Travel

By Irene Fogarty

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If you’re looking for a luxurious, gold fauceted, marble-dripping hotel with gym, umbrella-laden drinks and red-roped nightlife all around you, forget the Banyan Tree. This is a sacred sanctuary hidden from the pressures and pretensions of other resorts or sun soaked places. This is where Zen was born, where Nature revels and where the only sounds you’ll hear are the birds, squirrels, frogs and even monkeys.

“Heaven will be inherited by every man who has heaven in his soul.”
- Henry Ward Beecher

Just to the left of Angsana Resort, tucked away in the lushness of a tropical setting overlooking the South China Sea, lies Banyan Tree Resort & Spa, in Bintan. What you experience here is really hard to put in words. So check out the gallery here. What I can say is that the stillness and tranquility of your surroundings have an immediate effect on you. While the Angsana focuses on the pool and beach, here, you discover true peace, tranquility and rejuvenation while being spoilt in the comfort of your own luxurious villa.

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Jacuzzi Villas – where the sun sets and colors the sea a golden hue
Perched on the hillside, these villas give you splendid views of the ocean through shady age-old trees. Dream away as the sun sets on the horizon and graces the sea with its warm golden glow. Designed with traditional Indonesian architectural flair and authentic local décor, each villa is luxuriously appointed; from the 5m-high rustic Balinese grass roof to the extravagant bathroom with sunken bath.

Just to give you an idea, your villa is approx. 84 – 116 sqm. There’s a private open-air jet pool on wooden deck, an ensuite bathroom with sunken bathtub and an outdoor dining area, and AC! In addition to hair dryers, bathrobes, slippers and bundles of those thick white towels, there’s a colour TV with in-house movies and video player, DVD/ VCD/ CD player. If you happen to turn either on, you should be ashamed of yourself. This is a place to forget the world not dwell on it!

Everything is so natural, from the woven baskets in your room to the keys for your temple, that you start to fall in love with the earthiness of wood, stone, palm tree leaves and the ecological beauty that enwraps you. The lushness of the palm trees and greenery complement the earth tones of the soil and the interiors.

The jacuzzi villa, or temple as I liked to call it, overlooked the blue waters of the South China Sea. You could literally run around naked, scream out loud and not a sinner could hear or see you. The only thing listening is the whispering sea breeze, which is enough of a tease to remind you to sleep.

“Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing. Beloved from pole to pole.”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

At night after your sumptuous supper, you can slip back to your villa to hear the bubbles and feel the swirling water soothe away your tensions (you should be rid of them all by now). But the surprises are only beginning. On top of your princess-and-the-pea-like bed that’s cocooned in an angelic net, you find a wooden bowl shaped container. Inside? A scroll with breakfast choices for the morning and 3 homemade chocolates for even sweeter dreams. You have gone to heaven, but you’re still alive.

Saffron, The Cove, Treetops – a taste of paradise
Whatever you hunger for, Banyan’s three innovative restaurants offer an enticing range of cuisine styles. Whether you opt for Southeast Asia specialties at the Saffron, savor Mediterranean cuisine at the Cove or dine al fresco by the sea at Treetops, you’ll be more than satisfied. Want to order in? Spoil yourself with a special outdoor barbecue or order from an extensive à  la carte menu.

Banyan Tree Spa Bintan. Mind blowing. Soul-enlightening
What Western spas call “mind, body and soul” is an absolute insult when you come to an Asian island where masseuses and waiters alike are so in touch with nature and the spiritual power around them, they speak and treat everything as if it were a blessing just to be alive and surrounded by it.

Step into the peaceful sanctuary of Banyan Tree Spa Bintan and you’ll see what I mean. Not only is it an escape to a realm of pampering and self-renewal, but also the treatment options range from ancient Asian healing and relaxation techniques to European rejuvenation therapies. Whatever treatment you choose, you will leave without a care in the world, feeling completely revitalized and glowing from within. If there’s a place to discover the harmony of mind, body and soul it can only be here. So don’t even think the Madison Ave day spas can even try to capture that.

Every hour is happy hour here
To call Banyan Tree Bintan romantic is an understatement. It’s almost like you’ve been dropped off on a picture-perfect island (are those clouds real?), that surrounds itself with the most peaceful people, the most breathtaking scenery, the best food on earth, and the most indulgent living quarters to relax in. Indulgent but not extravagant in an unnecessary way, everything is so well thought out. You suddenly realize it’s all there for you. For once you don’t have to multi-task. All you have to do is to decide which of the three sea-like goddess pools will you reside at or which end of the private, golden-sanded beach will you grace with your presence. Not an easy decision when you consider the options.

Heaven on earth
You will be mesmerized by the sights and sounds of Banyan Tree’s natural habitat – its tropical forest, hillside terrain and the secluded golden beach create an unforgettable setting. On top of all that, the staff, in their wonderfully colorful uniforms, put so much care into serving you that you feel the hospitality is as natural as the setting, They don’t just serve you and run away. They want to know you’re enjoying it and much as they do. They love to start a conversation, yet always know when to politely disappear.

If all of this isn’t heaven on earth, then paradise is truly lost.

Check out the Banyan Tree heavenly haven today. Call (805) 499 9101 or go to www.banyantree.com.

Originally published September 2005
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