Sometimes it’s nice to get away and take a short break from Singapore with friends you’ve met here. If you don’t know them really well, though, it can be a bit of a leap of faith. See below for advice for enjoying this kind of friends’ weekend away, applicable both to “first-timers” and to existing friends you’d like to keep. Plus, I put my own tips into action during a long weekend in Batam with the EL girls.
I recently took the Expat Living sales team to Montigo Resorts Nongsa on Batam for a girls’ night, and the three-bedroom residences ticked all the boxes. It’s easily accessible by ferry from Singapore, though if you want to add a bit more fun and glamour, splash out and line up a private yacht through Aqua Voyage – it’s called Chilen. Oh, and don’t forget a cooler-bag of “sparkling” and some plastic glasses!
The Montigo residences have a large open-plan living/dining area leading on to a kitchenette and area for a helper to stay – if you want to eat in and are terrible cooks, this is the way to go. If you’re bringing children along, you can take your own babysitter, but do note that the property isn’t practical for younger ones as there are steep steps down to an open pool and a few other no-go areas. Children over six would be fine, though, and it’s perfect for teenagers.
There’s a lovely double bedroom, with large bathroom and balcony on the same level as this living area, as well as a large deck area where we sat out at night under the stars.
Down the steps is a seating area, pool and lounging area, with the master bedroom and a twin bedroom on either side of the pool. All the bedrooms are totally private, though the twin room has glass doors in the bathroom area, so it’s better if you know each other well (or want to know each other better!). Luckily, we’ve known each other for years.
The view across the sea to Singapore is fantastic – we could see Marina Bay Sands most of the time. The immediate area below the pool isn’t finished off so there is still some bare earth, and the beach area is pretty limited at the moment – it’s mainly a small volleyball area near the adult pool.
There are two restaurants: under the reception area is Pantai, which serves Chinese and other Asian dishes – including plenty of fresh seafood options, while Tadd’s is the breakfast place. Tiigo is a new adults’ bar and pool area, and it’s a great spot to hang out and watch the sunset. During the week it opens a little after sunset. There’s another family/kids’ pool and even a kids’ club if you’re travelling with children.
After a late night and a very good breakfast, indulge in a massage at the spa. These are set in traditional huts near the sea. We didn’t get around to doing this as we spent most of the time bobbing about in the pools – the villa one and the public ones.
If you want to be active, there are a couple of fantastic golf courses nearby, and the resort has tennis courts and a gym.
Fancy having all this for yourself? This residence is up for sale at S$1.2 million. You get 60 days to spend there during the year, and the rest of the time it’s rented out and works as an income. Deborah at Expat Realtor has all the details; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for a smooth long weekend with friends…
1.Keep enough space between you and them when needed.
2.Make sure you’re on your own schedule. If they want to go for a run at sunrise, let them do it without waking you up! The same thing applies at the other end of the day when they feel like having that fifth bottle of red under the stars while you’d rather be under the duvet.
3.Try to find accommodation that has a private space where you can hang out together as a group and be loud or stupid without worrying about other guests.
4.Find a place where you can eat and even cook together – it creates good bonding moments.
5.And, it’s so much better if you aren’t sharing bathrooms.
What to pack…
•Couple of bottles of your choice of beverage, plastic glasses (for the boat)
•Crisps, cheese and biscuits; if you want to cook, you can take groceries or ask someone to buy them from Batam town
•Suntan cream, hat, sunglasses
•Golf, gym or tennis gear if you’re feeling energetic
•Swimmers, cool dress for dinner, shorts
•Walking shoes – distances are big, and there are golf buggies to take you around, but it’s sometimes nice to walk
How to get there…
Getting to Batam is easy; the ferry is quick to the Nongsa Pura terminal (close to Montigo) and to other parts of the island. However, the Aqua Voyage option means you get a private waiting area while check-in and customs are done for you, and after immigration you are swept through onto the boat while the visas get sorted. You also have a gorgeous white-leathered living room and upper deck on which to play “millionaires”. And just think of the airfares you’re saving! To book, call 6505 9373.
The trip over is around half an hour, perfect for a couple of drinks – if you’re a fast drinker. Do be careful, though: timing your mouthfuls in the choppy areas takes a bit of practice. We sat up on the top deck for the last 10 minutes of the trip as we cruised into Nongsa Point Marina.
Special tip: do not wear a dress that can blow up over your head as you walk up the ladder to the top deck. It can be very embarrassing for you and for the man standing below helping you! (We won’t mention who this happened to…)