Bintan (Indonesia) 2011

For this weekend, our programme is relaxation, relaxation and relaxation. The perfect destination is in Indonesia, just a few kilometres away from Singapore: Bintan Island. We had done very little of planning and didn’t know the geography of the island. So I had booked at the last minute a hotel in the main city of Tanjung Pinang. With the adress in hand, we hop on a boat on Friday evening and, just after 1.5 hours, we step on our weekend paradise. First surprise at our arrival, the customs officers take the three of us away from the rest of the passengers… What have we done?! Nobody spoke for the few minutes walking being the guards, which seemed a lot longer. All that stress for nothing… they took us behind the immigration desks, gave us our visa and wished us a good holiday. We were not in trouble and we actually skipped the long queue of tourists which just came out of the boat.

So we start our search for a taxi to Tanjung Pinang. The driver was quite surprised by our destination and asked us why we were not staying in the north area, like all the other tourists. He told us that a stripe at the north of the island, called Bintan Resort, is designed for tourists with reinforced security. But we didn’t know that. When we drove by the guards, we realized the difference. We left flat and clean roads to bumpy tarmac, left the light behind to enter the dark. After half an hour, our driver suddenly slows down in a small rural village without lights and starts looking around. At this point, I remembered the story from a friend. The taxi driver went to a dodgy area where 20 of his friends were waiting outside the car and asked for more money, or he’d leave his passenger here. We didn’t end up in this situation. I had noticed the wooden stalls located every 10m on the side of the road with bottles of a light yellow liquid. After 10 minutes of search, our driver stopped next to one of this small structure and bought a few of these bottles… Petrol! ?!?!?! All these wooden stalls are the local gas stations.

Our fuel tank a bit less empty, we can complete our journey to Tanjung Pinang and our hotel. But there are a few more surprises to come. First of all the hotel was huge but empty, luxurious but rundown. Second of all, the rooms were also home to massive lezards. Anyway, we were still quite excited to be arrived and hungry. We ask the reception for a got place to eat in the area. (with an indonisian accent) ” – You go outside now? “, ” – Yes”, ” – Only the three of you?”, ” – Yes”, ” – Hide your valuables and be careful!” … OK…, that’s not very re-assuring… But we’re still excited to explore the streets and get a taste of the local cuisine, so we head out. And after 50m, we decide to walk back to the hotel!!! As soon as we stepped out, we all got struck by a feeling of insecurity. The air was filled with danger. I had never felt like this before and it’s impossible to describe. Of course it was pitch black, but I can’t say there was anything else in the environment. Instinct, sixth sense, I don’t know. But it was clear that exploring the streets at night wasn’t a good idea. So after a light dinner at the hotel and a beer, it’s time to go to bed. This eventful journey was extremely exhausting and we are hoping for just as many adventures tomorrow. 🙂

In the morning, after settling our bill of about 1.5 millions rupiah, we take a taxi back north to Trikora beach. The beach huts of Shady Shack are a lot closer to our idea of this relaxed weekend.

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The comfort is extremely minimalistic: a bed with a mosquito net and a basket of water at the back. But what else would we need anyway?

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But the wind got stronger after a couple of hours, bringing with him a mass of drak grey rainstorm clouds.

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And in a space of an hour, the storm had changed the face of the paradisiac getaway…

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We spent the whole day reading books, playing cards and drinking beers (so glad they had some). Cause out there, it was pissing pretty hard.

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It did stop just after the sun went down. The sky seemed to have cleared, the wind had gone and the sea was completely flat. So it is full of hope than Dan, Nicolas and myself go to bed in our lovely homes for the night.

Que Nenni!!! We get woken up by the rain on the hut. And by the time we get up, the view was as s*** as it was yesterday. There is no point to stay on this island in those conditions. So we decided to head to the ferry termincal and go home. I was really disappointed but I wouldn’t call it a bad weekend anyway. We had a few adventures, some fun, swam in the turquoise waters for a couple of hours and got to relax. A lot actually of relaxing. We had a glimpse of what the ideal getaway on a lost ideal with paradisiac beaches could be like, but only a glimpse. Of course, by the time we got on the boat, it looked like the sky was clearing again… Oh well, let’s hope we have better luck next time!