Luxe

Pleasure island

| Updated on: May 20, 2016
Bintan_At the Club Med Bintan Island.jpg

Bintan_At the Club Med Bintan Island.jpg

Bintan_At the spa.jpg

Bintan_At the spa.jpg

Bintan_Pool.jpg

Bintan_Pool.jpg

Bintan_overview of Club Med Bintan Island.jpg

Bintan_overview of Club Med Bintan Island.jpg

The Info

The Info

Here’s how to luxuriate at Bintan Island and come away with a warm glow

When curious chroniclers of the lifestyles of the rich-and-famous question me years from now about the circumstances in which I, for a brief while, came to have a tropical island resort all to myself, I’d have to say, in all fairness, that it was the monkeys that led me to it.

It happened on my second morning out in Bintan, one of a string of enchanting islands in Indonesia’s Riau archipelago that’s just an hour’s ferry ride across from Singapore. After a night of pagan partying on the beachside — my alcohol-hazed recollection of which is centred around some bendy women in beachwear going down low beneath a limbo bar — I had surrendered myself to the cushioned comfort of my ocean-view bed. But barely hours later, at break of dawn, I was bestirred from the sweet embrace of sleep by frenetic scurrying noises that were coming from my private balcony.

Cautious investigation on my part revealed that a platoon of cheery monkeys had taken up temporary residence there. Still more of them were joyfully gambolling about on the lawns outside. Beyond, divine shafts of crepuscular sunrays beamed down on the seawater, which was now spectacularly aglow in the dawn. Fully roused to wakefulness by the breathtaking sight, I ventured out and headed for the water, and was immediately enveloped by the hothouse air of the equatorial morning.

No other human soul was out and about at that time to enjoy the ethereal beauty: the party-time exertions of the night before had evidently knocked out the entire multinational assembly of guests — and even the staff — at the Club Med Bintan Island resort, whose hospitality I was savouring. I disported merrily in the water, secure in the knowledge that the white-sand island-beach paradise, this stately pleasure dome on the edge of a blue-blue sea, was mine, all mine. And it happened only because a simian army had woken me up at an unearthly hour.

Picture perfect Of such experiences that elevate the soul and pander to the senses, the resort offers more than a few. Particularly topping are the 18-hole Ocean Golf Course, with breathtaking South China Sea views calculated to distract you from your perfect putt; a string of season-specific watersports (from windsurfing to parasailing to waterpolo to kayaking); a flying trapeze school where I gamely — even if gawkily — tried my hand at circus acrobatics; a cycling/mountain-biking routine, which I huffed and puffed through; and an archery field.

But, of course, if the only exertion you’re capable of is to lounge around on the white sand (or by the poolside) like a beached whale, well, you’ll have plenty of others similarly inclined to ‘whale’ away the time.

It’s easy to yield to the luxury of slothful indolence at Club Med Bintan Island — and, in fact, the family-friendly resort is geared for laid-back languor and for the gratification of the senses. The gifted chefs at the two restaurants (The Waterfall, the functional all-day diner; and The Terrace, on the water’s edge, with its a la carte spread) serve soulful repasts from virtually every part of the world. And the sprinkling of bars around the resort premises ensures you’ll never go thirsty for too long. My own favourite was The Matahari bar, on the waterfront, where over convivial conversations with friends and new acquaintances, I spent two late nights under starlit skies.

Looking out seaward from my beachside perch, I could see, in the horizon, a steady stream of container ships plying the South China Sea. Bintan Island traces its history as far back as the 3 century CE, when it served as a pit-stop for Sino-Indian maritime traders. However, by about the 12 century CE, it had acquired a certain notoriety as a “pirate island”. The Arabian wanderer Ibn Battuta recorded in his chronicles that “armed black pirates” operated in these waters, but noted approvingly that while they “plundered people, they did not enslave them.”

The inhabitants of Bintan Island today are, of course, rather more welcoming of travellers from far-off lands, but so wholesome is the sense of multi-sensory indulgence that the resort provides that it’s easy to feel enslaved by the richness of the uber-luxurious experience.

On my last evening in Bintan, I gave myself over to the tender ministrations of the masseuse at the Asmara Lifestyle spa, and underwent the nearest thing to a karmic effusion of the spirit. Perhaps it was the bewitchingly beautiful setting — the spa’s becalming “treatment rooms” are located right on the water’s edge — and I fancied I could even hear the roll of the waves; perhaps it was the skilled manner in which my masseuse was kneading every nerve; or perhaps it was just the fact that I had fallen headlong in love with this pirate island that had plundered my heart — and enslaved me for good measure… But that night, there was about me a glow so incandescent that I could readily have passed for a beaming lighthouse of Bintan.

(The author was in Bintan on the invitation of Club Med)

Published on January 20, 2018

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