paradise indeed. this picture pretty much sums it up.
apparently Milton never made it out to Indonesia, because a couple of weeks into our legendary Southeast Asia tour we found paradise there in a big way. the tiny island of Bintan is one of more than 17,500 in the Indonesian archipelago, and conveniently sits just a few miles to the south of Singapore. after restless nights on trains, and days of backpack-laden wandering around hot city centers, a couple of days on a deserted white sand beach was just what we needed. plus, i wanted another stamp in my passport. (in fact, that was the only reason i wanted to go, but i had to sell it to Jill on the grounds that it was only a 45 minute ferry ride away and there was a beach.)
the awesome "turbocat" ferry that took us on the short hop from Tanah Merah in Singapore to Bintan Island, Indonesia--a very beautiful ride across clear blue-green waters. below, upon arriving, we found our old friend the humble durian was equally as discriminated against as it was back in Singapore.
the ferry was one of the huge turbocharged catamarans that seem to be so popular in this part of the world. through large windows we looked out over pristine waters glistening under a beautiful blue-sky, and leaving the Tanah Merah ferry terminal turned exhilarating as we sped into an ocean channel teeming with huge container ships and buzzing speedboats. the trip was brief and we soon found ourselves pulling into a bay whose wooden huts looked like they could have been plucked from the 19th century. going through Indonesian "customs", which was really just a money grab--$20 each for a three day visa, US currency only, please--and arriving at the Nirwana Gardens resort with its "no durian" signs quickly brought us back to the present though, despite the refreshing remoteness and primitive feel of the resort.
the secluded pathways and beach front chalets at Nirwana Gardens. below, one of the diversions in the open-air lobby of the main hotel makes Jill and i feel like queen and king for the day.
there wasn't a whole lot to do on the island, but then that was the point, and for a only couple of days lounging on the beach or in the horizon pool it was pretty much perfect. so we rested and recouped, we ate in the restaurants and we drank the best smoothie concoctions i've ever had at the swim-up bar; we even had our picture taken by the very enterprising barkeep. but all the relaxation threatened to come to a premature close when we were presented with the bill for all this fun and it ran to more than half a million Indonesian Rupiah! all's well that ends well, however, and a quick crunch of the numbers revealed that our two days of splurge had cost only 50 real bucks, so we sailed back to Singapore calm in mind as well as in body. incidentally, while foreign money often feels like play money, nowhere has this been more true than in Indonesia in my experience. i still have a worn 1,000 Rupiah note, small and dirty--and worth about a dime. you wonder why they don't just drop a couple of zeroes to revalue the currency; maybe counting in hundreds of thousands is easier than using decimals? in any case, it's their business, and i feel like we got our money's worth. and i'd definitely use some more to go back and explore more of the paradise that is Indonesia.
Jill and i get our picture taken by the multi-tasking tender of the pool bar at our Bintan Island resort. he also turned out a mean "snowy": Nirwana's smoothies made with ice cream and orange and raspberry juices.