This is the first outing for us where we are bringing Jr. with us. Our trial destination to test your baby’s temper while overseas is Bintan. At least there isn’t a need to negotiate the flight which could be very difficult due to the pressure equalization during flight, causing many babies to cry, some I heard could last the entire flight. How tramatising is that for everyone on board. In order to get back to the old traveling lifestyle, we were going to introducing traveling progressively to our newcomer. We started off with doing staycation to test how both us and the baby can accommodate to different room environment, at Equarius Hotel over at Sentosa. Managed to keep the baby happy and ourselves managing the duties well. So onto stage 2, overseas resort stay.
We chose Bintan Bayan Tree resort for a couple of reasons. First it is reputable brand and therefore should be most comfortable for stressful travelers such as 1st time parents like us. Transportation could be arranged so that we need not be concern with how to move about and focus on taking care of the baby. Secondly, the resort has baby friendly necessities to be rented, things like sterilizer, baby bathing set and cot. These made feeding a little easier. Third and most importantly, there weren’t other options available already since we booked really late and the rooms were mostly fully booked, many like us have taken advantage of the super long weekend of the 2015 Chinese New Year. The popular Club Med and the sister company of Angsana was fully booked. Obviously, this comes with a (hefty) cost as well.
I had taken leave on the eve of Chinese New Year in order to prepare early for the trip while my wife was still on maternity (best time to travel without taking leave). By the time we are done packing, we had a whopping 6 number of luggage/package for a 3D2N stay. Both my wife and I share a backpack for our clothes while others consist of 1 bag for baby (clothes and stuff), one diaper bag (with many bottles), one day trip bag (containing pumps and carrier), 1 stroller and 1 car seat. Loaded everything onto the car and off we drove to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, arriving just past 1 hour before boarding, and parked the car there (maximum parking fee cap at SGD $20/day).
Checked in 2 bags at the counter (and they advised that we should bring up the stroller where people will help us bring up the ferry and not check in since it might get crushed) and proceeded to have lunch at the big but crowded Killiney Kopitiam, where choices were limited. Had to gobble down the fried rice before the baby woke up after napping in the stroller. It was a struggle to negotiate the snaking queue and managing a stroller, a restless baby and the other bags on hand, but the most difficult was to get through the detector where we have to drop all the bags, empty the pockets, push the stroller to the other side and pick up everything again, with hordes of passenger passing through.
Once we were through to the immigrations, it became better. Went to the counter together where we had to scan the thumbprints for the adults while the kid had to pass through. As we have purchased the Emerald Class seats (something like the business class for the Bintan Resort Ferries), we then proceeded to the lounge on the immediate right hand side. Again, there were other choices as the economy tickets were all fully booked for that time slot of 2pm and no more tickets till after 8pm.
Baby started to fuss after we entered the lounge and there were many people in there, all waiting for boarding for the same ferry. Successfully calm him down by walking him around within and outside the lounge (there was a door to the hot weather outside) and feeding him with milk (important to keep the milk supply in the carry on bag). The boarding time wasn’t on time as the ferry came back late and the passengers in the normal seats were boarding first (exceptional since Emerald class was supposed to have priority booking), so my wife brought the baby to the restroom (where there is a changing pad) to change his diapers. The call for boarding came soon after and eventually we were the last to board, with quite a bit of walking from the lounge to the ferry. It was easier though since people were available to help with the barang barang and the stroller. I had to fold the stroller myself since the people weren’t familiar and brought the car seat up to the 2nd floor of the
Emerald class where the baby can sit inside it, placed on an individual seat between me and my wife.
Some say that babies enjoy ferries trip since the up and down motion of the ferry on the sea makes a baby sleepy. That was true to a certain extent but mine wanted to fuss before going to sleep. Before he made a huge ruckus, I carried him and walked and rocked him a bit before he felt asleep. Put him back into the car seat where he slept till we got off the ferry. There was a free soft drink or mineral water for those in the Emerald class on top of the supposedly more spacious seat and the priority boarding.
Priority in getting off the ferry was a gift for us as it was easier to be ahead of the crowd that could get a little rowdy. It also meant that we were first few to clear immigrations and get on with our journey quicker. Baby slept through immigrations, and luggage claim and even at the waiting area that Bayan tree had for guests. Though we had arranged for a private transfer, we had to wait about 10mins for it to arrive before it was a 5 mins drive from the terminal to the resort. The driver was wary of the sleeping baby and drove smoothly and slowly over the many road humps within the resort.
Once at the Banyan Tree resort, we were brought to the library to do the check in, where every guest was being served with the paper work brought to them. While we waited, we were some gingerly drink, not so tasty. After the signing of the papers, we were brought to our villa using buggy. We tried asking for late check out (as wife needs to use the facilities before boarding the ferry back) but as expected, we were told that they were fully booked. Travel about the resort would require buggy most of the time since villa were isolated and to get to the restaurants was a bit of distance. However, buggies were readily available upon call.
The villas were built on slopes and there was a stairway down to the main door of ours from the main road. Climbing up and down that flight of steps was challenging with the amount of luggage we have but it was ok with help from the porter. The first door of the villa led to a small garden/compound before a 2nd door to the main villa. This reminded me of a temple, whereby the front door had a small stepover.
As we entered the villa, we were impressed by the spa like design of the villa, nice wooden furniture with warm dim lighting and also some scent incense for use. The bed was a little high to climb up onto. It faced a majestic view of the South China sea with a constant cool sea breeze blowing about. There was a huge open balcony that had a small dip pool and a sun bed and a spacious area that had a table with 2 chairs, good enough for tea.
During booking we have requested for some baby items to be prepared but unfortunately it wasn’t ready at the time of our arrival. We had to make constant calls to get sterilizer, cot (which we didn’t use as it was too deep), diapers (Drypers that we didn’t trust), bathing tub and accessories. The milk warmer was a struggle to arrange as the staff wasn’t sure what it was and never came. Spent some time in the villa, enjoying the sea breeze and waiting for my wife before it was time for dinner.
The buggy came soon as we called for it. We brought the stroller and the car seat along so that we could place the baby inside it while we have dinner at Treetop restaurant, the main restaurant in the resort. It was empty when we were there and remained so till we were almost done. Jr. was napping in the stroller for some time until he woke up for milk where we had prepared some bottled milk to feed him. Ala Carte dinner wasn’t particularly tasty, and we were left disappointed with the Otah, thinking it would taste about the same as the ones in Singapore. Not to mention the hefty price tag that came with it. The staff helped to call for the buggy as I trudged the stroller up the stairs.
Night had fallen and as we arrived at the villa, the stairway was in complete darkness. Seemed like lighting have broken down and the staff said that they would get engineering to look at it. In the meantime, I had to navigate using phone light with all the barang barang.
The milk bottle warmer was delivered but not working. We called the reception and they delivered another sterilizer. Then we called a second time and they said they had to check but didn’t get back to us. Some time later, we called only to be told that they do not have another one. We made do with the disfunctional one by manually boiling water to warm up the bottles.
As I took a shower, I noticed that the water pressure wasn’t consistent and the rain shower wasn’t able to sustain due to this. The water temperature wasn’t hot too but since I wasn’t using the tub, it didn’t occur to me as a major concern.
Since it was the eve for Chinese New Year, some treats we delivered to the room while we were away for dinner. But we didn’t dare to take these chocolate/sweet treats as there was an ant standing on it, which was a real turn off. They also gave a red packet with 2 chocolate golden coins, interesting way of mark the day but no thanks to the ants, we left everything untouched.
Spent the whole night in the villa itself, perpetually busy with entertaining the little one and feeding him with cleaning his feeding bottles and freezing the milk in the little bar fridge punctuated with watching some satelite programs on TV before going to bed, with the familiar routine of interupted sleep and night feeding. As Jr. wasn’t quiet all the time, it was great that the villa wasn’t close to the next one, and thus there weren’t complaints of him being too noisy when he cried.