A colonial paradise just an hour away from Singapore
If you grew up in Singapore, you'd have been to Bintan at least once in your life. The quiet Indonesian island, which Singaporeans identify with a quick weekend getaway, is home to just about 350,000 people and touted to be the next best tourist destination after Bali. As a child, holidays to Bintan always involved expansive family resorts, hoards of kids running amok and extended time on the beach. A hearty seafood dinner while watching a gorgeous sunset normally topped off the experience.
While those were happy times (and provided many lasting childhood memories for me), couples, honeymooners or small groups of friends might have found that what Bintan lacked was a resort that boasted tranquility and exclusivity. That is, until The Sanchaya opened its doors in late 2014. Its magnificent colonial façade, towering palm trees and stunning pool overlooking the sea piqued the interest of Singaporeans seeking something more. Coupled with Bintan's rural charm and the resort's diverse collection of handpicked artefacts and art pieces which tell a story of travel experiences, it seemed like the ideal spot for a breathtaking vacation. We saw it all over our social media feeds during the first month of its opening, and wished ourselves over there.
Just over two and a half years on, and The Sanchaya is still Bintan's golden spot. It comes with a hefty price tag but understandably so — from the minute you step off that ferry in Bintan, you have not a care in the world. A friendly staff member will escort you through an express immigration lane and usher you into the resort's VIP lounge (The Sanchaya is the only resort on the island to offer this service). Within minutes, you're in a car and on your way. Stress level at this place? Zilch, and it remains that way throughout.
With over nine hectares of land, and only 21 villas and nine suites on the property, it's safe to say that even at full occupancy, it'll feel like you're on your own private island. I spent my time there walking along secluded footpaths, dipping my feet into the Olympic-sized pool, and lounging at The Sanchaya's pristine beach. Noise levels are at an all-time low here, making the entire experience delightfully peaceful. My one-bedroom villa was massive — big enough to have a party of 15 come over — and swathed in a grand, colonial design reminiscent of the European salons of the 19th Century. My favourite part of the room? The ornate freestanding bathtub and intricate patterned tiles in the bathroom. A wide selection of free in-room movies on Apple TV and a generous maxi-bar came in a close second and third.
Food at The Sanchaya is set at a superbly high standard. Breakfasts are served semi a la carte, with choices from Japanese unagi to Maggi mee goreng to poached eggs with caviar. Pair your main with a beautiful spread of continental breakfast choices up on the buffet. If you're (still) hungry in the afternoon, lunches at the dining room range from a selection of Indonesian delights to classic Western fare. Dinner is best done al fresco at The Tasnee Grill, a quaint little space by the side of the pool — expect authentic Thai cuisine inspired by Bangkok's vibrant street food scene. I might not have been in Thailand, but the curries and broths here are some of the best I've ever had. Every meal at The Sanchaya kicks off with a cold scented towel, warm bread and a surprise amuse bouche — beautiful touches that I wish every other restaurant could replicate.
When the afternoons get too warm and sticky, there's nothing better than jumping into the pool or checking in at the spa. Pick from the spa's seven customised chakra oils, each with its own health benefits derived from different ingredients. Their selection of herbal teas also balance and energise the chakras and help boost your energy levels. If you're spoilt for choice, try the signature massage — your therapist employs warm volcanic stones to warm your body's tissues before a firm massage ensues with long strokes and forearm pressure.
Without a doubt, a night at The Sanchaya is blissful on so many levels. If you're tired of the city and are seeking a (very) quiet respite, paired with amazing food and drinks, this one's for you. There couldn't be a quicker and more ideal way to escape.
For more information, visit The Sanchaya