Tag Archives: Globetrotter

Weekend Get Away – Bintan Island, Indonesia

Since I was expecting my baby, we had been unable to travel around much over the last month, and it is not easy to travel with a newborn.

The desire and intention to travel has been always there for our family so we decided to go for a quick weekend getaway to Bintan Island in Indonesia.

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A lot of my visitors in Singapore ask me where they can go from Singapore easily. This is the easiest option to travel from Singapore, since it only takes 45 minutes by boat to reach the island.

I booked the ferry tickets through Bintan Resort Ferries (www.brf.com.sg). The booking process was a bit complicated, as the website requests all passengers’ passport numbers, passport expiry dates, etc.

I had been to Bintan in September 2013 where we stayed at Bintan Lagoon Resort and we were not happy with our experience. The property was old, the breakfast was awful and it was overpriced.

Bearing in mind the previous experience, I booked the Angsana Hotel for this visit.

The ferry leaves from Tanah Merah ferry terminal, which is very close to Changi Airport. The immigration process is fast and smooth at the ferry terminal. We took the ferry out at 08:10 am and luckily we found a good spot on the ferry as we needed mobility because of the baby.

After almost an hour, we arrived at Bintan. Among the changes since our previous trip, Indonesia has initiated visa free travel to many nationalities, including those with Turkish and British passports. Before, there was a visa check on arrival and you would need to buy a visa for USD 15. Getting the visa was easy, but the queue and securing the exact USD 15 was a bit of a hassle.

Once we were through immigration, the hotel had arranged a complimentary transfer from the terminal. Angsana is only ten minutes away from the terminal, which was great.

The hotel is in an old complex and has a friendly staff. It has a long private beach and is situated just next to the Banyan Tree. We were able to access our room before the standard check-in time and headed to the beach, where there is a nice restaurant.

The menu is quite simple there but the food is good. Unfortunately, like anything in Bintan, it is very overpriced, though.

The hotel provides beach chairs along the beach, with towels. Even though the sea in Southeast Asia is not my favourite, given that it is hot and not crystal clear, it is nice to lie in front of it and relax.

We visited the Saffron restaurant—which is inside the Banyan Tree—for dinner. I should say the highlight of this trip for me was this restaurant. Perfect food, nice ambience and great service.

Even though we had some small communication problems at Angsana Hotel, I would say they are fairly friendly and do try their best to make sure you feel comfortable. On the way back, they arranged a private transfer for us to the ferry: since we had our newborn with us, it was a great gesture.

In Bintan, everything is overpriced. Proximity to Singapore and an easy tropical escape make the place popular so the prices are high! Once every two years, though, it is a good place to visit.

If you are visiting Singapore, I would recommend that you spend two or three days in Bintan.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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A weekend in London – What would I do?

I lived in London for 7.5 years and I became a true Londoner in this period of time. Since I have been living in Singapore for the last 2.5 years, I sometimes miss London, and whenever I have a chance to go to London, it is a great opportunity for me to get into my old routine for a few days.

What would I do in a weekend in London?

London, the capital, is a place where new ideas are generated so it is a place to visit museums, shows, restaurants but, most importantly, bookstores. You will not get any night life advice here.

In a typical weekend, I would start my day walking to Marylebone: this is my London centre since I lived in Bickenhall Street for 3.5 years.

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Marylebone is a very special place for me as I have a lot of memories of every single corner of it, and my first visit would be Daunt Bookstore on Marylebone.

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Technology is evolving and many argue that books will be history, since a lot of people have already shifted to e-books. Daunt Bookstore definitely fights quite strongly against this idea.

It is a great place for me to spend a couple of hours. It is an Edwardian bookstore with long oak galleries. This bookstore specialises in travel books, but there are other sections such as history and literature. I love to look through its travel books, but I would always buy a history, politics or economics book over a travel book. Since this is my first stop early in the morning, I won’t buy any books but I decide on what to buy on my return.

Now the long walk to Hampstead starts.

I cross the Marylebone Road and reach Regent’s Park, where I spent many of my early mornings and late nights. Through Regent’s Park, I reach Prince Albert Road and then I continue to walk towards Hampstead. The nonstop walk will take about an hour to reach beautiful Hampstead Heath.

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My stop would be at The Wells, a gastropub, by Hampstead Heath. It is a family friendly pub with an evolving menu. I would stop here for an hour or two before heading back to Marylebone to buy the books that I decided to buy earlier.

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I find a lot of similarities between Marylebone and Hampstead Heath. A boutique cinema chain (Everyman) and my favourite bookstore Daunt Books are only two of them. I feel both have distinct characteristics, not like Chelsea, and they are both true London boroughs.

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The time would hit 4–5 pm now and I would have to go and leave my books and maybe rest a bit. I have a lot of favourite restaurants in London, and I would prefer Big Easy on Kings Road, Alounak in Westbourne Grove or a new London restaurant recommended by a friend.

If I could a squeeze in a theatre at night, that’s perfect. Sometimes it is quite difficult, but I would definitely try.

The walk should take about 17–18 km that day. In other words, around 35,000 steps. Not too bad! And thank God that London is flat.

I would wake up as early as possible on my second and final day in London. I would try to go to Trafalgar and Covent Garden, to walk without any aim. Then I would walk to Parliament and would cross Waterloo Bridge.

This would enable me to walk towards London Bridge and should take about 45 minutes. On my way, there are the Tate Modern, a nice pub by the river, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Vinopolis—which I heard that it is closing down.

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Lunchtime should be about there and I would take a cab or a tube from London Bridge and go to my favourite spot once more, Marylebone. My lunch would take place at Casa Becci, an authentic Italian restaurant run by an Italian family for a long time.

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It is a very simple restaurant and price friendly, but, most importantly, great simple Italian food. My favourite here would be Spaghetti Aglio E Olio.

Unfortunately, the weekend has come to an end. I have to take a flight to continue wherever I need to go. I should walked about 15,000 steps that day, or in other words 10–11 km. Not bad!

London is not an easy city to live in, but it is definitely one of the best!

P.S. Most of my walking sessions started at Chelsea Bridge Wharf over the last three years as my beloved friend, Hakan Dikmen, kept hosting me without grumbling. Thank you, Hakan—you are such a great host!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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