A teh susu (tea with con­densed milk) is the

bev­er­age of choice here.

DAY 2

Fill up on the buf­fet break­fast be­fore a morn­ing of div­ing (li­cense re­quired) with Max’s Dive Cen­tre (Nir­wana Gar­dens, Se­bong Lagoi, Teluk Se­bong. Tel: +62 812 7742 9844). The PADI Dis­cover Lo­cal Div­ing (price upon re­quest, in­cludes lunch and dive in­sur­ance) of­fers boat dives at two of four lo­ca­tions. Pop­u­lar choices are the Seng­giling Reef, for its vi­brant corals and nudi­branchs, and Tan­jung Ber­akit, dur­ing April and June, for schools of brightly-coloured Beaked Co­ral­fish and Blue-ringed An­gelfish.

Don your boots for a trek through the ever­green rain­for­est of Gu­nung Bin­tan Be­sar with BRC Tours (IDR 550,000/S$50/ adult and IDR 350,000/child)

(Tel: +62 812 760 3733). Tra­verse through an­cient, over­ar­ch­ing trees, some of which are 40 me­tres tall, for a glimpse of the elu­sive sil­very lu­tung or sun bird. The peak, at 340 me­tres above sea level, of­fers a panoramic view of the Is­land. Keep an eye out for the famed Princess Pool dur­ing your de­scent. A dip in the cool wa­ters is said to im­part good luck.

With your ap­petite height­ened, tuck into Ital­ian fare at the beach­front restau­rant, Pizza Casa Italia (Malang Ra­pat, Gu­nung Ki­jang. Tel: +62 812-2832-8711). The charis­matic owner, an Ital­ian na­tive, can of­ten be seen shuf­fling thin-crust piz­zas out of his wood-fired stone oven. The dishes, which are tweaked for the lo­cal palate, in­cludes ja­gung (corn) and sar­den (sar­dine).

DAY 3

Start early at Tan­jung Pi­nang Tra­di­tional Mar­ket and

Wet Mar­kets (Air Raja, East Tan­jung­pinang, Tan­jung Pi­nang City.). It’s a trea­sure trove from its pro­duce to lo­cally made hand­i­crafts. The wet mar­ket is where you can stock up on kroe­poek (deep fried crack­ers), ex­otic fruits like the Java Plum as well as bot­tles of hand­made sam­bal. Keep a look­out for street cards ped­dling tapai, a Su­danese snack of fer­mented cas­sava in teak leaves for break­fast.

Head to Bakso Solo Asli BT.9 (Jl. DI Pan­jai­tan KM.9 No.11, Batu IX, Tan­jung Pi­nang. Tel: +62 812 2700 0222) for pangsit bakso (noo­dles with meat­balls) (IDR20,00) and ayam pang­gang (grilled chicken) (IDR16,000). The lat­ter is grilled upon or­der and comes slathered in a thick, sweet sauce that goes swim­mingly with the ar­ray of sam­bal. An­other high­light is the es jeruk (iced cala­mansi juice), par­tic­u­larly per­fect dur­ing the hot­ter months. The por­tions are small, which brings you to the next stop, Ayam Presto (Tlk., Bin­tan Buyu, Tlk. Bin­tan.

Tel: +62 813 6431 4336) for their sig­na­ture fried chicken ($2).

Visit the largest com­mu­nity of Orang Laut (sea gyp­sies) at Pan­g­long Vil­lage (Ber­akit, Teluk Se­bong). The rus­tic charm is matched by the time-hon­oured tra­di­tions of its vil­lagers. Made up of a col­lec­tion of ke­long (an off­shore hut built with wood), they can of­ten be seen weav­ing fish­ing nets, re­pair­ing their boats and pre­serv­ing fresh catch by sun dry­ing.

On the drive back to the ferry ter­mi­nal, make a pit­stop at Tee Off Restau­rant.

Or­der the nasi lemak and gado-gado with a sprawl­ing view of rolling green hills.

Man­grove tour

Pan­g­long Vil­lage

Tan­jung Pi­nang

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