Mention Banyan Tree to anyone and watch their eyes widen with glee and anticipation — that's the effect that the luxury hospitality brand has on people, with a glowing repertoire established since 1994. Founded by Singaporean Ho Kwon Ping (#supportlocal), the prestigious hospitality group now owns an astounding portfolio of 40 resorts and hotels, 60 spas, 70 retail galleries and three championship golf courses in 28 countries. Exciting news flash: It is also set to open its first ever resort in Singapore at Mandai.
While that's not happening until 2020, our next best alternative lies just an hour away by ferry — Banyan Tree Bintan. Nestled on a talcum-white private beach facing the South China Sea, the property stands as the second Banyan Tree resort to be built (with its first in Phuket) and one that we're lucky to have within close parameters.
Note to self: Block your emails, your ongoing group chats, or if you can, just turn off your phone. With every Banyan Tree experience is your unspoken cue to unwind with the offerings this gorgeous abode has to offer, and we don't mean the WiFi password. I for one, certainly made sure of that — here's what my 24 hours in this sanctuary looked like.
After a swift check-in process, you'll be transported by buggy to your very own villa. Whether you're in a Rainforest Seaview hut or one that comprises of an infinity pool, the view definitely doesn't disappoint. The four-poster beds here take centrestage — boasting flowy white drapes and a teakwood frame. Everything in the room, from the wooden furniture to the bathroom tiles, adopt the style of traditional Indonesian furnishings — as with every Banyan property that has been designed in accordance to the zipcode it is based in.
Those knots are definitely not going to knead themselves. While the resort has a dedicated spa centre for treatments, there are also spa villas. Obviously, the latter's a better choice. In this stunning two-storey space, you'll have the whole place to yourself with a trained therapist at your service. In the care of expertly trained hands and a scenic view of the ocean, 90 minutes of bliss begins in 3, 2, 1...
To be perfectly honest, most people are often sceptical of the dining scene in Bintan, even in its resorts. Banyan Tree Bintan is certainly aware of that, which is why they recently flew down Chef Jérémy Desbraux and Josselin Jacquet from 3 Michelin restaurant B.Violier - Restaurant de L'Hôtel de Ville de Crisser in Switzerland for a four-day French pop-up extravaganza. The dynamic duo crafted a delectable four-course set menu, a special degustation menu and a slew of à la carte dishes. Think perfectly cooked foie gras, fluffy raspberry soufflés, sublime champagne pairings... it's probably wise not to underestimate a luxury resort, which proved to be capable of surprises even after 19 years.
On the other hand, if you're craving Asian, their resident fine-dining Thai restaurant, Saffron, is also an obvious winner. Featuring fresh produce and palatable modern techniques, it's no wonder they call it a Banyan Tree signature.
A long hard day of getting pampered with essential oils and Michelin-worthy cuisine calls for a therapeutic sunken bath back in the villa. Their standing shower is smartly structured in a mini-pool — allowing you to fill up a hot shallow bath invigorated with bath salts on the counter-tops.
For breakfast, dig into the sumptuous buffet spread at Treetops. Dine inside if you're feeling warm, or if the weather is cool enough — take your full plate outside where you'll be dining with the company of nature.
If you're feeling up for it, choose from a series of activities ranging from ATV (All-terrain vehicle) rides to golf (the courses here are worth a distant shot). But of course, if you don't feel like breaking a sweat, peruse through their gift shop, which stocks local textile enterprise, MATTER. So long, rupiahs.
There's more than meets the eye at Banyan Tree Holdings; it also owns two other hospitality brands — Angsana and Cassia. Guests staying at any of these resorts can take a walk over to dine at the various F&B outlets. After all, who doesn't love more options? For instance, XANA Beach Club at Angsana serves up a mean Surf & Turf, as well as an extensive list of cocktails. It is also strategically located out on the beachfront.
Pick your spot — there's plenty of day beds and sand to go around. Now's the perfect time to finish reading The Alchemist, while watching the waves crash in.
All good things do have to come to an end. Time to check out, get back on that ferry, and start plotting your next Banyan escapade.