The Residence Bintan is where the discerning traveller escapes for a true getaway
Brb, checking in
Trust us, going to Bintan for a weekend takes a lot of convincing. Because why go to Bintan when you can go to Bali? The food's similar, the sunset's scored bragging rights and the brunches are cloyingly 'Instagrammable', for lack of a better word. But to truly upgrade a weekend escape from basic to exclusive, one needn't look further from Bintan.
Every Singaporean's all too familiar with this Riau island, the largest in Indonesia's Riau Archipelago that's home to some 300,000 locals. Growing up on package tours and couple trips, the average Singaporean's holiday in Bintan involves a dip in the pool, water sports like banana boat or kayaking and perhaps a trip to the island's heart, Tanjung Pinang, to stock up on some crackers. All in one package tour, populated by hordes of other Singaporeans and expats who've made our island home. Nothing wrong with that. But when the Cenizaro Hotels & Resorts group came a-knocking and told us you could do all of that — in style — and away from the masses, we got to packing.
If you find yourself unfamiliar with the Cenizaro group of hospitality properties, that's because they've made their mark outside of Asia. From their first property in 1996, they've planted their luxury digs in places such as Mauritius, Tunis, Zanzibar, and finally, a foray into Asia with a spot in the Maldives. The Residence Bintan opened earlier this year, claiming a spot in the southeastern end of the island, away from the luxury resorts that populate the Northern shores.
An hour's bus ride from Bintan's ferry terminal brings you to the lush, sprawling grounds of The Residence Bintan, which has been laid out like a traditional Southeast Asian village. Clusters akin to kampongs make up different room and villa categories, with 28 one-bedroom beachfront villas, 12 deluxe villas and 80 one-bedroom double-storey vista and garden terrace rooms. Because the compound is still freshly pressed, it isn't that populated with greenery yet — but it's getting there. Seedlings of flora pepper the paved jogging and cycling tracks, while a humble pond provides respite for the eyes. In fact, it's this pond where you'll set your sights on after a session at The Spa by ila, The Residence Bintan's chosen professional for kneaded pleasures.
Ayurveda's the answer to your troubles at The Spa by ila. Drawing on local rituals fused with modern techniques, each treatment is set to sort your issues. Whether you'd like to be still, refocus your energies and balance your chakras, each session involves exotic methods and practices such as smoke rituals and a pouring of oil on the third eye. You can also concentrate on select areas like your throat and stomach. For mindful meditation and yoga sessions, nothing beats a location that's the open deck by the reception, with sweeping views across the South China Sea. You're in good hands too — the resort has previously roped in the likes of WeBarre and Freedom Yoga as guest instructors.
Designed by Hirsch-Bedner Associates, The Residence Bintan joins the resort aesthetic of understated, relaxed luxury, contemporary moods and a finishing of marble and wood to tell their story. For a getaway with girlfriends or a boys pow-wow, the one-bedroom beachfront villa will impress with its infinity pool and expansive bathroom. But the real treat lies in a stay in one of the estates. Not only do you get priority check-in in your villa, you get to wake up to sunrise views and breakfast without leaving the comfort of your space. A butler ensures all your needs are met.
The resort’s infinity pools aren’t the only places to get wet. The Residence Bintan will get you acquainted with Mapur Island, which lies 16km east of Bintan. While you’ve heard of Cempedak and Nikoi, Mapur is an island mostly known only to locals and the diving community. A 15-minute bus ride and 30-minute boat ride away from The Residence Bintan, Mapur Island is where the shipwreck, Igara, sits at the bottom of the sea at 40m. Surrounded by emerald waters, this lesser-known Island is largely owned by the folks from Cenizaro, who we hear are conceptualising a Robinson Crusoe-esque property there. Though they’re still keeping mum about it, an afternoon snorkelling around Mapur Island is enough to convince you to return to enjoy the area’s spoils. As part of the Marine Protected Area, it’s of high conservation priority and the corals are relatively untouched.
The next time you’re planning a trip to Bintan, know that true luxury is about getting away — from your responsibilities, real life back in Singapore and the throngs of people who come along with it. Welcome to your new residence.