Oul re­fresh­ing

Feel­ing stuck in the con­crete jun­gle? Jes­sica Chan takes a breather and sets off to The Res­i­dence Bin­tan for a quick get­away.

Epicure - - TRAVEL FEATURE -

S There is one beau­ti­ful way to greet the day when you are at The Res­i­dence Bin­tan and that’s by the pri­vate pool of its beach­front villa. On a good day, you can ad­mire the glim­mer­ing sea bed, cour­tesy of the re­ced­ing tide and the scat­ter­ing of sun rays peek­ing through thick clouds. Soon enough the chirp­ing of birds would re­mind you that it’s time for break­fast. Hop onto a bi­cy­cle – not un­like those vin­tage mod­els with wicker bas­kets travers­ing the French ar­rondisse­ments – and ar­rive at The Din­ing Room for a plate of kway teow goreng with fiery sam­bal on the side. With a sprawl­ing view of the prop­erty and coast­line in full view, there is noth­ing more to do then to toss all wor­ries out of the ter­race and while the morn­ing away.

It’s mo­ments like th­ese that make Cenizaro Ho­tels & Re­sorts’ lat­est out­post so ab­sorb­ing to weary city folks.

One good thing af­ter an­other

A 70-minute drive (from Ban­dar Ben­tan Te­lani Ferry Ter­mi­nal) is a tad long but, the far-flung set­ting is what blan­kets the prop­erty in a sooth­ing, laid­back tran­quil­lity. Even as the week­end crowd floods in – cou­ples, fam­i­lies and staff on a com­pany re­treat – The Res­i­dence Bin­tan re­tains its cool, serene vibe. It feels as if you have ar­rived at a pri­vate is­land off the map, one that Robin­son Cru­soe wouldn’t have mind stay­ing on for an­other 20 years.

There is an in­stant con­nec­tion to na­ture. Flow­ers in shades of yel­low and pur­ple jux­ta­pose with the white vil­las and ever­green trees, while the salty tang of the South China Sea wafts over­head. Many ac­tiv­i­ties re­volve around the pri­vate stretch of beach and the nearby rain­for­est. Ex­perts are of­ten in­vited to the re­sort to en­rich the guest ex­pe­ri­ence. The sun­rise yoga on the ter­race with We­barre’s An­abel Chew and a botan­i­cal, wa­ter­colour work­shop on lo­cal flora with Lucinda Law are among the high­lights. For some­thing chal­leng­ing and im­mer­sive, try the ATV ride. The rugged course of over­ar­ch­ing trees, make-shift bridges and hair-pin turns will stump even ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers.

Yet, that pales in com­par­i­son to snorkelling in the cerulean wa­ters of Ma­pur Is­land. I’m no stranger to the Bin­tan’s murky wa­ters and bleached corals, so, imag­ine my sur­prise that I’m able to jump into a rain­bow of corals, fishes and, even, sea urchins just 30 min­utes away from the re­sort. Clown fishes duck into neon-coloured sea anemone. A school of ju­ve­nile sweet­lips dodges my clumsy flip­pers. Ten min­utes in, a hun­gry bump­head par­rot­fish be­gins to munch on a bed of co­ral.

The only wor­thy con­clu­sion to such a ma­jes­tic sight is a warm­ing Po­tali treat­ment at the spa. (The treat­ment, in­spired by Ayurvedic tra­di­tions, hails from renowned Bri­tish brand ila.) The treat­ment room, a tra­di­tional hut en­veloped in a cam­ou­flage of lush bushes and trees, hints at its ex­is­tence only by the invit­ing aroma of frank­in­cense and the soft mur­murs of Ti­betian mu­sic. Feel your ten­sion melt away as the sur­pris­ingly strong ther­a­pist pounds the potli – stuffed with ther­a­peu­tic herbs and warmed with med­i­cated oils – on your back. A fluid, rhyth­mic mas­sage to bal­ance fem­i­nine and mas­cu­line en­er­gies (ida and pin­gala) fol­lows af­ter.

In­done­sian flavours

When it comes to the cui­sine, there’s only one chef over­see­ing the two restau­rants on the premise. Yet, head chef Lom­bok Tam­bunan man­ages to strad­dle both with ease.

Rica Rica proudly show­cases the ar­chi­pel­ago’s rich spices and tra­di­tions in a lav­ish set­ting over­look­ing the beach. I have my first taste of Ba­li­nese duck. Ten­der sliv­ers of duck breast, pre­pared French-style but in­fused with be­tutu spices, were a dream with the trio of home­made sam­bal. Even the tra­di­tional chen­dol gets an up­grade here. The guests around me are full of praise for the co­conut pan­dan custard and torch gin­ger ice cream.

The Din­ing Room (where guests can par­tic­i­pate in cook­ing classes with Tam­bunan) of­fers an in­ter­na­tional spread with an In­done­sian fo­cus. In­stead of a cake, a tow­er­ing nasi tumpeng greets the birth­day girls at an­other ta­ble. It’s a Slametan cer­e­mony favourite and no one could say no to the moun­tain of grilled prawns and fried chicken tossed in sam­bal on the side.

I’ll be tak­ing this par­tic­u­lar tra­di­tion home, with gusto.

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