I’ve always known Bintan for it’s Instagram worthy beaches, palm trees and the adventurous sea sports.
However, my recent trip to Bintan showed me so much more of what Bintan has to offer than just chilling by the beaches. You know it’s more than a tropical paradise when you can unwind ‘resort style’ while also experiencing local life.
I visited Bintan on a short 3 days 2 nights weekend trip and stayed at Bintan Lagoon Resort.
(See also: Weekend Getaway at Bintan Lagoon Resort)
On the second day, we went on a day tour to visit the hidden gems on Bintan Island. My first stop was to the Sea Gypsies village located on the eastern coastline, up north of Bintan Island.
One of the things I really enjoy about travelling is actually the journey to my destination, unexpected discoveries along the way, like the many kelongs and smaller fishing villages we saw or the pineapple plantations with so many pineapples waiting to be harvested.
Though It’s takes around an hour to reach the the sea gypsy village, it certainly felt shorter.
(1) Sea Gypsies village
Despite it being the largest sea gypsies village, it’s not as huge as I thought. (Don’t want to give you guys any false hope, thinking it’ll be humongous ya.)
Nonetheless, it was still of a substantial size to peek into how the sea gypsies go about their day to day affairs there.
You can use the kiln as their red brick wall for Instagram #ootds. Haha.
Take your time and walk around the area, chat with the locals or support their economy by buying keropok from one of the locals there! (It’s very yummy!!)
The aunty selling homemade keropok! If you’re lucky you may even get to see these baskets of colourful keropok drying out in the sun.
Be it the houses on stilts, the fishing nets, the 2 huge charcoal kilns that are no longer in use or just how the children there have all the time in their hands running around chasing each other or catching little fishes, It’s a sight you’ll never be able to get to see in Singapore.
(2) Grotto Santa Maria
As I was really unlucky, it started to drizzle as we left the village. By the time we got to our next destination, which was Grotto Santa Maria, it was pouring. I was unable to visit this chapel but if you do make it here, remember to visit this site. There’s a total of 14 Stations of the Cross as you make your way up the chapel.
(3) Traditional Boat Making
As you head further south, you’ll get to see more kelongs and traditional boat making. Alight from your car if you’re interested to see how they make boats by hand!
(4) Pizzeria Casa Italia
Keep a look out for this interesting pizzeria as you continue to drive ahead! This pizzeria is run by an Italian family who fell in love with Bintan many years ago and decided to reside in this “paradise” (I’m quoting him!).
They serve really thin crust pizza, baked in a wood fire stone oven just by the sea. It’s perfect for a light snack but not so much for a full hearty meal! Enjoy the sea breeze and munch on some pizza before you proceed on your journey!
(5) Penyengat Island
We then headed to Penyengat Island, to see the abode of the Kings from the last phase of the Malay Kingdom. We took a 10-min water taxi ride from Tanjung Pinang and arrived at Penyengat Island.
On the island, you’ll find that there are no cars at all! It’s a really small island so cars are not needed to travel around. People travel in motorised trishaws or tuktuks, and are able to fit 2-3 people.
You’ll get to see the ruins of old palaces, the royal mosque and mausoleum in hues of yellow and green. All these sites are actually pending UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
FYI: Yellow is the colour for the royalties and green is the colour of Islam. Hence, the common imagery of yellow and green in Muslim’s decorations or paraphernalia!
(6) Akau Potong Lembu
For dinner, we headed to a pasar malam (night market) called Akau Potong Lembu. You’ll be able to find loads of Chinese delicacies.
From Chendol to Gong Gon (sea snail), Goreng Pisang to Orh Luak, there are tons of food. You can choose to eat there as there are tables and chairs in the middle of the market or you can “dabao” back to your resort/hotel room.
If you’re there, please eat this!!!!! Pisang Keju (cheese)!!! It’s fricking delicious, thinly sliced goreng pisang drizzled with condensed milk, chocolate sauce and sprinkled with shredded cheese. It’s heart attack worthy, health wise and taste wise. Sinful but worth it!! It’s also only $1.30 for such a huge packet.
Some common misconceptions:
Prior to the trip, I’ve heard many stories of using SGD or USD for transactions in Bintan, be it in the resort or outside, but throughout my trip here, I’ve only used rupiah and I found out that the government has placed a ban on using SGD or USD for monetary transactions!
Bintan is more than just beaches and resorts. If you know of any other suggestions, do drop them in the comments section below!
Travelling whenever and wherever she can, Jordyn is a free spirit who loves being on the move and uncovering hidden gems. When she’s not travelling, she’s probably drawing and making things. Oh, or eating.