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