The Residence Bintan - paradise is so close, quite affordable
The luxurious Residence Bintan offers a quick and refreshing getaway that is still affordable
Think of an idyllic island paradise in Indonesia and Bali would be the first place to pop into your head.
But Bintan, which is just an hour away by sea from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, is fast becoming a popular choice as a luxury getaway that is still affordable for Singaporeans looking for a rejuvenating break from their busy lives back home.
With many gastronomic experiences, great service and a plethora of activities without having to do much planning, The Residence Bintan is a tempting choice.
Unlike holiday islands like Bali, Bintan does not look like one tailored for tourists.
Upon disembarking from the ferry, a representative from The Residence Bintan drives guests to the resort, which is about 1½ hours away. The journey took us past villages and small eateries.
The size of The Residence Bintan was apparent only when the staff drove me via buggy from the reception to my lovely one-bedroom beachfront villa ($417.35 a night, maximum three adults or two adults and two children).
The resort is quite expansive, and the restaurants and reception are a 15 to 20-minute walk away. The Residence Bintan employs a bike-sharing strategy - guests can grab any bike they see and ride to their destination. You can also ask for buggies to pick you up and drop you off.
I would have been perfectly content with just staying in my villa for the entire three-day, two-night weekend.
Of course, my own home does not have sliding doors that open on to a private pool and direct access to the beach. That was something I got used to incredibly quickly.
Only the promise of a tasty meal could entice me to leave the villa (more specifically, its king-size bed), and the food at Rica Rica, the resort's signature restaurant specialising in Indonesian cuisine with a modern take, was unforgettable.
The produce is island-grown and ingredients locally sourced - and that becomes immediately apparent in the fresh and flavourful dishes.
At Rica Rica, every item was a winner - including the complimentary sambal buffet accompanied by prawn crackers.
The most exceptional dish was the Kalimantan Lamb Kari, a lamb shoulder slow-cooked for eight hours with a Borneo spiced curry - the meat melted in my mouth. Upon first bite, I let out a satisfied sigh - any stress from the work week disappeared.
It helped that the cosy homely atmosphere of the restaurant mimicked the warm, wooden interiors of my villa.
It was designed by the award-winning firm Hirsch Bedner, and all spaces within the resort boast clean lines and a modern twist on traditional Javanese aesthetics.
The Residence Bintan has another restaurant, The Dining Room, which offers a breakfast buffet.
On Saturday evenings, guests are treated to a barbecue seafood buffet by the beach. The set-up was stunning and romantic, with candle-lit tables - but make sure to arm yourselves with mosquito repellent. I did not and got more than 20 mosquito bites.
No stay at an island resort would be complete without some spa time - and my Balinese massage at the award-winning British spa brand ila did not disappoint.
I felt completely relaxed with my therapist, who made sure to constantly check with me if every element of the massage (including the music and the pressure of her touch) was to my liking.
Once everything was suited to my preferences, her hands went to work and I just fell asleep for the next hour.
When I woke up, I felt rejuvenated - mentally and physically.
I gamely decided to try stand-up paddling, which was made more fun with the guidance of the instructors at The Residence Bintan.
Other activities available include snorkelling, island-hopping, wakeboarding and water skiing.