Friday, September 14, 2018

A Visit To Bintan Where Time Drags

Last weekend, hubs and I went to Bintan. We've lived in Singapore for over 50 years and neither of us has been to Bintan. Bintan is part of Indonesia and it's only an hour's ferry ride away. My son went to Bintan when he was in Secondary School as part of a school trip his school forced on you so the school can claim to provide overseas experience. I remembered my son complaining how boring the trip was. But then again, my son doesn't enjoy travelling. Anyway, when hubs said he wanted to take part in the International Bintan Marathon, I surprised myself when I said, yes, do it. I surprised myself even more when I volunteered to tag along but as a tourist, not a runner.

Once I had said yes, hubs booked everything very quickly and before we knew it, the day had arrived. I had done some googling before we left and it seems there's nothing that appeals to me in Bintan. I don't like water sports, I don't golf and I hide from the sun. So what was I going to do in Bintan, I wondered.

We packed very lightly because we were only sleeping in Bintan for 2 nights. I decided to dress in every shade of green I own. Notice my bulging tummy? Don't worry. When we came back, it had gone down considerably.

On Saturday, we took a train to Tanah Merah MRT, exit B and took bus No. 35 to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. This is my first time at the ferry terminal. I didn't even know it existed.

At the immigration counter, my thumbprint was rejected and I had to suffer the humiliation of going to the Duty officer and have both my thumbprints and my face scanned. Luckily the computer accepted me so I didn't have to go home.

This was our ferry. I was surprised it was air conditioned.

I survived the one hour bobbing on the sea by staring at the horizon and one tablet of Novomin. There was a kid behind our seats. He was very annoying. I wanted to strangle him. I think it's a side effect from Novomin.

When we arrived at Bintan, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few dancers welcoming us with some niffy moves. Bintan might be promising after all. We found our shuttle bus to Grand Lagoi Hotel and went for the bumpiest ride of our life. I think my organs rearranged themselves several times throughout the journey.

After we checked in, we went to the Plaza next to our hotel to collect hubs' race pack. Hubs chose our hotel because the Starting point of the marathon was next to it. So convenient. The Plaza was very disappointing. Most of the units were empty and the ones that were open were very unappealing. So ridiculous. It looked like a ghost plaza.

While we were at the Plaza, I made the mistake of mentioning I wanted to eat. There was one restaurant, Cafe Helo or something and hubs said he'd read somewhere the food was good. Based on that, we entered the restaurant and ordered mee goreng (stir fried noodles) and chicken chop. Menus in Bintan have English translation and nearly everyone we encountered spoke some English. But when the waitress came back to ask me how I wanted my chicken chop done, I became very afraid. I asked for well done of course. Do people eat medium cooked chicken? When my chicken chop finally came after a very long time, I was almost afraid to eat it. It is cooked but very bland. I do believe it's the worst chicken chop I've ever tasted. The mee goreng was okay. I ate half of it.

After our meal, hubs said we had to go to town. Hubs who's in charge of our charger decided not to bring it because he explained that in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the hotels we stayed at provided phone chargers. Based on that, the Bintan hotel should also provide chargers. Except the Bintan hotel providers weren't aware of this arrangement. So we were screwed without our phone charger and it was critical we make a trip to Tanjung Pinang. We were at the resort part of Bintan and as previously mentioned, the Plaza was a ghost town with zero chance of finding a shop selling phone chargers. To get to Tanjung Pinang, we hired a taxi driver for 4 hours and it cost us SGD60!

Our driver, Arul drove us to a shop to buy a charger and sim card for hubs. Except the shop was very far away from our hotel. The roads were bumpy and before we reached the town, the roads had no lighting. In Bintan, the sun sets at 6pm and we started on our journey after 5pm. Arul translated between hubs and the shop assistants. It was very annoying that the items have no price tags so hubs had to bargain. I was pretty sure the sales staff could speak English but they refused to do so. After much talking hubs managed to get what he needed and Arul drove us to a shopping mall.

The mall was decent but we didn't buy anything. The frying pans were very cheap and I almost wanted to buy a bunch home. The return trip to the hotel was just as long and bumpy. I got a bit sick bouncing up and down in the taxi.

In Bintan, time travels very slowly. Plus we gained an hour when we crossed over. When we reached the hotel, the night was still young so hubs said he wanted to check out a Lantern Park.

It is literally a lantern park full of lanterns made in shapes of random animals. We had to pay to enter. It is a very lame attempt to entertain and as previously mentioned, there is seriously nothing to do around our hotel so we spent a few minutes looking at the lanterns. Next to the lantern park was a restaurant. After looking at the name of the restaurant, Warung Yeah, hubs said this might be the restaurant that had good reviews and not Cafe Helo. It seems Helo and Yeah sound the same to hubs. We decided we will eat there on Sunday.

Hubs' half marathon was at 5:30am on Sunday so we decided to call it a night. Although our hotel is a resort, it isn't in any way rustic. Very modern and it doesn't face the beach.

We have a balcony and the room is quite nice. Not cramped like in Taiwan. But the bed and pillows weren't comfortable. I went to sleep and after sleeping for what felt like a whole day I woke up and hubs was still lying in bed in his running outfit. I asked him why he hadn't gone for his run and it turned out I had only slept a couple of hours. In Bintan, time really crawls. I drifted in and out of sleep and finally when hubs was ready to leave at 5am, I was super sleepy and did not follow him down.

Around 6:30am, I woke up again so I went to the cafe to get my breakfast. The food was decent. I sat at the cafe for hours until hubs finished his run. Luckily I had a good run on my Candy Crush.

Some runners left for Singapore after the run but hubs had booked our ferry ride for Monday morning so we had a lot of time to kill.

We attempted another look around the ghost plaza and this time we saw Singapore runners also killing time. At a food court, we ordered murtabak. We have this food in Singapore and there are a couple of variations. This Bintan version is rather small but decent. Originally we had gone to another stall to order satay. The staff took a look at the fridge and after a long pause informed us that he was out of chicken satay. Hubs and I didn't believe the guy at all. We thought he couldn't be bothered to cook for us. He wasn't a very good liar.

I think hubs was a little sour I had stayed in bed instead of taking photos of him at the run. So I took a few pics of him at the stations to keep him happy.

Then I got trapped into taking pics for total strangers as well...

We finally checked out the infinity pool at our hotel. It's a very tiny pool. The water was cold.

After our frolic in the pool, hubs said we should take a hotel shuttle to Nirwana Gardens, another resort hotel to kill more time. Except we missed the bus by a minute. Did I mention the buses in Bintan are very punctual?

We managed to catch the next shuttle bus and Nirwana Gardens is just as boring as our hotel. Oh, while getting off the bus, hubs dropped his wallet. Remember he lost his wallet in Hong Kong? Since then, I've become the guardian of his wallet. It is exhausting let me tell you. Luckily I was on the ball and saw the wallet dropping to the floor.

Nirwana Gardens did have some handmade crafts which were priced ridiculously high. The dolls were SGD80 each.

Nirwana Gardens is very rustic. All the rooms in little houses were scattered in front of the beach.

The pools were nice. There were several. We had a lot of time to kill while waiting for our shuttle bus back to our hotel. I can't emphasize enough how slowly time moves in Bintan.

Gila Mee Goreng
egg noodles pizza
We finally got to eat at Warung Yeah restaurant.

We tried Gila Mee Goreng (crazy stir fried noodles) and no, we didn't go gila. It was pretty good. The satay was also nice. The egg and noodles pizza was a bit nothing. Although we have mee goreng and satay in Singapore, there are some differences. I do like Warung Yeah's version.

Monday morning, we had our last meal in Bintan - buffet breakfast at the hotel. We had to check out early to catch our ferry back to civilization. Then something happened. Hubs went to poop and unfortunately after he was in the toilet for 10 minutes, I needed to go badly. I asked him to come out and thankfully he did. Apparently in Bintan, not only does time pass slowly, our poop schedule got sync up. After I had done my business, hubs SCREAMED at me. He was so angry I had to poop when he was pooping. Or something. Anyway, it doesn't matter why he screamed at me. I was pissed he screamed at me. Seriously what's with people screaming at me? So I decided I have to colour my hair again. I think that will stop the screaming.

Our journey back was quiet and uneventful. A bit gloomy even because it was raining. Happily when we reached the north western part of Singapore, there was no rain. I was exhausted and slept for 4 hours once we reached home. We lost one hour when we crossed back to Singapore so technically I slept for 5 hours. Let me just say this, I freaking love Singapore. Everything is so convenient. I don't understand why some locals hate Singapore. Anyway, if you must know, I'm never going back to Bintan. Once is enough. Also, the next time I travel with hubs, I'm demanding a 2-bathroom suite.


Ely said...

I just googled Bintan and it looks like its appeals to a certain type of tourist. But it sounds like you were in no man’s land. Bummer about the charger and bathroom situation. I can’t imagine not traveling with a charger just because the hotel might have one. It weighs nothing! Oh, husbands.
Surprising that there weren’t any race festivities...

Projects By Jane said...

Hi Ely, I'm putting myself in charge of chargers from now on. I'm the kind who would bring two. There were a few stalls selling food at the Finish site. I've attended a few runs which come with carnivals but these are usually popular runs like Star Wars Run which have bigger budget and more runners. Hubs said the Bintan run was not at all scenic mostly on the road. Hubs has been checking out other places to run. He considered Melbourne but it's a bit too expensive. I don't mind another trip to Hong Kong...

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