“Less than 2h ago, I was still typing away at the office. Sitting on the soft sofa at the reception of the Banyan Tree Bintan, sipping on sweet lemongrass juice, all of that feels long in the past.”
There is peace and silence when we jump off the comfortable 10min ride from the ferry terminal to the Resort’s main lobby area. The lights are dimly lit and you can hear the noise of the jungle.
The front desk lady parsimoniously walks us through the check in process. We get a map of the resort with our villa marked on it. We get the spa menu to choose a treatment, a must at any Banyan Tree for that is what they are famous for. We get a run down of our dining options and of everything else there is on offer.
“Guests of Banyan Tree also have access to Angsana’s facilities and dining outlets. You can just mention your room and it will be charged to your bill,” she finally adds. Relaxed, without any of the tensions we came with, and refreshed with a cold towel that smelled like freshly prepared lemongrass haven, Sandro, the Front Desk Manager, whisks us away to our villa in one of the resort’s buggies. It is dark so we can barely see how the outdoor area of our villa looks like, but we can hear the waves crashing on the boulders underneath and feel the moist of the lush canopy above us. “Just what I needed,” I think to myself.
Inside the room, the turn down service has already prepared our bed for the night. The mosquito net has been cast above the four poster bed and the lights are dimmed to a romantic tone.
Sandro continues, his unwavering excitement at welcoming new guests as vivid as it probably was the first time. He solemnly explains even the smallest of details in a smiling and friendly way. How the minibar works, the free non-alcoholic beverages, every single item that is stored away in every drawer, the TV, the mosquito coils and repellent, gesturing to show us how to apply it. By the time he leaves the room we are experts on our surroundings.
Ocean Villa on the Rocks
The Banyan Tree Bintan has Rainforest Seaview Villas, Rainforest Oceanview Villas, Ocean Villas on the Rocks, with outdoor jacuzzis, and Rainforest Oceanview 2 Bedroom Villas with outdoor pools. All rooms are facing the sea and beach and have magnificent views that are void of all the containerships that pollute Singapore waters and sea views.
The villas are large, with enough space to have a dance, and fabulous bathrooms with sunken sea view bathtubs. Sandro had welcomed us into an Ocean Villa on the Rocks, similar some of the other overwater villas in Asia I have stayed at, but one the most romantic of the villas, perfect for a private and rewarding time together. But, what stuck with me the most, was the long list of small details that paid testimony to Banyan Tree’s long standing play in the hospitality business: They know what guests want and have anticipated the feedback over the years.
The His and Hers vanity sinks had separate amenity wash bags with a personalized male and female selection of items. There were comfortable and high quality sleepers and embroidered thick and fluffy towels. Before getting into bed, we lit the oil lamp with a simple candle and the matches provided. How many times one gets such amenities only to realize there is no match to light the tea candle? The oil is changed every day with a different theme, from relaxing to refreshing. The smells were all just divine.
The villa was simply perfect. Not too modern, not too funky, just comfortable and in keeping with the surroundings.
When we woke up on our first morning, to the sound of the crashing waves and the sunrise, we realized the privacy we were to enjoy and the great views over the deserted and fluffy white sand beach.
Banyan Tree Bintan has four dining options. If none of those tickles your fancy, Angsana Bintan has a few more alternatives available. We enjoyed breakfast at the Treetops, their Indonesian restaurant which also serves lunch and dinner. The setting was dramatic. Perched on a wooden deck above the sea the restaurant was under towering indigenous trees that had grown to sky scrapper dimensions. At night, we could hear and see fruit bats going about their business and, during the day, the thick and healthy trees provided a respite from the sun. It was a fabulously tropical setting for a meal.
Dinner must be enjoyed at Saffon, Banyan Tree’s signature Thai restaurant. As a Singaporean brand which started in Thailand, Banyan Tree seeks to spread the flavors of modern Thai cuisine across its properties. We enjoyed flavorful and interesting takes of Thai dishes and a Rice Master introduced us to four kinds of rice to accompany any dish. Colorful green, yellow, black and white rice made for an interesting base to our curries. Saffron was a romantic setting with red and gold dominating the room.
Located under Saffron was the Mediterranean restaurant, The Cove, serving popular dishes from across an international array of options either outside, on a terrace hanging above the lush vegetation and the sea, or inside for those who preferred to stay away from the mosquitoes or the heat.
Snacks and other light options were available poolside, by the beach. The most romantic of Banyan Tree‘s dining options were the personalized dinner set-ups across the property’s most beautiful spots. All of them were worthy of a Valentine’s Day celebration.
Dinner for two can be set up on the Rocks, at the end of a pier, in complete solitude, only disturbed by the sound of the waves crashing. Candles and flowers adorn the table and service is provided by your own personal chef and waiter. The stars provide entertainment, if you need any.
For those who want to set sail, the resort can also prepare a seafood dinner on a traditional fisherman’s boat where you can enjoy wok-fried chilli crab caught fresh from Bintan’s mangrove swamps. If you are a golf aficionado, you can have dinner at Hole 8 at the Laguna Bintan Golf Club, associated with the resort. Hole no.8 is near the beach and, at night, is possibly the most private spot on the island.
If you are looking to indulge in true Indonesian food, the Dinner of the Legend is a tapas style Rijstafel dinner served at a private cabana. A real treat.
For romanticism that does not require you to leave your room, Blue Moon Dining, will bring blue lanterns and soft jazz music to your own terrace for that romantically private meal in the comfort of your own villa.
These personalized and private dinner options are usually found in honeymoon destinations like Bora Bora or the Maldives, Banyan Tree Bintan brings them closer to Asia. I couldn’t help but realize that, if we had arranged the dinner for our arrival evening, we could have gone from sitting in front of our office desk to dipping our feet in the sand in the most romantic of settings in less than 2h.
There were two pools in the resort, one by the Treetops Restaurant which was generally quieter and shaded, and one by the beach, which was a more popular option with the suntanning lot.
Although the beach and private villas were the main draw to the resort, there were plenty of activities on offer. Being on a tropical island, Banyan Tree Bintan enjoyed lush greenery and natural mangroves, both of which were the perfect playground for nature lovers to explore tropical species up close. Night walks into the forest were particularly interesting, if you could get away from the privacy and comfort of your villa.
It was at all times obvious that the resort has been in business for a while. The experience and care of the staff was obvious in each of our interactions. They knew how to anticipate our needs and were always ready to oblige.
On our last day, as we were enjoying the villa for a few more hours after check out time, the staff came to make the room only to meticulously make a couple of swans, complete with eyes made of red flowers and petals, on our bed. It did not matter that we were about to leave, the dedication and commitment of the room staff was amazing. And when the swans and the entire decoration were ready, they insisted in taking a photo of us laying on the bed next to it.
Banyan Tree is well known for its spa services and the focus on wellness. The Spa at several of its properties have won awards and have accolades to speak for their professionalism and quality. Our experience matched expectations.
The Spa Villa at Banyan Tree Bintan was set aside from the main Spa in one of the villas. The treatment started with a foot bath and a thorough explanation of what was about to happen. The therapists were incredibly professional and gentle. We choose the type of oil we wanted for both the massage and for the room and headed to a double treatment room. The massage was well delivered and, proof of that is my drooling about half way through. This pays testament to the relaxation and absolute happiness. When I woke up, it was unnecessary to ask if I had enjoyed. After the treatment, we headed back up to enjoy some more beautiful lemongrass juice and fresh fruit with the views over the bay. If the romantic dinning options the resort can organize are perfect for reconnecting, a massage will iron out any tensions left.
Banyan Tree Bintan truly exceeded expectations on the location and accessibility side. At just over an hour from Singapore you can’t find paradise any closer.
After two days, I also realized that the true value of a weekend getaway at the Banyan Tree Bintan was not only in the opportunity to disconnect or on the beautiful surroundings but on the peace and romanticism that the private jacuzzi brought back.
Departing the resort at 7pm, we had a full Sunday to ease back into the week and, just over 2h later, I was sitting on my bed, reluctantly unpacking my beach clothes. “Shouldn’t we get away to the Banyan Tree once every few weeks?” I rhetorically asked, out loud. I saw Alex nod to himself.
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Once in a Lifetime Journey was a guest of Banyan Tree Bintan. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own.