Practically everyone I know in Singapore has been to Bintan Island. My turn was a few weeks back when I took a quick escape from busy ‘little red dot’ to enjoy a quieter ‘bigger dot’ situated in the Indonesian Riau archipelago.
Racing in Mandiri Bintan Marathon (happened in that weekend) was simply an excuse for the getaway. While Bintan is only 45 minutes ferry ride across the Singapore Strait, the queue getting into the ferry can be a bit annoying, and come with some unorganised check-in too. The island is popular among other international tourists, explaining the crowds at the terminal – not just for residents of Singapore originally intended for in the 90s who wanting leisure space.
Indonesia is promoting Bintan as the next tourist destination after Bali. While lacking the culture that Bali offers, the laid back, cleanliness and uncrowded feel that Bintan presents win over Bali. Aside from white sandy beaches, Bintan has recently popular as a sports tourism destination – thanks to various international events such as Tour de Bintan and Bintan Triathlon. The Mandiri Bintan Marathon is in second-year operation.
As soon as I got into the shuttle leaving the terminal, Bintan’s clear open road with no traffic and surrounding green jungle instantly hooked me – I haven’t seen our hotel and it’s private beach yet!
Cassia Bintan and Surrounding Resort
Initially, I opted for the marathon package organised by Bintan Holiday advertised on the marathon website and it turned out the Grand Lagoi Hotel was fully booked. This would’ve been a perfect option given the hotel’s location at the heart of Lagoi Bay, where the race start took place.
In the end, I booked independently at Cassia which is about 10 minutes drive from Lagoi Bay. In the last week preceding the race, I received an email from the race organiser asking to book for complimentary transport to the start line and back. Very grateful for this service!
Staying at Cassia apartment-style room, although it meant casual and family-friendly, guests are welcomed to explore the neighbouring hotels and their facilities which encompass upscale and boutique hotels of Angsana and Banyan Tree – part of Laguna Bintan Integrated Resort. Would’ve loved to stay at the latter one day, but someone said the villas were a bit dated.
Kitchen facility, on-site supermarket & MOOKATA
As a travelling marathoner, eating healthy and correctly is crucial pre-race to avoid any unnecessary food poisoning or diarrhoea. Cassia has a supermarket facility called Market 23 for guests to shop basic needs such as noodles, protein, bread, vegetables. This caters for self-cooking in the well-equipped kitchen. After the race, I enjoyed cooking steamboat which can be hired for free. They called it MOOKATA which is a Thai barbeque steamboat. We picked up the steamboat from Market 23 and bought fresh ingredients including pre-made broth and seafood selection. DIY in-room dining Cassia Bintan style ready in minutes.
New development & funky theme
Cassia is the newest addition opened in 2017. While I was impressed with the friendly and efficient service of the staff at the foyer, I was less impressed with the building itself. Yes, it is new and funky with those colourful arts and animal miniatures, but Cassia by no means luxury. Simple beachfront blocks that reflect the typical look of a flat. It’s economical and practical for a quick getaway with some comfort – thankfully the new modern interior made up the lack of luxury appeal.
Cassia’s pride is the beautiful secluded beach. Just need to aware of sand flies, and occasional tar pollution from oil spill as ships discharge their oily waste. Although huge effort was continuously taken by the hotel staff to clean them up including precautionary measures – as advised by the range during our nature walk.
Room At Cassia
SOTG’s special request for a quiet room away from the pool and foyer being granted. Delighted for being upgraded to a 2 bedrooms apartment unit at block 5, tucked in right at the back near Angsana’s entrance. A night of quality sleep is a must when wake up time was 3:30 am in the morning of race day! And yes that night it was noisy from loud music.
I hanged out with orang utan in the living room and slept with the tapir. Excellent view of the beach from the balcony and both bedrooms, nice sunrise view too. While the laundry facility was provided, I was simply happy to hand wash my sweaty and smelly marathon outfit in the huge sink, which then got hanged nicely on the balcony under sunny island weather.
There are four pools to choose from. I’ve simply enjoyed dipping myself in the bigger pool at Angsana which after few hours felt like all the post-marathon aches gone with the wind. The aqua aerobics class was rather fun! Though if you fancy a little walk up the cliff, the cosy pool at Banyan Tree was rather amazing and provided a bit more privacy.
To keep occupied, there are plenty of activities around. From water sport to cycling. Advance booking required. Activities SOTG managed to slot in as below:
- Walk with the ranger: An hour walk with ranger Adlan was a good experience to learn about trees in the nearby jungle. We’ve been shown a herbal plant with hairy leaves (the ripe fruit can be eaten), Tongkat Ali (local use its root to make dry powder which useful for energy when going to the sea), wild pandan (for handicraft), fern and pitcher plants. Talked a bit about how to survive in the jungle.
- Yoga: What a nice post-marathon stretch it was! Written on the board when I entered the yoga room “Om is one of the important spiritual sounds that refer to atman – soul, self within”.
- CSR Lab: Baby turtles can be seen in the tank before they being released to the ocean. Other creatures being preserved nicely for viewing – snakes and butterflies if you fancy!
Other complementary activities available are movies under the stars at Xana Beach Club, jungle night walk, bird talk, forest survival, and sunrise yoga.
Of course, your SOTG foodie was very much tempted to dine at one of the amazing restaurants – Saffron (Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant) or The Cove (offers Mediterranean cuisine, perched on the hilltop with an excellent view of the beach). The breakfast at Cassia’s open-air foyer wasn’t too bad with a variety of options. The hanging doughnuts were tempting but no calorie friendly!
- Given the ferry trip and queue at the terminal, it’s ideal to pack light with a backpack and not carry luggage.
- Avoid queue by travelling first-class. Choose Bintan Resort Ferries’ Emerald Class to enjoy other perks such as the use of Emerald Lounge and priority baggage handling.
- Bintan has no public transportation.
- Take advantage of free hotel shuttle facility for pick up from and to Bandar Bentan Talani Terminal (about 10 minutes ride). Also free shuttle to Plaza Lagoi.
- Ground transport: Save cost through own booking/direct booking rather than booking at the hotel. I was quoted SG$75 for 4 hours 6 seater vehicle rental vs cheaper rate when asked directly to a taxi driver.
- Most tourists rave about food costs in Bintan compared to other parts of Indonesia especially the sister island of Batam (kind of expected as visitors are mostly non-Indonesian). Eat local where possible which I did at Lagoi Bay. Self-cooking at Cassia is a good option too!
- Best time to visit: During the dry season from April to October. Avoid monsoon season around November to March. Also, check the news on any oil spills.
Overall, Cassia served SOTG’s two nights of marathon getaway comfortably with wonderful facilities at other hotels to elevate the experience. Totally recommend it for those travelling with family or a group of friends. Great stay in Lagoi during marathon and triathlon too if coming with group or family. Although it might worth checking on Angsana or Banyan Tree if you have a special occasion to celebrate.
As for the marathon, totally enjoyed it especially the first 30km of undulating course before reaching rather flattish Lagoi Lake.
Unfortunately, this short trip wasn’t about exploring the entire island. Therefore, would certainly return to Bintan to visit other parts such as Tanjung Pinang and historical Penyengat Island. Cycling is certainly on the card too!
Looking to book a room in Lagoi, Bintan? Check out these great options!
- Cassia Bintan – Standard room rates at Cassia Bintan start at around US$120 (or cheaper with advance booking) for a one-bedroom apartment.
- Angsana Bintan – with a pool that I enjoyed!
- Banyan Tree Bintan – can’t go wrong with an in-villa pool Balinese style.
Have you stayed at Cassia Bintan or other hotels in the complex – Angsana or Banyan Tree? Been to Bintan? Any tips to share?
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