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Posts from the ‘Indonesia’ Category

On the Island of Bunaken.

The year is 2010. It is a pleasant morning in the big town of Manado in Indonesia. The traffic is moving at a steady pace, men & women are crowding the Microlet (local transport van) interchange, and we are trying to haggle a ride to the ferry terminal in the four words of Bahasa we’ve learnt in the one day we’ve been here. We must be on our way to the little known island of Bunaken today. Read more

Nikoi Island: Ecotourism, Beauty, Magic.

I’ve often wondered how explorers must have felt chancing upon seemingly magical islands in their travels. Nikoi Island, off Bintan in Indonesia, is perhaps the closest I’ve come to experiencing that kind of travel ecstasy in Southeast Asia.

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, ecotourism, southeast asia

The journey to the island is a perfect prelude to the island experience. After the regular ferry ride to Bintan from Singapore, you are fast-forwarded through a special immigration to a one hour drive through the winding road and greens of Tanjung Pinang, to Nikoi’s personal jetty, to a one-hour speed boat ride on rough and breezy seas. If I understate it, arriving at Nikoi Island feels like you’ve entered a whole other world.

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism

Think beauty. Think isolation. Think perfection.

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism

Nature is the recurrent theme on the island. The chalets are purely made of wood, with not an inch of concrete, and some original tree-barks used as pillars & foundation. The openness of the rooms to nature is immediately striking, and in some way, leads to an openness of thoughts too.  You can let your doors remain open at night, with the waves soothing your every dream.

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism, sunset

For me, the monsoon season meant little sun and lots of wind, and an extremely stormy sea, aka just the way I’d like a beach holiday to be. We sailed and kayaked on high tide, thrilled to feel welcome even by the angst of the waters. That memory fills me with an urge to transform it into poetry.

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism, sunset

The jetty on the far end of the island is a piece of heaven, perhaps even a chunk. Each evening, it greets you with a fierce wind and fierce waves. As the sun starts to set, you can witness from this jetty, the entire sky turning a magical blue and blending with the color of the sea. It’s magnificent. It makes you want to close your eyes, feel the wind, and never leave.

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism, jetty

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism, rocks

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism, night

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism

nikoi island, bintan, indonesia, southeast asia, offbeat, ecotourism

I could afford a visit to this sheer beauty, only thanks to a contest I won on Nikoi Island’s Facebook page. Below is a video I created for the contest, purely based on my imagination & the pictures I saw. I can gladly say that Nikoi is all that I imagined and so much more!

Also read:
5 weekend getaways from Singapore to pamper you
5 offbeat travel destinations in Southeast Asia

Tempat Senang: Rejuvenation.

If you’ve had a long work week and need to be pampered, look no further than a ferry ride from Singapore into Indonesia. Tempat Senang, at Sekupang, off the island of Batam, is the answer to all your stress and anxieties. I discovered this hidden little gem over New Year, and couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing way to end 2010.

the country-themed rooms.

What first fascinated me while doing my research was that Tempat Senang is not just any other resort with any other rooms. Each room has a country theme, complete with the design, decoration and USP (if I may). With only about 9 suites, you can feel the personalization in each.

The Sultan Room

We stayed in this Middle Eastern room.

sultan room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

With a jacuzzi in the living area and middle-eastern decor.

sultan room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

sultan room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

The Tree Room

I managed to get a sneak-peek at the other rooms, and this one’s my favorite. For next time.

There’s a hanging bed in the room!

tree room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

And a tree house feel all around, right down to the furniture.

tree room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

The Japanese room

Despite no outdoor view, I loved the black & white, wooden ambiance of this room, with beds in every nook & corner. A great room to stay if you’re a big bunch.

japanese room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

The Thai room

This one’s a huge room with a back room, a jacuzzi and a fish spa in the backyard.

thai room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

thai room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

thai room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

The Bali Room

It comes with an exclusive entrance and verandah, and a jacuzzi.

bali room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

bali room, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, spa

The Indian and Indonesian rooms seemed quite commonplace and not picture-worthy!

the Spa.

Our Spa experience was extraordinary. There is probably no better way to pamper your body for 3 hours at a stretch (half day spa) amid a host of friendly masseuses and pure relaxing aromas. The first 3 hours come together with the room and we topped up an additional 3 hours the next day; that’s how good it was!

I tried Lavendar Aroma Therapy, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, White Lurlur Body Scrub, and a hair treatment. Each was an hour of pure bliss.

the Restaurant.

The restaurant serves up a variety of cuisines, from Indonesian and Thai to Western. The chef was extremely talented and very receptive of me being a vegetarian; he made to order most of our meals and I would highly recommended the BBQ-baked pizza. The staff was open to us getting our own wine (though the drinks are not too expensive) and maggie, and it was a pleasure rounding up each meal with a few games of pool.

the People.

Just like the rooms & the spa, the entire experience at Tempat Senang has a warm, personal touch. The locals were genuinely friendly and helpful, and everyone seemed to know that we were putting up in the Sultan room & going for a second round of Spa!

the Place.

In the spirit of a relaxing getaway, there aren’t many activities to pursue at the resort or in the vicinity. There is however, a beautiful golf course which runs all the way to the shore of the South China Sea. Riding along the green in a golf buggy, letting your hair down in the breeze and watching the sunset above the sea is a great way to round off the evening.

golf course, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway

golf course, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway

golf course, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, sunset

golf course, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, sunset

golf course, tempat senang, indonesia, weekend getaway, sunset

I would highly recommend Tempat Senang to anyone looking for a relaxing weekend getaway from Singapore. Have you been there yet?

Bunaken: Of Blue Seas & Anonymity.

My first memory of Bunaken is that of sitting on the roof of a speedboat, riding the waves of a turquoise blue sea, and gazing at the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen.

why Bunaken: We chose to travel to North Sulawesi in Indonesia to get past the touristy temptation of Bintan & Bali, and were pleasantly greeted by a world yet to be discovered and commercialized. Our base was Manado, a city-town in North Sulawesi, and the closest airport to Bunaken – which lay a boat journey away, untouched.

getting there: The public boat from Manado, used mostly by locals and extremely cheap, dropped us at the jetty at Bunaken Island. We were immediately greeted by the locals, who we first thought to be touts but soon realized were genuinely helpful and extremely friendly. That warmth of the people saved us the disappointment of realizing that this part of the island was more of a wet swamp than a beach.

Panorama Resort, where we intended to stay, was fortunately on the other side, and we managed to arrange scooter (two-wheeler) rides with the locals – a bone-chilling experience that took us through dirt roads and made us feel so unsure of where we were headed! Panorama’s side of the island turned out to be a pleasant surprise after the initial impressions we formed of Bunaken!

the island: The view from the balcony of our chalet was picture-perfect – beyond the white sand was a deep blue sea and in the distance, a volcano partially covered in mist, with clouds descending and rising from its peak every now and then. We spent a good deal of our stay just lying on the hammock in the balcony, watching nature as its loveliest!

bunaken, indonesia, sulawesi, sunset, volcano, misty

Sunset at Bunaken

Believe it or not, the only tourists that have ever stayed at Panorama before are either from Germany or the UK, and we met many during our stay. In fact, the diving instructor at Panorama is a German guy called Sven, married to a local Indonesian girl and settled in Bunaken. So, the best part about the island is its obscurity – it’s only popular among divers in the west – as a result of which it is scarcely inhabited (beach resorts are the only business) and even basic establishments like restaurants are nowhere to be found (food comes with the beach resorts)!

Like me, everyone who chances upon this beauty must regard herself as an explorer and discoverer, and a very lucky one at that!

must do: Snorkeling in the sea surrounding Bunaken was a stunning underwater experience with fish & corals that people come to study from far off places – and that amateurs like me can only gawk at in wonder! Add to that the most picturesque sunset seen from the open seas, a night sky sprinkled with stars, and some locally brewed alcohol – Cerang Onsari (which I won’t necessarily recommend any more than a sip, simply because you must try everything!)

Bunaken is such an undiscovered gem – that’s perhaps what makes it so beautiful, so memorable and so worth a visit.

Once Upon an Island

Sometimes I think we can measure our lives by the places we’ve seen. There’s so much beauty in the world, so many undiscovered gems, and yet so many of us will spend our days in a small little box, unable to escape the vicious work-money cycle. Without getting too philosophical, I want to introduce you to a heaven-on-earth-like beauty in Indonesia, called Nikoi Island.

I created the video below, entirely based on my imagination and these Flickr pictures, for a competition in which I won a free trip to this dreamy island. My gut says Nikoi will be all this and so much more.

I’ll write about my personal experience at Nikoi Island after I visit it in December :) Till then, you can read reviews by other people on Nikoi!

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