About a month ago, my husband and I planned a little family getaway to Bintan with some friends. I’d first heard about “glamping” from a friend’s Facebook feed ― she had made a trip to The Canopi on Bintan island, which is an hour’s ferry ride away.
Glamping ― or “glamorous camping” ― means that you’ll have facilities that are more luxurious, while still being able to experience the great outdoors.
My family enjoys going out and experiencing nature. We go hiking pretty often ― every Sunday if the weather is good. We enjoy trekking in places like the TreeTop Walk at MacRitchie Reservoir or Sungei Buloh.
We usually carry my younger son, Kyven, who is almost 3 and around 10kg, in a toddler carrier on our back, while my older son Kyler, 6, is usually able to complete the two- to three-hour walk on his own.
However, we had stopped short of bringing the kids camping, because we were daunted by the idea that we’d not have access to a proper bathroom.
We had stopped short of bringing the kids camping, because we were daunted by the idea that we’d not have access to a proper bathroom.
So, we felt that “glamping” would fill the gap perfectly. We’d get to experience nature, but we’d still have the option of sleeping in an air-conditioned room and have our own bathroom.
We planned the trip with two other families, and there were a total of five kids. My husband found a deal with a travel agency, where we paid just $500 for two adults and two kids, for a two-night, three-day stay.
But one thing that we couldn’t prepare for, was the weather. With hindsight, we should have checked the weather forecast before booking the trip!
We took the hour-long ferry ride from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at 9am Singapore time and arrived in Bintan at 9am, local time as Indonesia is an hour behind us. However, we didn’t realise that the check-in time was 2pm.
The staff told us that the rooms weren’t ready, so we had to wait five hours before we could go to our room.
It was raining cats and dogs at the time by the way!
Since it’s a resort and there was nowhere else for us to go, we had to wait in the lobby as we didn’t want to get wet in the rain.
The kids went a little crazy, but thankfully, the lobby was very spacious and they occupied themselves by running around everywhere!
When we finally checked in, we were surprised at how luxurious our “tent” was! Besides being full air-conditioned, there was a queen-sized four-poster bed, along with a sofa bed and trundle. It was extremely spacious and perfect for our family of four.
We used an open-concept toilet, located at the back of the tent. It’s a bit like the Singapore Zoo ― where you are surrounded by greenery, and may encounter insects and other creepy crawlies, which was a novelty for the kids.
However, it can get quite dark, especially in the evening ― in fact, the whole of Bintan gets quite dark at night.
We were pretty much rained out on the first day, though we did get to enjoy the 6.3-hectare manmade crystal lagoon, which boasts specially filtered sea water.
Though the sky cleared up on the second day and the sun came out, it was super hot! Even in the merciless heat, we had fun renting an electric bike (Rp250,000/$26 for half a day). It’s similar to a Vespa, but you don’t need a licence to ride it. We even saw kids, around the age of 10, riding it around the resort.
You are surrounded by greenery, and may encounter insects and other creepy crawlies, which was a novelty for the kids.
The dads took the older boys out to ride the mini-ATVs (Rp60,000 per person), and they also had a go on the two-seater UTV (utility task vehicle, which cost Rp250,000 for half an hour).
The lagoon is also home to a few inflatable water features and playgrounds, but we gave these a miss as we’d have needed to rent life vests to be able to play.
Don’t forget to try out the massage as well ― it costs just $80 an hour for three adults and it was really good!
When evening fell, we purchased fireworks at the resort counter ― the staff will teach you how to set them off. We also released sky lanterns ― you write your wishes on paper lanterns, light them up, then watch them float away into the night sky.
There are tables and benches right outside the tents, where you can hang out and chit-chat while the sun sets. The night sky is full of stars ― which amazed the kids, since it’s not something ever get to see in Singapore. Later, while the kids slept, the adults enjoyed chilling out here.
There aren’t many food options – just one restaurant that serves both Western and local cuisine. But you can take a cab out to a local “canteen”, about five minutes away.
Babies probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much as there are limited things they can do. One of my friends brought their 12-month-old ― who accidentally drank the lagoon water, then had a case of diarrhoea. So, do take precautions and bring the necessary medication.
It showed that they were able to be creative and find ways to entertain themselves!
Unlike vacations in cities, or when you’re in a hotel, there aren’t many things to do at night. When the kids were bored, they made their own fun ― they used the four-poster bed and drapes to make a game out of shadow puppetry and performed a show for the adults. We loved it, and it showed that they were able to be creative and find ways to entertain themselves!
Because the space is so open and there weren’t many guests, we didn’t have to worry about other guests complaining about the noise or heavy footsteps. The kids could explore freely and have all the fun they wanted.
Funnily, the kids thought it was a true camping experience (we’ve yet to tell them otherwise) describing it as “so awesome!” We’ll definitely be back!
Paulyn Ng, 37, is married to Alvin Ng, 37, and mum to Kyven, 2, and Kyler, 6.
Photos: Paulyn Ng
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