PARADISE // Sugi Island, Indonesia

Our final island destination before returning to Singapore was a bit more of a ‘resort’ option. Somehow during my holiday research I stumbled upon a blog post about an elusive resort, hidden along Sugi Island. A few more clicks later and I found myself on the website for Telunas Resorts and the rest is history.

The resort is mainly targeted at people coming straight from Singapore, however we were able to arrange to meet at the ferry terminal in Batam as we were already on the island. Batam has several ferry terminals, so thankfully our hotel was able to arrange a driver to take us to Sekupang Ferry Terminal. From there, we were to take a private boat to the resort. We were met by one of the hosts from Telunas, as well as a few families coming from Singapore. For the first time since arriving from Melbourne, we were hit with rain! It was quite torrential and made boarding our small ‘fishing boat’ a bit of a task!

Soon the clouds cleared up and we were able to take in the views of our hour and a half trip to the resort. The number of islands in Indonesia is mind-blowing, and we must have passed hundred just going to Sugi Island! We sped past mangroves, fishing villages, and uninhabited forests. I was frantically trying to take photos on my camera, whilst Chris was focused on working on his tan.

Telunas is actually made up of two resorts – the more popular (and more expensive!) being the Private Island, seen above. Everyone else on the boat disembarked here.

Then it was over to the Beach Resort, above. We were greeted enthusiastically by our hosts, who provided us with a ‘welcome drink’ (some strange but delicious lemonade/juice/mocktail) and lunch.

After we had stuffed our faces at the buffet we were shown to our room. There were a variety of options at the resort, but we opted for the smallest and simplest ‘Deluxe Room’, which featured a double bed and a private bathroom. I should note here that Telunas is not a fancy resort by any means – there is no air-conditioning, and no wifi! It is all about simplicity and taking in the island life – quite like Bintan!

Who would have known it was bucketing rain two hours earlier?!

The main attraction of the resort is the beach, which was beautiful. We spent most of our time rotating between swimming and reading in the hammocks.

You can see the ‘fishing boat’ we arrived in above, and the Private Island in the distance.

Besides one small family, we seemed to be only people at the Beach Resort for the first night of our stay. It was so blissfully quiet and beautiful. Everywhere you looked was breathtaking!

The room rates at the resort were reasonable, however they did not include the additional mandatory tariff for all the meals. The food was far better than I expected for a buffet, ranging from local Indonesian dishes and desserts, to more Western options. It changed with every meal, each day, so we were never sick of eating the same things.

The beach also included numerous activities, ranging from darts and badminton, to soccer and some other ball games we had never heard of. We attempted to play badminton but realised we were both absolutely terrible at it! Back to reading and swimming it was…

– Reanna

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BUBBLE TEA & GREEN BEER // Batam Island, Indonesia

Batam Island was the first location to pop up in our research into Indonesian islands near Singapore. The island is home to Batam, the largest city in the Riau Islands and a booming industrial city. We were interested to see how the island contrasted to the rural villages of nearby Bintan Island.

To get to Batam we took a local ferry from Tanjun Pinang on Bintan Isand to Telaga Punggur on Batam Island. I had been stressing about this part of our trip for weeks, as the ferry was local and there was no information about times or ticket prices. Thankfully our Airbnb hosts reassured us the ferries ran every half an hour and people would walk up to you selling tickets to Batam. This turned out to be true – no sooner had our driver pulled up the car were we sold tickets to Batam island and directed onto an awaiting ferry!

Our hotel in Batam was far nicer than expected, and felt quite luxurious after our stay in Bintan (i.e. had hot water and a flushing toilet).

Admittedly, the main selling point of Batam to tourists is the cheap shopping. It seems to be a popular weekend destination for Singaporeans, boasting giant shopping centres (such as Nagoya Hill, above) where one can purchase cheap clothes, cameras and shoes. We had a quick look around, but neither of us are bigger shoppers. We settled for a refreshing bubble tea instead to battle the humidity.

That evening we chanced upon a brewery which sold green beer – I think it contained spirulina? We had an early night and a wonderful sleep in our airconditioned room (I know, small luxuries!)

The next morning we had a few hours to kill before we had to catch a taxi to our next destination, so we decided to stretch our legs and wander the streets. Vihra Budhi Bhakti, a large Buddhist temple, was just up the road from our hotel.

It had a wonderful garden, complete with statues, fish and turtles.

As always, we were overpowered by the small of incense!

We continued exploring side streets, taking in the different sights and sounds – including a bustling wet market.

Uploading these photos has made me realise how bad photos from my iphone are compared to my camera. Once again I am berating myself for forgetting my camera charger!

Our walk took us past more shopping centres, mosques, a Catholic church, and run down shacks. Batam also turned out to be rather hilly, so between the beating sun and the inclines, we were ruined by the time we returned to the hotel!

Our stay in Batam may have been short, but it was enough time to have a quick look around the city. It was definitely the low point of the trip, but it worked well as a stop over on our way to another island paradise – stay tuned!

– Reanna

TWO MINUTE DRIVING LESSONS // Bintan Island, Indonesia

I was an avid reader as a child, and would spend hours lounging around my room reading like it was a sport. Since reading became part of studying at university, reading for pleasure has significantly fallen off my radar, apart from the occassional book that I spend three months reading. Spending two days on the beach at Bintan Island saw Chris and I both devour a book as we lay around our accommodation. We unwittingly only had one book each, so we ended up swapping once we both finished!

When we weren’t reading, we would wander along the quiet beach, chat about nothing over a beer, or gaze out over the water. There really was something so relaxing and slow about this place.

We did eventually leave the beach for a quick trip up the coast… on a scooter! Our hosts had a scooter which we could hire for around $10 AUD for the day. Neither of us had ever driven a scooter or motorbike in our lives, however our host reassured us it was incredibly easy and that the roads were quiet at flat. After a two minute lesson on how to turn the scooter on, and a quick test run up the driveway (with a couple of random police officers who were lounging around watching us) we were off! Chris took the first drive while I held on for dear life.

We drove north along a quiet and relatively flat road, keeping our speed fairly low and taking in the countryside. I was too busy clinging on to take photos! We stopped once or twice along the way, but otherwise we just took in all the sights – empty resorts (Ramadan!), quiet beaches, and fishing villages. We must have stuck out has hopeless tourists as we received quite a few waves along the way!

We turned around after about an hour, when we reached this jetty. At this point I should also mention all my photos are now from my iphone – I failed the remember that my brand new camera required a separate battery charger and instead bought the cable I used for my old camera! I was kicking myself for this, but decided not to let it get in the way of our holiday.

I had a turn driving on the way back, and was surprised to find that I actually quite enjoyed driving. I am typically an anxious mess about trying new (risky) things, but the quiet roads and the feeling of zooming along on the countryside won me over.

The small sign for our accommodation.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out on the beach, reading and playing with some of the twelve cats that shared our home.

Chris was initially skeptical about me touching them, as they looked a bit sad and feral, but eventually the little kittens won me (and him) over. I love the above photo of this fat old cat – so grumpy!

Our Airbnb house was simple and quite typical of rural Indonesia – no flushing toilet!

If you are planning an escape from Singapore and don’t want to wind up in a resort, I could not recommend this Airbnb more. It was such a tranquil escape!

Plus, the beach is A+ even if it isn’t great for swimming.

This is the only photo I have of Tanjung Pinang, which I snapped from our car on the way back to the ferry terminal.

Bintan, you stole our hearts!

– Reanna

SECLUSION // Bintan Island, Indonesia

When we booked our flights to Singapore we were unsure whether we would visit Indonesia or Malaysia as part of our trip. Chris did throw in the idea of going to Legoland, located just over the Malaysian border, but once the idea of Indonesian island hopping came up, we stuck with it.

We probably spent a month or so researching nearby islands, before finally deciding on three destinations based on their accessibility from Singapore and availability of accommodation. Our first port of call was Bintan Island! The main reason we decided on Bintan was due to stumbling across this Airbnb.

The morning view from our hotel in Singapore, before we left to catch our ferry. We bought a Sinagporean sim card and found Uber Singapore to be incredibly easy to use, so we caught an Uber to the ferry terminal.

Bintan Island is accessible from Singapore by a few ferry terminals. Most ferries for Bintan leave from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, which is around half an hour from the Singapore CBD by cab.

Most travellers will take a ferry to the north of Bintan Island, where all the resorts are located. However, on the advice of our Airbnb host we caught the ferry to the capital of Bintan, Tanjung Pinang. The trip took just under two hours, and featured come excellent views!

Once we arrived in Tanjung Pinang and made it through immigration (which took all of five minutes!) we were met by a driver, organised by our hosts. Hiring a driver is really the most practical way to get around Bintan – there is not really any public transport! Upon arriving at our Airbnb we were greeted by our hosts and a delicious drink featuring homemade nutmeg syrup!

Our Airbnb was a stones throw from the beach, at Planet Samudra – a cafe and jong school run by a French expat and his wife. Apart from a few small resorts nearby, we were surrounded by village life. No fancy shops! No hotels! Just this empty beach.

This a view back to the cafe and jong school – we were the only people at the cafe during our stay, as we had unwittingly coincided our trip with the middle of Ramadan.

We spent our entire afternoon wandering along the beach and reading in the chairs.

We were also joined by an abundant amount of friendly animals – but more on that later!

Jongs, by the way, are traditional Malaysian racing boats. They are quite small, and are carried out from shore and race back inland. A group of local men spent most of the day racing them (to pass the time of fasting, according to our host!). The wind made for perfect racing conditions, so it was quite entertaining to watch.

Arriving in Bintan was certainly a change of pace from our busy time in Singapore, and forced us to sit down and relax – something neither of us are very good at. But it was well received.

– Reanna

TERRIFYING TIGER BALM & OTHER ADVENTURES // Singapore

Finally, the second day of holidays. I promise from now on I will tone down the photos (spoiler: I probably won’t).

Despite our best intentions we admittedly did not have an extensive plan regarding what sights to see in Singapore. Not to mention, we clocked up over 24kms of walking on our first day and saw far more than we anticipated! As such, a morning research session over a hipster coffee (at the criminal price of $5 AUD plus taxes) was required. Somehow, I stumbled upon Haw Par Villa.

After a stressful morning trying to hunt down a sim card, we eventually jumped on the metro and alighted at Haw Par Villa station. The park was located directly out the front of the metro.

What is Haw Par Villa? Loosely, it is described as a ‘theme park’, though it is more educational, with a focus on Chinese mythology. The park was built in 1937 by the wealthy family who created Tiger Balm ointment – see below for some subtle/terrifying product placement.

The park was popular in its early years for school trips, but has since been taken over by the Singapore Tourism Board. It is free to enter to park and explore.

The most well known sight to see at the park is the Ten Courts of Hell – you can see the entrance above, and the interior below. Essentially, it graphically depicts the punishment an individual will receive in the after life for crimes and sins committed. And I mean graphically – if you look closely at the below photo you can probably make out some people drowning in vats of oil and being impaled on trees. Seriously, leave the kids outside!

The remainder of the park was an odd mix of colourful temples and large displays depicting stories from Chinese folklore. There was even a random section which featured Australian animals.

After fulfilling all our wildest nightmares at Haw Par Villa we jumped back on the metro and headed to the Botanic Gardens stations. Our morning research session had revealed a hawker market was nearby, so we made a quick stop for some delicious satay lunch.

The Botanic Gardens were beautiful and expansive. It was getting fairly hot by this point, so we were more than happy to find a place in the shade and rest.

Chris: “You are probably getting so sunburnt, we should just stay in the shade.”

Me: “I must see everything.”

Once we made it through the park we somehow navigated Singapore Uber and went back to our hotel for a much needed rest under the air conditioner. We reemerged in the evening the check out the famed Orchard Road. Neither of us are big shoppers, so we quickly left and wandered back towards Chinatown for dinner.

After having experienced a couple of hawker halls by now, we were feeling like seasoned professionals and game enough to try the hawker hall at the Chinatown Complex. As expected, it was absolutely delicious and a million times cheaper than any meal you would have in a restaurant.

I was eager to see the city at night, so we walked back towards Marina Bay.

You can get some great views of the city from the top of the Marina Bay Shoppes. We spent awhile up here just taking it in and escaping from the hordes of tourists heading towards the light show at the Gardens.

All in all, it was another wonderful day exploring Singapore. I think we clocked up another 20+km of walking, so we were sleeping well.

But that is all for Singapore for now – as it was onwards to Indonesia!

– Reanna

DO AS THE LOCALS DO // Singapore

I am fairly confident I took over 200 photos on our first day in Singapore. A combination of the excitement of a new city and a new camera had me snap happy, and Chris rolling his eyes as I stopped every fifty metres to take another photo. One day he will appreciate all these memories!

After ticking off all the tourist must-sees around Marina Bay, we set off towards Chinatown, which was much closer than we thought. Singapore turned out to be far more walk-able than anticipated – we only used the metro a couple of times!

Thanks to a random tourist map from the airport and some handy street signs, we toured a few temples and religious sites. The above and below temples were from Thian Hock Keng temples.

Chinatown also included a number of Hindu temples and Islamic mosques. We were able to enter to above Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, on the condition I borrow one of the communal saris. Given the 30 degree beating sun, I was quickly sweating under the cheap fabric!

The largest and most popular temples was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. We innocently wandered into the main room, but I was quickly yelled at to leave for wearing a dress. The halls leading to the upstairs museum were inundated with other tourists, so we made the decision to leave and instead admire the architecture from outside.

Chinatown itself was a bustling maze of market streets, food vendors, and haggling stalls. We weren’t in any mood for shopping, but stumbled across the Chinatown Hawker Centre. For the uninitiated, the sight of a local Singaporean food hall was quite overwhelming! We took note of the location, but decided to try another nearby food street. Once again, we were victims of an overpriced meal (prices often exclusive of tax and service – look for the ++ on the menu!).

By this time we had already clocked up over 10kms of walking, so we wandered back to our hotel for a swim in the pool and a rest in our air conditioned room.

For the later half of the afternoon, we decided to mix things up with some more walking. We wandered up towards Fort Canning Park, but not before I found another temple to admire – the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.

Another cute animal? I am so predictable.

Fort Canning is a small park near the CBD of Singapore that has a long history of palaces, settlements, and (strangely enough) forts. These days it is full of lush greenery and some peaceful paths that wind around a reservoir.

You can just imagine how much Chris is rolling his eyes behind the camera as I posed for this photo.

Eventually it was time for more food, so after another pit stop at the hotel for a quick research session, we decided to take the step of trying hawker food. On our walk we stumbled across the below graveyard, strangely located on the side of a busy road!

A quick Google session had revealed that Tiong Bahru Market was a clean and welcoming hawker hall, which we took to mean friendlier to those of us who have no idea what they are doing.

Hawker halls are essentially a mix between food courts and market stalls. Except the food is excellent, local and dirt cheap. After draining half our savings on our previous two meals, we were more than happy to spend a grand total of $10 AUD on three savoury dishes and a dessert!

Don’t ask what our dessert was, as we have no idea. It was called ‘Special Dream’ our something equally as terrifying, and was covered in a suspicious amount of unknown fruit jellies.

That night we sat along Clarke Quay and paid a ridiculous amount of money for a ‘craft’ beer. Despite only being in the country for 24 hours, we had our usual conversation of ‘would we live here’ – a common topic when moving overseas is on the mind.

Answer: I am skeptical of the hot and humid weather, but we probably would!

– Reanna.

ANNUAL LEAVE // Singapore

Last weekend Chris and I were sweating in the South-East Asian sun, and this weekend it is back to the questionably cold weather of Melbourne. Our ten day holiday flew by, but it was also the perfect amount of time to get in both a thorough exploration of Singapore and spend some time relaxing in Indonesia.

As the title of this post alludes to, this holiday is my first overseas holiday using my annual leave since I began working full time in December last year! I haven’t accrued a great deal of leave yet, but with the help of weekends and a public holiday, we managed to stretch out our trip for ten days, with one day recovery.

We admittedly chose Singapore due to cheap flights that worked well with our timing! Though typically considered a stop over destination, we found it a great place to explore for a few days.

Our flight arrived in Singapore in the late afternoon, so our first night involved a quick walk, accidentally spending $100 on an average dinner, and sleeping ten hours. We were up bright and early the next day for what was probably our most action packed day. Our hotel was in Robertson Quay, so we followed the river to Marina Bay.

In full tourist style, our first major stop was the Merlion. Despite my (joking) requests, Chris did not want to pose for a photo where it looked like the lion was squirting water into his mouth.

The CBD was a million times more modern than the area we were staying in, and was quite desolate as we had arrived in time for the weekend. However, we stumbled straight into a giant dragon boating festival along the bay, which provided some entertainment.

After gawking at Marina Bay Sands (and cooling off in the shops – Singapore was hot!) we wandering towards Gardens by the Bay. Chris noticed a group of people looking at something by the water, so we curiously followed suit. Turns out it was the most glorious group of otters! I honestly was not expecting to see any wildlife in Singapore, so I was more than happy to watch these cuties snuggle up to each other in the sun.

By this time it was still only around 9am in the morning (we set off early!) so the Gardens were largely empty. We skipped the greenhouses and wandered towards the epic Supertree Grove.

I was happy to slowly walk through the park to find the best vantage point for a sweeping view of the Supertrees and Marina Bay Sands. Admittedly I still have zero idea what I am doing with my new DSLR camera, but thankfully ‘auto’ mode still takes a pretty good shot.

After a good hour or so of garden explorations I was positive I was getting sunburnt, despite being covered in sunscreen, so we began a desperate search for iced coffee.

In order to over photo overload, I think I am going to divide this day in to two posts! Admittedly the rest of the trip isn’t as photo heavy (I think), plus I am getting more lenient in how many photos I don’t delete these days. I was far more ruthless in Europe!

– Reanna