Friday, May 13, 2011
Banyu Biru Villas at Nirwana Gardens
Banyu Biru Villas at a lucky draw. I think it's another sign I should do more travel posts! Bintan Resorts very kindly extended our stay another day and also arranged for us to try out two of their best restaurants there, Spices and The Kelong (I will blog those separately).
The Banyu Biru Villas are part of the Nirwana Gardens (which has about five different resort brands within one big compound). These are two- or three-room family villas clustered at one end of Nirwana Gardens, some with a lovely view of the sea.
It's pleasant and peaceful with lots of water and greenery. You'll see serene lakes with lily pads and fountains, fringed by trees leaning over the waters. If you can, come during weekdays, because it's so much quieter.
Well, arriving at Banyu Biru means you come through the main Nirwana Gardens reception area. You are greeted by the traditional welcome dance and given a welcome drink.
We had a traditional Indonesian set lunch at Dino Bistro. The rendang was quite nice.
It somehow feels cooler in the villas here than in Singapore. I like the glass doors, which let in light and create the illusion of space.
I did not know there was a full kitchenette, complete with crockery, cutlery, pots and pans! There's a microwave, toaster, hot water pot, rice cooker and coffee maker. I'd have brought stuff to cook!
Oh the kids loved the bedrooms!
They had their own room, with twin beds, which they both claimed as their own immediately. There is also plenty of wardrobe and drawer space.
Bathrooms look new and clean. You even get a Grohe showerhead!
And who needs the Stairmaster when you have this? The kids went nuts. They must have climbed this up and down at least 20 times the first day.
Banyu Biru has its own shared pool away from the main Nirwana Gardens pool. This is quite near the beach too. When we were there, we pretty much had the pool all to ourselves, so it was extra nice!
The shallow pool has a children's water slide. Of course, it's an absolute hit with Nadine and Jolie.
One of the most fun things about the resort is - you get to summon a buggy anytime you want to go anywhere. No extra charge, just dial housekeeping.
There are lots of shared activities you can enjoy. Basically whatever is available at Nirwana Gardens, you get to join in. There are archery/rifle-shooting classes, horse-riding, paintball, kayaking, many sports, and even All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) buggies for rent.
These are the statues in front of the Nirwana Gardens main entrance. There are live elephants too, if you're interested in shows and rides. In fact, there are quite a lot of animals at Nirwana Gardens...
There is a mini-zoo just a few minutes from the main entrance. It's small but worth a look. We saw some newborn deer, pythons, a king cobra, crocodiles, turtles, and arapaima (pirarucu).
There is also an aviary showcasing a few birds. The cassowary (left) has its own cage though. The Himalayan Griffon Vultures (middle) are stunning. They are huge (second largest Old World vultures, about 40-50cm) and fearsome. I guess these are the birds that take part in the Tibetan sky burials.
There are about two dozen sulphur-crested cockatoos, along with parrots and hawk eagles. These birds are kept here entrusted by the Forestry Department which caught them being smuggled. They are born in captivity and will not survive in the wild.
Nirwana Gardens also has an iguana exhibit at its main building. All the iguanas (about five or six) were born there, apparently.
Lots of big, gorgeous koi in the waters near the entrance to the main hall too. Nadine loved them, but Jolie was scared of the big fish.
There's plenty to keep you occupied at Nirwana Gardens itself, but if you'd like to venture out, there are also other things to explore on Bintan. The hotel arranged for us a tour to the factory outlet selling excess stock from branded labels. We got a couple of dresses for the kids at about S$8.
We also got to take a peek at Pasar Oleh Oleh. In Malay, "Pasar means market, and "Oleh Oleh" means souvenirs. It's a small compound with village-style huts, selling trinkets, temporary tattoos and handicrafts. There are two minimarts there if you need to stock up on daily necessities (prices similar to Singapore).
Bintan Resorts Souvenirs has a well-stocked outlet at Pasar Oleh Oleh.
Take your pick from stuffed animals, t-shirts, mugs, keychains, batik bags, and various handmade trinkets.
There are two eateries here, both pretty much offering cze-char style dishes (with prices similar to the higher end cze-char places in Singapore). We chose to eat at this Cafe Helo Helo because it had S$4 single dishes. Hint: the mee goreng is better than the fried rice.
Nadine donning her life jacket for the moonlit mangrove tour. It's pretty surreal gliding on the river in a boat in near darkness. The cool grey moonlight gives the whole scene an otherworldly feel. However, the light we were looking for were those of fireflies, and we saw plenty. Some of them made the trees twinkle and glow like it's Christmas!
The tour guide will tell you a lot about the life and times of the fireflies. These bioluminescent bugs live two years as larvae, and only about two weeks as adults. With their flashing lights they seek and court the right mate. And what happens after mating? The male dies, and the female follows, after she lays her eggs. Their entire life for one moment of reproductive passion. Tragic or not?
For the way home, our ferry tickets were upgraded to Emerald Class, and boy, these are quite worthwhile! For starters, you don't have to do the customs/immigration routine at the Ferry Terminal. They will clear it for you while you relax at a nice lounge with coffee and tea.
The Emerald Class also gives you wider seats with ample legroom. I gather it's almost twice the space you get in the regular class. It is on the upper deck of the ferries, and they serve you complimentary non-alcoholic beverages.
But for us, the real benefit is - you get to disembark first, before everyone else, so you get to clear customs and reach the taxi stand at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal before the enormous queue forms! Definitely a boon when you're tired at the end of a long trip!
So that was our short stay at the Banyu Biru Villas in Nirwana Gardens. Looking at their special deals, Banyu Biru Villa rates start from S$250++ per villa per night (without ferry), but check with your travel agent. A two-bedroom villa fits four people, and a three-bedroom villa can accommodate six persons. Pretty good escape for small families or groups, and very accessible.
I'm eyeing the Indra Maya villas next - they look really nice, almost like Banyan Tree, with private pool too! Ah well, there are so many resorts on Bintan these days...we are really spoilt for choice. You can check out the Bintan Resorts page on Facebook for happenings, events, contests and promotions.
I may be holding a contest too, nearer the end of the month with a 2D1N holiday as a prize, so keep a lookout for that.
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