Monday, May 3, 2010

A relaxing WE in Bintan

It was later than expected when we got home on Friday evening so the 8 am alarm clock was painful on Saturday but anyway we were going to Bintan, an Indonesian island off the coast of Singapore so it was worth the effort! A taxi trip to Tana Merah ferry terminal (near the airport) and we were collecting our magnetic boarding pass (modern isn't it?) and going through immigration. 9.30am, we have everything including some new Zealand wine (the guesthouse we are staying at only has beer so they told us to bring whatever we wanted to drink) and we are waiting for the ferry. Once we get on board, we are entertained by a very smiley girl demonstrating how to put the life jacket on the same way she would be showing off the latest Chanel jacket! We also get a good view of the tankers with Singapore skyscrappers in the background.
It is a 2h trip to Tanjan Pinang. It is the main city of the island, not where tourists usually go. There is a much quicker ferry to the resorts at the north of the island but we don't like doing things like other people so we are going to the east cost via the town! We are the only westerners on the boat so going through immigration is quick for us, as long as we pay the $25 visa obviously!Anyway, we are quickly outside the ferry terminal trying to stay polite with the people who jump on us (they would not take no for an answer!) to give us a taxi ride. We finally escape and try to find a restaurant, nmh not easy... Finally we find someone from the tourist office who takes us to a nice seafood restaurant on the sea front. He even helps translatting the menu. Our Indonesian is getting better but not menu translation level yet:For everyone education:
Ayam chicken
Nasi rice
Goreng fried
Trimagashi thank you
Bir beer!!!!!
After lunch he gets a taxi for us which first drives us to the ferry office to collect the return tickets and then take us to our guesthouse, it's an hour drive from the city and it has started raining... The ground has a beautiful red color and it looks like it gets very affected by the violent rain fall; sometimes the road looks more like a 4*4 track as some sand has been displaced and completly cover the asphalt!Anyway we get to this place in the middle of nowhere, there are a few bungalows, a main house, a spa and the beach. The sun is shining again! We get a fresh coconut as a welcome drink and we start reading some funny slides around us. The main one targets our communication with the dog, Toby:Some other talk about the different types of reptiles and insects in the guesthouse. At this point in time, I'm more worried by the mangrove snakes than by the sand flies and mosquitos, hmmm I will learn my lessons...Anyway, we do cover up with spray before going to the beach to avoid sand flies bite.The beach is huge and there is only the 2 of us! Absolutely no-one else! The sea temperature is most probably above 35C, it feels like getting in the bath! We try to snorkel but in these temperatures, the visibility is very low! so I just practise my techique with mask and tuba and I'm still crap...So we play with the kite for a while which seems to interest a lot 2 falcons, they fly above us for a while. Once the wind has really dropped and the kite doesn't want to fly anymore because all the sand it is carrying, we switch to sand castle building:-) it was a hell of a busy WE...
Let's not forget to mention that there is always a lovely guy to bring to the beach fresh fruit and juice middle of the afternoon!
At 6pm, the sun goes down and the sand flies get replaced by mosquitoes!!! Wooohooo Despite spraying ourselves every 30 minutes on average (when the bottle says every 4 to 6h), they keep on coming!Nice diner of fish/chicken and coconut rice and some great new Zealand Pinot noir, we spend the night covering up of tiger balm, spray, cream etc it starts getting really itchy!!!!Sunday morning I'm up early and I read my book on the chair on the bungalow balcony. After a good breakfast of fresh coconut pancake it is time for another swim. My meeting with a few jelly fish shortens my swim, and I go back to the book. R investigates a reef not too far away but it's not the red sea... It is a bit damaged and the fish are not that colorful. After all these morning efforts (yes, efforts!) it is time for a spa treatement in beautiful piloti houses on the mangrove (still hasn't seen a snake!) it takes a good hour and an half and we smell of lemongrass from head to toes that should keep the mosquitoes away for a while!!! (I wish...) lunch is gado gado and nasi goreng, and we even know before it arrives what it is! We are getting good at Indonesian food!After lunch is nap time and then we take a little barque for a tour of the mangrove, it's like jungle on water but still no snake and I garanty that I'm looking!At 4pm, out taxi is here to take us back to the main town and the ferry terminal for our 2h journey back to Singapore.
This was a lovely relaxing WE but I do admit that the 100 bites (each) of sandflies and mosquitoes killed a bit of the pleasure.
For final information on sandflies, Wikipedia says that their bite is more itchy than the mosquitoes and it last longer and there are 5 beaches in the world known to be bad for sandflies and guess what? the east coast of bintan is one of them!

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