NOTHING TO DO & NOWHERE TO BE // Sugi Island, Indonesia

Much like our experience on Bintan Island, Chris and I found ourselves forced to stop and relax in our environment. Both of us struggle to sit still, but we managed to find a balance at Telunas by rotating between reading in hammocks, swimming at the beach, and taking advantage of some of the activities on offer.

On our second day we wandered further down the beach towards the mangroves. The beach wasn’t as long as we thought, and eventually ended in jungle.

The beach, despite being beautiful, wasn’t the best swimming beach. Seaweeds ran thick through the water about ten metres out, and the beach was covered in crabs! We didn’t mind too much as neither of us are big swimmers and were happy to float in the shallows.

Later in the morning we hired a couple of sea kayaks and spent some time paddling along the beach. It was really hard work! Not to mention a week of eating, drinking, and generally being in holiday mode meant whatever fitness we possessed beforehand was beginning to decline. We were asked not to go too far, so we came back in after 45 minutes. Not to mention the beating sun was frying us!

Around lunch time the boat returned from Batam Island with a number of families and couples, bringing our time of having the resort to ourselves to an end.

Telunas offers a number of guided activities, one being a low ropes course hidden in the jungle behind the beach. We had to be guided there by a host, and we tested out terrible balance skills.

It was great to see the jungle, and I wished we could have also done a larger jungle hike that the resort had on offer. However, it required a minimum number of people to do it. Most people don’t come to a beach resort to go hiking, I guess!

The above photo shows the ‘bell’ that is used to signal meal time (7am for breakfast, 12pm for lunch, and 6pm for dinner). It was not really a bell at all, but rather a hollow wooden sound – but it got our attention at meal times!

The next morning we had to return to Batam, but we had time to squeeze in some reading on the beach before our boat left around 9am.

The boat ride back was just as magical.

I still can’t believe we managed to find this little slice of paradise hidden among the Riau Islands! For a resort experience it was quite affordable, and a great place to disconnect and relax in a simple environment. If you are ever in Singapore, this is a perfect getaway that is close by!

But for now, back to Singapore!

– Reanna

*** I should also mention at this point that all these views are totally my own – I have never had my experience or accommodation at any holiday destination paid for. I just genuinely want to recommend some places!

Advertisements

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

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