Travel writer: Melissa Foo
A year ago, I came to know about Club Med Bintan when one of my teenage idols, Denise Keller (think Channel V days) shared her snapshots of the resort on Instagram. Impressed with what I saw, Club Med became one of my imaginary holiday choices whenever I felt the itch to browse through the web for affordable airfares and hotel promotions.
Fast forward a year later, with some stroke of luck and a sprinkle of fairy dust, I find myself writing this article after being given the amazing opportunity to spend the past four days in Club Med Bintan with my other half.
For non-Singaporeans, you may have only heard of Batam Island and not its neighbour, Bintan Island. Bintan is smaller in population compared to Batam but in terms of accessibility, it is only a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore. Traveling to Club Med Bintan was hassle-free; we departed from KL to Singapore at 7.40 A.M and we had plenty of time to catch the ferry at 11 A.M from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, which is just 10 minutes away from Changi Airport. Due to the 1 hour time difference, we managed to arrive at the resort by 11.30 A.M local time; this meant that we still had a full day to ourselves which always gives us a false sense of accomplishment.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Youssef, the Resort Manager/ Village Chief (chef de village) himself and thereafter, other Club Med staff members who are called “GOs”, or Gentils Organisateurs (Gracious Organizers); most notably Hafiz who gave us a quick tour to our room and explained the resort’s itinerary for the next few days.
If you’re not familiar with Club Med’s culture and language, the resort is also known as a village. Customers and clients are “GMs”, or Gentils Membres (Gracious Members). One of the most defining features of Club Med is the communal-based participation of activities and games, facilitated by the GOs aiming to amp up the holiday experience. This concept was foreign to us as this was our first Club Med vacation, but we quickly saw the appeal of the all-inclusive packaged resort stay which includes accommodation, free-flow of food and drinks (alcoholic & non-alcoholic), sports facilities, games, shows, and various activities for both adults and kids.
After checking into our room, we headed to The Waterfall Main Restaurant which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were overwhelmed by the wide selection of the buffet, serving both local and international cuisine. Not forgetting the attention on the detailing involved in the plating and presentation of various dishes at each station or “corner”. Taste-wise, we were not disappointed and with the menu varying daily, we found ourselves looking forward to each meal; putting us very much at risk of overeating.
We were spoilt for choice when it came to activities as Club Med’s signature annual wellness event “Body and Soul” was also being organised (from 5th-28th May 2017) and coincided with our trip, on top of the resort’s existing activities. This is where we found the Club Med app to be extremely helpful in pre-planning our daily itinerary.
The theme for the Body and Soul programme was based on 4 Colours for the span of 4 days – Yellow (Rejuvenation), Red (Energy), Green (Balance) and Purple (Revitalisation). The daily programme varied depending on the theme and guests were free to select from a range of activities (beach yoga, meditation, Zumba, boxing, Aqua Gym, pilates, etc.) suitable for all ages and delivered by international fitness and wellness instructors. In line with this, there was also a fresh juice bar which also doubled up as a beach bar; as well as a gourmet area in the main restaurant, which catered to the colour theme.
We heeded Youssef’s advice to wake up early in the morning to enjoy the island in its full glory as it had been raining like clockwork at 12 P.M sharp every day for a good few hours. There are four main Water Sports activities offered at the village – kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing and wind surfing. We managed to try all except for wind surfing over the next few days.
Paddle boarding is a definite “must try”, also proving to be one of the major attractions at the beach. Beginners like us were thrilled to be able to even stand afloat for more than a minute, thanks to the calmness of the sea.
Other sports and activities include archery, golf, flying trapeze, tennis, squash, badminton, basketball, volleyball, water polo, table tennis, and daily classes for yoga, cardio, and pilates. For those who prefer to relax, there is a Spa with massage or treatment services available at extra cost.
On our second night, we had dinner at the smaller and more intimate À la carte “La Terrasse Specialty” restaurant which requires booking in advance, prior to one day. The dinner menu is fixed with free-flow of drinks, unless you’re ordering premium items like champagne. The quality of the food was decent and comparable to the Main Restaurant.
After dinner, we headed to Santai Bar situated next to the swimming pool where the GOs and GMs can drink and dance together, in what they call The Club Med Dance, Les Crazy Signs – led by the Village Chief and GOs themselves. This is a twice-daily occurrence, where the GOs will initiate the dance in their brightly coloured attires and pumping dance music. The dress code for each night was “Floral & White”, “Elegant” and “Black & Glow” which we tried our best to comply with.
By the end of day two, I was convinced that we were part of an all-day/all-night long party, with entertaining games and energy levels that are impossible to fake. One of the highlights of our trip was the evening show, especially “Circus Night”. It was remarkable to see the GOs transform into acrobats, dancers and singers complete with full make up and costume design. The show was followed by the “Black & Glow” party, which is apparently one of the more popular themed parties at Club Med. GOs with face paint and glow sticks ready to be handed out to guests are just one of the many little touches that go a long way in this place.
Being in the village, you can almost fool yourself into thinking that life is perfect when you are surrounded by smiling and tanned Club Med staff. I wouldn’t even be surprised if that was a pre-requisite to becoming a GO. Jokes aside, we were truly in awe of the Club Med culture which was evident from the driver who picked us up, to the various staff we’ve met at the beach, restaurant, bar, waiters, cleaners and last but not least the Village Chief himself. Every single person was genuinely passionate about the Club Med lifestyle and guests can definitely learn a thing or two from the exemplary work ethic demonstrated by all staff.
Club Med was founded in 1950 based on a simple philosophy: “The aim in life is to be happy. The place to be happy is here. And the time to be happy is now.” It’s phenomenal to see the spirit live on 67 years after its inception. Special mention to Novian, Ashleigh, Alex, Hafiz, Adi, Jessica, Bella, Yulia, Didi, Wisnu, Dolfi, Wayan and Youssef whom we’ve had the delight of sharing our first Club Med experience with.
To find out more about Club Med Bintan, visit the official website here.
Melissa Foo is a glorified Quality Assurance Manager with a not-so-enviable 9-5 job, who still dreams of being an urbanite once in a while. She kills her time experimenting in the kitchen, inconsistently practicing yoga, and discovering obscure movies. Occasionally, she and her husband travel for leisure to make up for lost time in the future (when life gets more serious and you wish you had travelled more).
P/S: She is also a walking Shazam.
Find her on Instagram @mellymellyfoo