Short Bintan holiday

November 17, 2019

The go-to spot for short holidays for many residents here (Singapore) is the Indonesian island of Bintan. It literally is a worry-free trip, you don’t even have to go to the money changer, they actually prefer Singapore’s currency over theirs. We have visited the island a few times but I particularly enjoyed our last stay. It was the first time with our son. Sometimes you gotta see a place more than once to appreciate it. The staff (Grand Lagoi Hotel) that worked in the hotel we stayed in were great. I know that it’s their job to accommodate customers but they really made our stay comfortable.

One staff shared with me that most of them are stay-ins. They only go home on their designated day-offs to save money. He explains going to the resort takes hours of travel. He reminded me that “Bintan is a big island, Sir, not only resorts“. The way he said elicited a laugh but he’s right. We forget that tourist spots are not where authentic locals live, they just work there. The staff told me that he’s from a small remote village.

Indonesia’s comparable to our country (Philippines) in many aspects. Like the disparity between the rich and poor is exceedingly broad, same as ours. When we arrived back in Singapore, upon disembarking, I saw these collared batik shirt-wearing VIPs being escorted to a golf buggy car. They dashed pass us while we were making our way to the immigration. They were Indonesian businessmen I was told. Certainly not from Indonesia’s remote villages.

We decided to stay in Lagoi, an area with a picturesque bay and a cluster of resorts and villas. We stayed in Grand Lagoi Hotel because it’s near the beach, a commercial plaza (called Lagoi plaza) and there’s a lake right beside it. One of my hobbies is birding and that area I know is a spot for some good birdwatching. With my compact Bushnell binoculars, I’d get up early while my family is still sound asleep and I just lose myself around the placid lake.

Before I went to the lake I asked around if there had been sightings of crocodiles in the area (they call them buaya, too). I read that there were estuarine crocodiles in the islands but that they are rare. The hotel staff said that if I want to see one I have to go to the eco-farm nearby. The suggestion assured me that no tourist has been gobbled by crocodiles yet.

Not far from the verdant trail, I saw these women wearing large sombreros cutting grass and weeds. They remind me of our Metro Aides (Philippine street sweepers) back in the day when they’d cut grass and talahib. Some of them would burn it in the sidewalks. Do people in cities still do this?

The hotel food is good but I’m the kinda guy that always smelling what’s cooking outside. There’s a food center not far that has the only stall that sells pork dishes. There’s also this affordable restaurant, a few meters from the beach, called Waroeng Cek Bakar. They served local food like sotong, gado-gado, nasi goreng, soto and bakso. We ate here for most of our stay on the island. They also serve fresh coconuts which the island has in abundance. We spent most of our afternoons either swimming at the rooftop pool that has this amazing view of the island’s woods, seas and hills or strolling along the beach until the sun fades.

We used to stay in the popular Nirwana Resort, not far from the port. It has all the facilities that you would want for a team-building function. I think that’s why they built the place. It even has a bowling alley. We spared a day to go there to see the elephant show with my son. Like many children, he enjoys seeing animals in person. There is some criticism on how the animals are kept but I saw no indications that they were treated cruelly. In fact, they have a small forested zone where they freely roams. My view when it comes to shows where there are captive animals is that they’re necessary for learning. The owner’s role is to treat the animals humanely, as parents, to educate our children why it’s important that we look after our natural environment.

I read that elephants have incredible memories. We fed some with tons of unripe bananas. I told my son to touch it and look into its eyes. I said those elephants will never forget him.

Or maybe they will. I’m sure like humans, some of them have bad memories too. But I hope my son never forgets the experience.

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