The Sanchaya, Bintan, Indonesia | HOTEL REVIEW

INTRODUCTION TO THE SANCHAYA

A beachfront resort in Lagoi Bay, Bintan (Indonesia), a short 1-hour ride from Singapore, The Sanchaya is a cute surprise: designed like a colonial estate fronting a surprisingly pristine beach.

Date of stay: May 2018
Room:  Lawan Thai Villas, Ratree
Reviewed by: Chinmoy Lad

Enjoy exclusive Virtuoso benefits when you book this resort. Email clad@zebranotravel.com

PHOTOS AND VIDEOS by CHINMOY LAD

WHAT I LOVED

  • Location. Most people going to Singapore or the region, especially for the first time, are going to give Bintan a miss. By itself, it’s not an incredible island worth visiting. Having said that, if you live in/around/near Singapore or frequently visit Singapore (but have already done Bali, Lombok, Borobudur, other Indonesian islands), then it’s time to stop going to Bali every year and maybe try something new? Even if it is your first time to Singapore and you have a couple of spare nights (but don’t want to bother with the hassle of flights), then a couple of nights at Bintan might just be the trick. Essentially, the convenience factor is a huge plus.
  • Arrival and check-in. Your arrival process begins as soon as you disembark from the ferry at Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal, where you’re greeted by a Sanchaya staff member and guided through the immigration/customs formalities. The Sanchaya’s lounge at the ferry terminal provides the waiting point to complete resort check-in formalities with refreshments, while you wait for the car to be prepared to take you to the resort.
  • Design. From the entrance through to the main areas and pool, the entire estate feels like the (rather large) holiday home of a very wealthy friend, a throwback to the 18th or 19th century. The design exudes the look and feel of a colonial plantation in the Caribbean with white, light and dark woods all coming together, and tiled floors reminiscent of art deco design.
  • Rooms. The rooms in and around the main structure carry on the elegant colonial vibe of the main areas, with white woods dominating. Rooms in the main structure feature sweeping views, while just flanking the main structure are multi-bedroom villas. The Lawan Villas are darker and feature more wooden tiling and floors. Rooms are spacious, with Lawan Villas starting at 67 sqm/721 sqft with the outdoor living space, while the entry level rooms (Junior Suite) in the main building are slightly smaller, but with enlarged terraces, and the Sanchaya Suite has a larger outdoor verandah and separate living space.
  • Beach. For a resort only an hour from Singapore, this is a pristine beachfront, featuring powder soft, fine, white sand. There are plenty of lounging options from sunloungers to elegantly-styled bales (that could do with a bit more shade)
  • Pool. The 50-metre long Olympic-sized main pool is stunning, located just in front of the main building, and frames it perfectly.
  • Breakfast. There’s a good breakfast spread available, hot items made to order and a small buffet station that’s actually quite ample for the resort’s key count, featuring cold cuts, cereal options, a noodle station and pastries and desserts. The breakfast was consistently good throughout our stay.
  • Art. Art plays a key role in the property’s image, with the estate owner Natalya Pavchinskaya’s collection dotted throughout with pieces from Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and more scattered across the estate. The estate continues to promote art through regular collaborations with local and international artists.
  • Library. This is one of the most stunning libraries I’ve ever been in, extending into the wine and cheese room (PERFECT!). The library is designed like a salon, reminiscent of exclusive clubs of yore, with two plush reddish-brown leather sofas.

POINTS TO NOTE

  • Sea. While the beach is beautiful, this is still in relative proximity to urban Singapore and crowded Batam, and the Singapore Strait is a busy route for cargo ships and oil tankers. During our stay, there were warnings on our desk to be wary of oil spills in the sea when swimming. While the beach looked inviting, the water didn’t necessarily.
  • Thai Lawan Villas. We generally loved the rooms at  The Sanchaya, in particular the rooms in the main estate and the villas around it – the interiors are spectacular. However, the Thai Lawan Villas confuse us a little bit. They’re scattered around the lagoon in the back, and personally, we’re never a fan of lagoon-side villas (especially in hot/tropical destinations where mosquitos are aplenty). These villas have no real view, nor a private pool to make up for it. The whole concept also feels distanced and rather disconnected from the otherwise colonial vibe emanating throughout the resort.
  • Service. The service throughout was warm and friendly, and generally pretty good, and we did not have any major incidents of service failure – we were happy with the service. However, with such a boutique property and with rates to match the very best in Asia, we did expect better and more attention to detail:
    • On a couple of occasions, housekeeping did not restock all the toiletries in the bathroom. We had to ask for toiletries to be replenished as they were left empty, and also to provide more (in a tropical destination where one is likely to shower multiple times along with a nice bath, two tiny AESOP plastic bottles of shower/bath gel just don’t cut it).
    • The beach basket is a wonderful touch, but it was always served with still and sparkling water – despite being asked on Day 1 upon check-in whether we drink still or sparkling (and answering still accordingly)
    • On one morning, after an hour of (attempting to learn) bicycling in the heat (which the staff were aware of), we went to the beach to get some refreshments and cool off. I asked for two coconuts, and two cold waters. I had to remind the team twice about my order, because they were seemingly busy carving the top of the coconuts to make them look pretty. Coconuts finally arrived 15 minutes later (and the basket with waters another couple of minutes later), and there was still no water. You’d expect the staff to be aware of our previous activity, and to realise that we probably wanted something quite quickly to quench our thirst. While we do appreciate the effort gone into making the coconut look pretty, we would have much preferred a drink (whether coconut or water) to be served ASAP. The team was usually good about bringing out the baskets with water and refreshments in a timely manner.
  • Maintenance. For a resort that is just about three years old, the maintenance is surprisingly poor. In particular, doors, shutters and screens in the villas (including, surprisingly, in the presidential Vanda Villa) are misaligned or function poorly (do not smoothly open up). There is also considerable wear and tear in the furnishings, even accounting for the aged/colonial look that the Sanchaya is clearly going for.
  • Apple TV. Having Apple TV in the room was great, as included in it was a whole load of movies that were pre-downloaded to a tablet, connected with the TV. Unfortunately, this was only theoretical rather than practical as the connection between the device provided and the TV was extremely poor, cutting out every 5 minutes, despite multiple attempts from the staff to fix it. In the end, we resorted to watching the movie in bed on the tablet which isn’t ideal at all. Coming across some rainy days, having a proper connection to the TV would have worked wonders.
  • Food and pricing. We found the food to be quite exorbitantly priced (in comparison to some of the more established luxury hotel chains or boutique hotels). However, the general portions are also very filling, so adjust for that in your orders. Overall, the food at the resort was quite good although it could definitely have done with more refinement upon presentation.
  • Spa. We actually really enjoyed our spa, it was a very, very nice massage. However, for a resort with ample space to build and implement, the rooms are surprisingly functional rather than extravagant, even in the couples spa room that we were in.
  • Activities and excursions and pricing. There are a series of complimentary activities and excursions on offer (paddle boarding, cycling etc) but similarly, we found the pricing of the activities to be rather exorbitant (IDR 1,000,000++ per person for a wine and cheese pairing) in comparison to some of the more established luxury hotel chains or even boutique hotels.

GENERAL INFORMATION AND GETTING THERE

  • The Sanchaya is a short 10-15 minute ride away from Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal in Bintan. Bintan is an approximate 1-hour ferry ride from Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal).
  • Booking Emerald Class gets you nicer seats, lounge access at Singapore side (serving basic drinks) and preferential check-in with luggage, boarding and disembarkation and expedited immigration clearance. There is also a lounge at Bintan, but you can sit at The Sanchaya’s lounge instead. Booking Emerald Class is a no-brainer (especially as the price differential isn’t that substantial), but particularly if you are traveling on a weekend or long holiday, with the amount of visitors going to Bintan from Singapore, then it becomes essential.
  • The Sanchaya has a lounge at the ferry terminal in Bintan where formal procedures are completed while you wait for your transfer/ferry.
  • There is a 1-hour time difference between Bintan and Singapore (Bintan is 1-hour behind Singapore time).

HOTEL FACT SHEET

  • LOCATION: Lagoi Bay, Bintan Island, Indonesia
  • OPENED: 2015
  • HOTEL ROOMS: 29
  • RESIDENCE VILLAS: 1
  • RATES FROM: USD 500/night++
    Rates are only an approximation and subject to change and availability

LOCATION

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Special thanks to The Sanchaya for hosting us.