Travel

By Irene Fogarty

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Perhaps one of the biggest perks about living in Singapore is that it’s only 45 minutes away from one of the most heavenly islands: Bintan, Indonesia. You just take the ferry across and you’re in another world–and another country, so make sure you get the right visa. (American citizens do NOT need a visa, just a passport).

Ang-sa-na
The angsana is a tree found on the tropical rainforest of Asia. It’s best noted for its crown of red flowers that burst into golden-yellow blooms. Luckily, the Angsana is also an idyllic resort that, just like the flower, is an unexpected celebration of nature, life and everything peaceful that surrounds us.

Sensing the moment; forgetting everything else
Set in Tanjung Said Bay, beside Banyan Tree Bintan Resort (same owners), the Angsana is located at the edge of pristine whites beaches overlooking the regal South China Sea, which reminds you just how far away you are from the #6 subway. From the incredible lagoon beach and beautifully designed swimming pool (love those frog-like sculptures on every corner), to the revitalizing temple treatments of the outdoor Angsana spa, to the delicious seafood dishes, and the incredibly knowledgeable and spiritual staff, the Angsana experience is a total reprieve from city life. In fact, after a few hours there, you almost forget that you ever lived in a city. Here’s why:

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Suite harmony at suite deals
When we arrived at the Angsana, we were showered with genuine friendliness and warmth. In addition to a delicious “welcome” drink made of lemongrass, and a cold face cloth, our bed had a “WELCOME TO ANGSANA” message on it, spelled out in palm-tree leaves with the red angsana flowers sprinkled on top.

While the accommodation is very comfortable and has everything you need, I wouldn’t rave about it. The Angsana is not known for its incredibly beautiful bedrooms. Nonetheless, the deluxe rooms are very relaxing and equipped with everything you need. I love the private balconies that overlook the majestic Santai swimming pool, which is truly magical when lit up at night.

I’d recommend the Angsana Suite for families and corporate retreats. Along with a large dining and living area, the Suite boasts a spacious sundeck and an outdoor shower and Jacuzzi, in addition to you very own landscaped garden. It’s like you have a piece of heaven in your own backyard. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Angsana accommodation is the fact you can spend a weekend there from $225.00. A celestial deal by all accounts.

The Angsana Experience – Soak in the natural beauty
What the Angsana rooms lack in luxury, the spa itself makes up for. Led away on stone paths to sacred temples, you suddenly realize what the Asian sense of tranquility is all about. It’s simply about taking the best of nature, surrounding yourself in it and reveling in what it can do for you – physically, mentally and spiritually. You can choose from a number of indulgent treatments from the spa menu. From hand massages to facials and head massages. You won’t just feel your muscles relax as you drift off to the sounds of the birds, sea and the delightful breeze swaying the delicately colored curtains that complement the shade of the sky.

Get the Angsana Facial for an a out of body experience
90 minutes of feather-like fingers slathering on therapeutic concoctions of yogurt, honey, almond, soya and milk cleanses, moisturizing and replenishing dry skin. It was so relaxing and revitalizing, I completely zoned out. I awoke to birds, a beautiful sunset and better looking skin. For only $60, you can too. Here are a few other treatments you can pamper yourself with.

Beauty is back
This is the perfect remedy for backaches, especially after spending long hours sitting in the office or on a plane. Beginning with a back massage to calm and loosen muscle knots, a fresh ginger mask is applied on the back to relieve sore muscles and stimulate blood circulation. A head and face massage completes the session, leaving the whole body totally relaxed.

Forget Botox. Get the Shirodhara, and you won’t need to wrinkle your forehead as much
A gentle rhythmic trickle of warm oil on your forehead calms your inner self and induces a deep sense of relaxation. This soothing session helps sharpen your senses and promotes clear thinking. Best of all, no one in the office will ever see you so clearheaded.

Straighten out your head with the Indian Head Massage
This massage is perfect for everyone. No matter what you do or how stress-free you claim to be, this massage focuses on the key pressure points on your head, and is designed to clear your mind of all stress and tension. It feels so good that you can even enjoy it sitting down. When was the last time you received a head massage?

Try the Matahari to get the blood moving
All those years of sitting at a desk and all you got were varicose veins, meta-carpel tunnel and cellulite. So try this blood circulation booster. It combines finger pressure and aromatic oil to help relax tense facial muscles and soothe tired eyes.

The dish on Angsana dining
It’s hard to pinpoint what the food is like here. But I would say it is definitely similar to Thai food. The great thing is the menu is so accommodating you can really get anything you want. When I’m away, I like to be adventurous and try the “native” dishes. The one thing I can vividly remember is the Gado Gado salad. A delicious mix of peanuts, and greens and flavors that’s so tasty yet not heavy, it’s perfect in this climate. Here are the different places you can try out on the resort.

Lotus Cafe
Savor mouthwatering cuisine from all corners of the earth at the imposing Lotus Cafe. Popular Indonesian and Asian specialties include Black Pepper Beef, Nasi Ayam and Laksa. Beef Sirloin, Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb, Grilled Salmon Fillet and Caesar Salad are some of the Western favorites that make it onto the à  la carte menu. Breakfast is fantastic here. You can get incredible juices, like melon, cucumber and delicious fresh yogurt as well as anything else your heart desires.

Pantai Grill and Bar
We came here almost every night. You can ask for a table of two on the beach. With bamboo fire torches that makes the setting of “Survivor” seems like a soundstage, this seafood barbeque-style restaurant offers salads, sandwiches and a selection of pizzas prepared in front of you. In the evening, you’ll be accompanied by less than ten tables but tons of stars and sounds of the sea to complement the spicy, succulent taste of the freshest seafood. (My only comment is that if you like wine, remember you’re not in France or Italy. Since this is a culture that does not overindulge in drink, there is little emphasis on it. So while you won’t expect to see Chateau this or Borola that on the wine menu, be prepared for the exuberant prices of Australian plonk!)

The Veranda
Located in the lobby, this is perfect when you want a cocktail or a light snack.

Workout without the work
Finally, there’s a lot to do here even if you have no intention. You can golf on a course designed by the “White Shark” (Greg Norman, of course), enjoy bike tracking tours, scuba diving, snorkeling and many other water sports. And if you miss your cardio class in Crunch so much, try the water aerobics in the pool in the afternoon.

Angsana Gallery
Before you leave the resort, be sure to drop into the colorful, charming world of the Angsana Gallery. You can get gifts and souvenirs that will bring back pleasant memories of your stay. And to remind you of your heavenly spa treatments, you can take home the Angsana range of specially blended massage oils, floral-based essential oils, and other branded products from the Angsana Spa Shop. I love the kaftans, Indonesian batik tops and jewelry. Of course, if you’re like me, you can always get a little glass jar and fill it with the iridescent sand and shells and label it “Angsana”. It will always remind you of the time when you forgot about time.

For more info on the Angsana Resort & Spa Bintan, call (805) 499-9101 or go to www.angsana.com.

Originally published September 2005
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