Luxe retreat close to home

The Sanchaya in Lagoi Bay is breathtakingly beautiful and provides tip-top service

I lazily step off the ferry onto Bintan island, ready to join the rest of the passengers at the immigration lines to go through Customs. Suddenly, I spot a smiley man eagerly waving a placard with my name printed on it and I head over.

He picks up my luggage and whisks me away to a private lounge where he offers me hot tea and dried fruit. It is an elegant and airy room, with Balinese room dividers and opulent leather-tufted sofas, done up exactly in the style of The Sanchaya resort, where I will be spending the next two nights.

He asks me for my passport and as I sit back on the leather couch, I realise he is going to go through Customs and baggage checks on my behalf. The only thing I have to do is relax.

 

I learn later that all this is part of the "seamless arrival experience" by The Sanchaya, the only property on the island that offers this service.

Indeed, it is testament to the hotel's promise to deliver on a truly luxurious experience for guests.

The Sanchaya is a breathtakingly beautiful property. Opened late last year, it is developed and owned by Singapore-based Russian businesswoman Natalya Pavchinskaya, a frequent traveller to Bintan who wanted to introduce a new level of luxury vacationing to the island. Since its opening, it has been included in travel magazines' must-visit lists, such as Conde Nast Traveler's hot list of best new hotels in the world for this year.

  • The Sanchaya is located at Jalan Gurindam Duabelas, Plot 5 Lagoi Bay, Bintan.
    Rooms start at a promotional rate of US$560++ (S$775++) for a Great House Junior Suite Garden View till Dec 31.

At the centre of the sprawling 9ha property is The Great House, a two-storey mansion that houses not only nine lovely suites, but also the bar and library, a meeting room and the main restaurant known as The Dining Room, where I have all of my meals.

The menu covers both Asian and Western cuisines, but the local dishes impress me the most. The beef rendang is one of the best and most tender I have eaten in a while. Its bread, all warm and baked in- house, is also some of the crustiest and most fragrant I have tasted.

At breakfast, look out for the woman who serves up healthy Jamu, a traditional Indonesian drink using natural ingredients such as tree bark and flowers that work as herbal medicine.

But the porch along the back of the building is where I spend the bulk of my stay, lounging on rattan chairs with a drink in my hand as I look out onto the 50m infinity pool and the tranquil, turquoise sea beyond.

There is a spa - its signature massage (US$160 or S$220 for 105 minutes), which features warm volcanic stones and a rejuvenating oil massage, is the ultimate destresser. Other activities include croquet as well as guided cycling and hiking tours around the island.

Like the rest of the property, my one-bedroom villa is modelled after the black-and-white bungalows typical of British colonial architecture.

The interiors, done by Bangkokbased P49 Deesign & Associates, are tasteful and sophisticated, with sleek grey and white walls, plush sofas and hardwood floor. Everything in the 130 sq m space screams luxury, from the Egyptian cotton bedsheets to the Apple television and the lovely free-standing bathtub sitting in the middle of my stark white bathroom. It is where I take many long bubble baths while taking in the view of my private garden outside.

As wowed as I am by all the stylish fittings, it is the conscientious service by the hotel's staff that truly leaves a mark. The young team of mostly local Indonesians is always one step ahead of me, anticipating my needs.

I lie down on the pool deck chair for just five minutes and a pool boy hurries over with a basket filled with complimentary bottles of still and sparkling water, cold towels and a refreshing facial mist spray. At night, during turndown service, the resort does a lot more than just provide guests with the typical chocolate mint. Instead, staff members bring me a large pot of steaming hot chocolate and a stack of massive chocolate chip cookies.

You certainly get what you pay for because the exquisite furnishings and ultra-attentive service come at a price. With rooms costing US$645++ for one night in the one-bedroom villa, this is not a cheap getaway.

But when the cost of a comparable luxury resort in say, the Maldives, is upwards of US$2,000, this is a more affordable alternative that is closer to home.

My only problem - if you could even call it that - is how deathly quiet the entire place is. I am told that the hotel is often booked out over the weekends, but during my weeknight visit, I never saw another guest.

Some people will find the solitude liberating, but I am terrible when it comes to entertaining myself, so it feels borderline scary, especially in the late night.

For the world-weary Singaporean traveller craving a truly secluded and indulgent getaway nearby though, this is the place to be.

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•The writer's trip was sponsored by The Sanchaya.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'Luxe retreat close to home'. Print Edition | Subscribe