A couple weeks ago, when I was desperately looking for places to go to for Chinese New Year, my Trikora travel companion suggested going to Bintan. I wasn't particularly excited because even though we'd be in Indonesia, Bintan was practically in Singapore - we'd be surrounded by Singaporeans, we'd be using Singapore Dollars, and we'd practically be frolicking in Singapore waters anyway.
That was, until I looked up photos of the area my travel companion [who will henceforth be referred to as J because "travel companion" is such a bitch to write over and over] suggested. Crystal clear waters, serene beaches - it was hard to believe this was only an hour or so away by ferry in Singapore. Trikora is on the other side of the island about 30km away from the ferry terminal, which is where, I assume, the more developed areas of Tanjung Pinang and Bintan are.
A lot of places in the area were completely booked because of the holidays, but we found a shack, Pondok Susy, that had rooms. So for three nights, we braved living in a as-basic-as-it-gets beach shack without AC or a fan, without hot water and a new low for me - a toilet without a flush. When you're done doing whatever it is you need to do, you pour water down the toilet. Classy.
That said, all that bravery was worth it. Crystal clear waters and gorgeous beaches that were so empty it was practically our own private beach.
Pondok Susy is ran by Mr Sularto and his family, and they're incredibly hospitable. You'll be fed either Nasi Goreng or Mee Goreng for breakfast during for stay there, so you'll probably end up like us, all Nasi Goreng-ed out. Nevertheless, they're very helpful. Instead of booking online which means you'd be booking through an agent which would cost you between SGD$10 - SGD$20 more per night, you can text or call Mr Sularto via his cell at 0813 7287 6196. Unfortunately, he only speaks Malay or Indonesian, so get someone else to call on your behalf if you can't speak the languages.
Trikora is the quintessential beach getaway - there are no shops or malls around the area, very few restaurants within walking distance but J did claim he had the second best fish in his life in the restaurant at YY Resort, which was a five-minute walk by the beach from our shack. The best fish he's ever had, in case you were wondering, was in Bali.
If you get bored of sitting in scenic empty beaches, you can walk for about half an hour [or hitch a ride] to Ocean Bay Resort. For SGD$25 per person, you'd be taken to a small private island off-shore called Pulau Beralas Pasir, where you can spend a couple of hours lying in the sun doing absolutely nothing. Or, if you're armed with a Kindle, you can read your Kindle. You can also skinny dip if you'd like. I know someone who's ticking off places in the world he's skinny dipped in. ;o)
Considering we spent barely any money on our four-day vacation, it was worth it. The lack of AC didn't bother me because the wind from the sea was so strong, and having to bathe in cold water was quite refreshing. Actually, I felt a sense of accomplishment every time I walked out of the bathroom, considering how ghetto it was. High maintenance, my ass.
Ferry tickets to Bintan cost between SGD$50 - 59 return [depending on whether or not you're going at peak season] - this excludes Indonesian port tax that you'd need to pay when you leave the island. The three companies that operate ferry services are Penguin, Indo Falcon and Berlian/Wavemaster.