Six weeks after the birth of our daughter we decided that it was time to take a break from the city-state of Singapore. The Indonesian island of Bintan is only an hour away by ferry. It is usually known for its fenced-off northern part with a large number of generic resort hotels.
On a recent bicycle tour (http://www.tropicalmusings.com/?p=808) I had discovered the eastern coast called Trikora, which consists of a chain of beautiful beaches with very little to no development. So, we decided to give Mutiara Beach Gueshouse a try and were not dissappointed.
The three simple but tastefully decorated cabins (called Pondoks) are set in a spectacular coconut plantation - walking through the rows of coconut trees to the private beach (about 100m) is an experience of its own. The beach is a beautiful stretch of fine-grained white sand.
The only fly in the ointment (besides the sand-flies - which, with an appropriate amount of "Off" can be kept in check) is the fact that the road runs not too far behind the cabins. It is very narrow and there is hardly any traffic on it but of course you can hear motor-bikes (the ubiquitous mode of transport in this part of the world) passing by every few minutes (hardly any at night). It is no big deal and helps to remind you that there are other people around trying to make a living, but I know of people who get very disappointed if they hear anything else but the sound of waves (for those, there is a floating room called a Kelong which can be rented and which immerses one completely in the sounds of the sea)
Electricity is provided by a generator between 6pm and 10pm and in the Pondoks is only used to power a small light-bulb (better to stick to the provided candles - it is more romantic). The shared bathroom/toilet is kept very clean and contains a shower fed by a water-tank on the roof. Just be aware of mosquitos eating you while you are in there. Most of the time I would just jump into the sea anyways.
Food is simple but very tasty, drinks are kept cool in an ice-box and everybody just ticks off what was consumed on a sheet of paper.
What is quite astonishing is the professional and friendly treatment you receive from the staff. This being such a simple and affordable place I wouldn't have expected too much but was very surprised (we talked to the Swiss owner who dropped by on our last day and he told us that the person in charge had experience working in a hotel)
Then there is the adjacent "Aroma River Spa" where you get a truly 5-star treatment (of course, no fancy machines and gadgets, but truly professional massages and other treatments like body scrubs). So in a sense the entire thing is an unusual combination of rustic accommodation, unspoilt nature and luxury pampering. My wife and I are in our late thirties, have traveled extensively and starting from humble backpacker beginnings have moved upmarket into boutique style hotels in the last two decades - I have to admit, we thoroughly enjoyed this odd combination.
For those who feel that they have to do something there is the possibility to rent kayaks or motor-bikes which can be used to make excursions to other nearby beaches or villages.
This is definitely not a place for somebody who is expecting a resort-style experience but if you come with the right mindset (having prior camping experience definitely helps) you will be amply rewarded with a rustic unspoilt experience in an incredibly beautiful setting.
I have attached a few fotos (there are some more at http://www.tropicalmusings.com/?p=999)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Traditional village style guest house located on 8 hectares of coconut plantation with private beach facing the South China Sea... Great home cooked food... Aroma River Spa treatments in a soothing natural mangrove environment... Rediscover the luxury of doing just nothing, with a relaxing simplicity... Choice of basic Pondok Standard pavilions or more private Pondok Plus pavilions for 2 guests, the new River House perfect for honeymooners and the Spa Villa suite for up to 4 guests... Now connected to the electricity grid... This is the real Bintan experience, off the beaten track! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Mutiara Beach Guesthouse Hotel Bintan
- Mutiara Beach Guesthouse Bintan Island, Riau Islands