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Travel Blog: Winter Respite in Bintan


People recommended going to Bintan (a small Indonesian island accessible by ferry from Singapore) for a while so we booked a stay at a tiny resort. We figured that with no air travel surely it would be a hop skip and a jump away! And it was, kind of. But when you factor in the travel time to the ferry by bus, waiting for the ferry (about an hour), the ferry ride itself, and the hour-long car ride to the resort by the time we got there the day was more than half over. More Olympic long jump, less hop.

To add insult to injury, the shoreline was literally the length of a football field away when we arrived in the early afternoon. I kid you not - there were villas on stilts that overlooked...wet sand. And tiny snails. And a boatload of rubbery seaweed littering the beach like the day after New Year's. We were puzzled by this, thinking that maybe we had arrived in the dry season. If a tropical country like Indonesia has a "dry" season, that is. We tried to explore the wet sandbar (which had its cool moments, like when my feet sunk into the wet beach and black murk burbled up or when we spotted a tiny crab scuttling into a hole in the sand) but mostly we just got very sand-covered.

The sandbar stayed like this for the remainder of the afternoon and into nightfall and we felt sorry for the poor travelers who had sprung for the "seaside villa" only to overlook a pile of depressing wet muck. Miraculously, around 7pm, it was as if someone had literally turned on a faucet: all the water came rushing back onto the beach. Within the space of 20 minutes the entire mushy wasteland of sand and slime was covered by gently lapping waves. And it was deep, too. The next day we saw people up to their chests further out. It was the most bizarre thing we had ever witnessed; now I know how quickly a tide can come in.

While baking on the sand on Sunday morning we watched tourists attempting to wakeboard, which looked deceptively easy until you witnessed the poor sods struggling to stay afloat for more than a few seconds. The overall effect on the water was really eye-catching: 20+ brightly colored sails zipping about on an aquamarine sea. As I have all the athletic ability of a land-bound manatee I opted to stick to the shore.

The ferry was quite bumpy. I'd hate to be on it when the seas were actually choppy because we caught air several times and it was a cloudless sunny day. At times it felt like we were on some sort of roller coaster. Needless to say, that's the last ferry we'll be taking for a while.

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