After a short ferry hop over to Bintan from Singapore, we were greeted at the ferry terminal by a member of staff from Club Med and shown to a designated desk for the hotel. There we were given our key cards for our room and our luggage was whisked away to our transfer coach and we didn't see it again until it was delivered to our room. After waiting aboard the coach for a stretch, we were finally the last coach to leave upon the white-knuckle journey to the resort. Being a resident of Dubai for the past 2 years, I can cope with a little hair-raising driving (it's good for the heart), but my mother on the other hand doesn't cope so well with overtaking on blind bends. On the hotel's winding driveway we were stopped at a security gate and had to wait again for some reason that only became clear when we arrived at hotel reception. Whilst we waited, I spotted a sign stating visiting hours. Visiting hours? Had we arrived at some kind of institution? It certainly appeared so as our coach approached hotel reception; a mob of brightly coloured t-shirts and waving arms greeted us. It was like a scene out of Hi-De-Hi! They may even have been singing. We were offered iced tea and allowed to enjoy the glorious view over the pool and white-sanded beach for a few minutes before then being split into groups according to language and further welcomed by a GO who imparted a few vital nuggets of information. We were then given a chaperone who frog-marched us over to the reception desk and told us to pay for the coach transfer. I didn't feel this was entirely necessary nor appropriate when we had just arrived. Surely it could have been added to our room bill. After this, the chaperone showed us to our room and smiled and nodded politely at us as we tried to engage her in some simple conversation.
The room seemed fairly basic and a little work needs to be done on cleanliness, but the pretty flowers left on the beds was a nice touch. Then we found a trail of sugar packets leading from the tea and coffee facilities towards the balcony doors. A set of small footprints had left indentations across one of the beds and there were more chewed-open sugar packets beneath. Concerned that there was some kind of rabid wild animal on the loose in our room, we returned to reception with the evidence where we were assured with a smile that it was probably some kind of small fox. Never having visited anywhere as exotic as Indonesia before, we returned to our room slightly panicked until we spotted a squirrel scaling the wooden posts supporting the balconies. Case closed. That night, we found that sugar packets had also been buried within the beds! On a later occasion, said squirrels were caught raiding the cleaner's cart. You couldn't argue that Club Med Bintan was full of characters; right down to the wildlife!
The squirrels were not the only visitors we had in the room. Two of the biggest flying beetles I have ever seen managed to find their way indoors on the first night. Not being a huge insect fan, I didn't sleep much for the remaining nights of our stay. I recommend you leave the insect repellent lamp switched on all night to prevent unwanted visitors.
The buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner presented an array of cuisine, and the GOs would come dine with the guests. On our final night, we had the company of the costume designers who were very easy to chat with. All the GOs we encountered made an effort to speak with you and ensure you were having a good time, as did the new manager who started her post part-way through our stay.
If you're looking for a quiet, spa-like retreat then Club Med Bintan probably isn't for you. It's a big hit with families and there's plenty going on to keep kids and grown ups busy. We would escape to the beach each morning to get away from the noise around the pool, and the beach bar kept us topped up with cocktails. The white sand and crystal clear waters were stunning. It really is paradise.
We ventured out of the resort on our third day and went to the elephant park at Nirwana Gardens for a trek through the jungle. The time we spent interacting with these gentle giants (Barney and Rooney) and getting to know the Mahouts on our ride through Bintan's forest was the highlight of our entire trip. The Mahouts love to practice their English and it was interesting to find out about their lives and also about the elephants.
All-in-all, it was a comfortable stay at Club Med and I recommend it highly to families. And despite my first impressions being likened to an 80s British sitcom about a holiday camp, the staff were a pleasure to be around.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Island of Bintan to the south of Singapore is full of history, marked by fallen empires. Its tranquil bays were long used by the Orang Laut pirates as a refuge. This is where Club Med Bintan Island, a haven of tranquility and refinement combining modernity with Asian tradition, now nestles. From the terrace of the Bar, feast your eyes on the mass of lapis-lazuli blue, mother of pearl and emerald, from the pool to the lush gardens. Nearby, Ria Bintan Golf Course is also a golfer's heaven. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Club Med Ria Bintan Hotel Bintan
- Club Med Bintan Island Riau Islands
- Bintan Club Med