Its name means ‘the collection’ in Sanskrit, and luxury hotel The Sanchaya draws on no fewer than 10 Southeast Asian countries as the inspiration for its colonnade-fronted buildings, sprawling grounds and dramatic, dark wood-accented decor. This boutique hotel’s ethos is rooted firmly in its heritage, from the traditional batik-print staff uniforms, to the Thai street food-influenced restaurants and Balinese-themed spa. Kick back in your gable-roofed, bamboo-clad villa – pencil in some time to practise the downward dog on your in-room yoga mat – before exploring the grounds: there’s a croquet lawn, an Olympic-sized pool with submerged day-beds and a high-tech gym with private personal trainers. Don’t mind if we do…
Get this when you book through us:
Pre-dinner canapés for two and a table-side cocktail each, shaken up at your bar or dinner table (once a stay)
Noon. Earliest check-in, 2pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £578.76 (IDR11,035,805), including tax at 21 per cent.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast; express immigration; ferry terminal shuttle transfers.
The bath products in your room are made using michelia alba, also known as ‘the temple flower’, a type of magnolia that has long been used in Indonesia for its skin-calming properties.
At the hotel
Private beach, pool, spa, gym, yoga pavilion, croquet lawn, laundry service, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: Bang & Olufsen TV (with Apple TV), iPad loaded with free films and music, iPod dock, air-conditioning, minibar, tea- and coffee-making kit, free bottled water, walk-in wardrobe, yoga mat, personalised stationery, natural bath products, beach bag, wine fridge and welcome chocolates.
Our favourite rooms
We love the super-spacious Sanchaya Suite, decorated in chic shades of cream and caramel. Each room has an enormous private veranda with padded sunloungers and a guaranteed view of the sea. The bamboo-clad, one-bedroom villas in the Lawan Village are ideal for privacy-seeking couples: looking out over a man-made lagoon, each one has a king-size bed draped in romantic, white-linen hangings.
The 50-metre-long, salt-chlorinated infinity pool – known as the ‘Tasanee Pool’, which translates as ‘beautiful view’ in Thai – is aptly named: it’s situated in front of the main building and overlooks the South China Sea. Waiters will bring you snacks served tempo doeloe – in a hanging basket suspended from a pole, as is typical in Asia – while you laze in the sunshine. The pool even has submerged chaises longues in its shallow wading section, so you can cool off without the exertion of actually swimming…
The Sanchaya Spa has a choice of indoor and outdoor treatment rooms (in case you can’t bear to miss a minute of the sunshine). Treatments use all-natural Sodashi products: try a massage with heated volcanic stones or the signature Samadara ultimate age-defying facial, which includes a rose-quartz-crystal massage, for fresh dewy skin. There’s also a high-tech gym open round the clock, with personal trainers on hand to help hone your technique.
Silk pyjamas for in-room lounging are a must; pack your best sarongs and beachwear labels for posing by the infinity pool.
The hotel’s public areas and the villas are wheelchair-accessible, but the suites aren’t suitable for guests with mobility issues.
Little Smiths of all ages are welcome at the Sanchaya and there’s plenty for them to do. Extra beds can be added to the Sanchaya Suite and Two-Bedroom Villa; under-12s stay free if sharing with their parents, but breakfast is $35USD for over-6s.
Although at first glance it may seem like a couples’ retreat, the Sanchaya is very accommodating of children of any age and there’s plenty for them to do.
If you’ve a larger brood, book Leelawadee, which has three bedrooms (each one in a separate villa) and a semi-private pool. Or, some of the Junior Suites in the main house can accommodate extra beds and have direct access to the beach.
Once you’ve exhausted pool-splashing and lawn-exploring, borrow bikes and helmets from the hotel (over-15s only) and pedal your way around the grounds (there’s some child-seat availability for little ones). The sky’s the limit in terms of organised activities, so just ask for what you’d like: the hotel can arrange treasure hunts, and so on. There’s also a small sandpit for tiny tots and a croquet lawn for older children.
Both restaurants have a children’s menu and are happy to heat up baby food for guests. The bar serves child-friendly food, from burgers and chips to hot dogs and spaghetti.
Babysitters are available for US$20 an hour, for a minimum of one hour. One babysitter can look after up to two children or one infant. Booking requires at least 24 hours’ notice; charges increase by 50 per cent after midnight.
No need to pack
The hotel can supply iPads, arts and crafts materials, board games, puzzles, baby cots and highchairs.
Ask for a table by the pool at the Tasanee Grill; sit beside the French doors in the Dining Room and you’ll get a spectacular view of the sea.
Go for chilled-out holiday style (think jeans, flowing kaftans and flat sandals for girls; chinos and loose-collared shirts for guys). Bring a shawl if you’re dining at the Tasanee Grill, as evenings alfresco can feel cool.
The Sanchaya has two restaurants: the Dining Room (which is open all day) and the Tasanee Grill, which serves moonlit dinners beside the pool. The former has a beamed ceiling and antique wooden cabinets lining the walls; rattan chairs, linen curtains and French windows create a light and airy atmosphere. Giacomo Turzo whips up a menu of seafood-packed bouillabaisse, five-spiced pork belly, ikan asam pedas melayu (fish cooked with tamarind, ginger and pineapple) but the real star is the Wagyu beef tenderloin. Don’t forget to order dessert: the homemade, locally flavoured ice-creams (black sesame, coconut) and the coconut cake with pandan sauce are both fitting finales. At the Tasanee Grill, the Thai street food-style menu has all the usual suspects, including som tum and tom yum goong. If you’re into seafood, try the pla phao (sea bass), lobster, or one of the signature barbecue dishes.
With its hooded leather chairs, assorted antiques (spot the binoculars, trumpets, clocks and telescopes) and high-gloss finish, the bar at the Sanchaya is as slick as the cocktails. The barkeeps can mix up something sippable using your favourite tipple, but there are also a few house favourites to choose from: the signature Bintan chilli-pineapple margarita has a spicy kick (although this can be adjusted to your taste), but the lychee fizz and honey- and passionfruit-laced sidecar go down a treat too. Oenophiles will delight at the long-as-your-arm wine list; cigar-lovers’ jaws will drop at the selection of finest Cubans. There’s also a snack menu of smoked chorizo, mezze platters and crisp grissini – and caviar, for extra special occasions – to keep tummy-rumbles at bay. The bar is also open for afternoon tea – bag a spot on the veranda for sea-views with a tray of home-baked pastries. The Salon and Library next door has shelves stacked with books: curl up on one of the cherry-red chesterfields with a drink and novel in hand.
The Dining Room is open from 7am–10pm (breakfast is served until 10.30am) and the Tasanee Grill opens for dinner from 6pm–10pm. The bar pours its last drink at 2am. The Salon and Library is open from 10am–2am.
The room service menu is available 24 hours (though it’s more limited between 11pm and 7am). Options include burgers, salads, smoked salmon, spaghetti carbonara and beef carpaccio, as well as several dishes for kids.
Jalan Gurindam Duabelas, Plot 5 Lagoi Bay P. Bintan, Kep Riau
Set in verdant, beachfront gardens, the Sanchaya is situated on the northern coast of Bintan, a short ferry ride from Singapore.
Fly to Changi Airport in Singapore (British Airways operates regular flights; www.britishairways.com), then take the ferry to Bintan. Alternatively, go to Raja Haji Fisabilillah International Airport in Tanjung Pinang, Bintan’s largest town. Singapore Airlines (www.singaporeair.com), Garuda Indonesia (www.garuda-indonesia.com) and KLM (www.klm.com) are the most reliable carriers, offering flights from Europe and North America. Sanchaya is just over an hour’s drive from the airport; transfers can be arranged on request (for an extra charge).
You can hire a car from the airport if you’re determined, but we recommend you rely on Sanchaya’s top-notch transfer service. Valet parking is free at the hotel.
Three ferry routes operated by various companies (Bintan Resort Ferries (www.brf.com.sg), Sindo Ferry (www.sindoferry.com.sg) and Mozaic Ferry Lines) run between Singapore and Bintan. Book via www.directferries.com for up-to-date prices. The hotel operates a free shuttle service to and from the ferry terminal, a 15-minute drive away; transfers in a private car can be arranged from US$50 each way for up to two guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
By day, lounge beside the pool or on the private beach, get involved in the free outdoor yoga classes, play croquet or channel your inner Katniss Everdeen with archery lessons. Pétanque and boccia can be played onsite too.You can book mangrove tours and sightseeing through the hotel. By night, schedule a wine- and cheese-tasting session in the estate's cellar, where you’ll sample manchego, raclette and gorgonzola with an extensive collection of wine and champagne (US$145 a person). If you fancy testing your credit limit, the Sanchaya’s on-site boutique sells under-the-radar brands such as August Society (for sexy swimwear), and MAH MadAboutHue (beachy kaftans and silk scarves). Beyond the estate, the activities concierge can organise almost anything: get a bird’s-eye view of the bay by taking to the skies in an open-cockpit seaplane ride; tee off at the island’s various golf clubs; or take advantage of the deep blue briny sea with snorkelling and scuba diving. Don’t miss a cruise along the Sebung River, where you’ll have an excellent view of the mangrove forests, home to macaques and silvered leaf monkeys. After an exhilarating day of exploring request the signature bath ritual: sink into a claw-foot bath tub imbibed with salts and select from a menu of accompanying morsels that includes chocolate, cheese, single malt and champagne.
The Kelong Seafood Restaurant at the Nirwana Gardens hotel serves… well, you’ve probably guessed it: seriously fresh seafood. You’ll dine on lobster and crab (with a multi-coloured cocktail to hand) on a bale-covered deck over the sea, accessed by a long jetty, as the waves lap beneath. Baan Aarya is a smaller, quieter restaurant, surrounded by a botanical garden that provides the herbs and spices for the classic Indonesian dishes. For a modern, Thai-inspired menu, head to Saffron at the Banyan Tree hotel: dark wood, moody lighting and red-chiffon drapes make for a sensual atmosphere.
Mr Smith and I have one objective for this weekend away: relaxation. And we were drawn to Indonesia’s Sanchaya for its proximity to our home in Singapore – it’s a quick 50-minute ferry ride to the resort on Bintan Island, which meant we wouldn’t need to fly anywhere. No jet lag or lengthy immigration queues required. What we didn’t realise was that as guests of the Sanchaya, we’d skip those queues altogether.
On arrival at the ferry terminal in Bintan, a representative from the resort awaits us with the requisite signboard, before whisking us through a VIP bag check and into the Sanchaya’s elegant private lounge inside the terminal. A wet towel and cup of tea are offered as a smiling staff member disappears with our passports – I later realise she was clearing immigration on our behalf, and checking us into the resort. Then, we’re ushered out of the terminal via a discreet side door, and into a waiting hotel car. The whole process is over in less than five minutes. I raise an eyebrow. ‘This must be what it’s like to be famous’, says Mr Smith.
But we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. At the resort – just beyond the giant white pineapple installation by Southeast Asian artist Kumari Nahappan – we receive a rock star’s welcome from five staff, who greet Mr Smith and I by name. We down a welcome shot (imagine a rock-star-on-detox blend of pineapple and orange juice) before being led on a tour of the property, which feels more like the sprawling estate of a wealthy, well-travelled friend than a resort. Palm trees border the 50-metre infinity pool, which serves as an inviting dividing line between the resort’s colonnaded main buildings and the long stretch of sand that makes up the beachfront.
After surveying the restaurants and library, the well-curated boutique – smaller replicas of Nahappan’s pineapple, among resort wear and other items, are available for purchase – gym and spa, we reach a two-storey abode, the top level of which is ours for the next two nights. While celebrities may be used to the penthouse, Mr Smith and I had opted for an entry-level Junior Suite comprised of a bedroom, bathroom and 20m² private terrace. However, a few weeks earlier, the Sanchaya team had emailed to ask if we were celebrating a special occasion, and as it happened, Mr Smith and I were marking 10 years together. You can see where this is headed. We were upgraded to a spacious Sanchaya Suite nearly double the size of the Junior, with the added bonus of a living room.
The décor is a sophisticated melange of dark wood furniture, parquetry floors, white drapery and Egyptian cotton linens, punctuated by Southeast accents such as framed textiles and maps of the region. The rooms are so beautifully appointed, Mr Smith and I start photographing corners as inspiration for an upcoming renovation we’re planning at home. But the pièce de résistance, believe it or not, is the bathroom. Handmade ceramic tiles lead to the room’s centrepiece, a Lefroy Brooks claw-foot bathtub, which is stocked with fragrant Aesop toiletries in combinations such as orange rind and pink grapefruit, or bergamot mint, cedarwood and lavender.
Smelling like we’ve had a romp through a herb garden, Mr Smith and I arrive at the open-air yoga deck just before 8.30am the next morning for a free hatha class. A warm, salty breeze dances around us as we move through downward facing dogs and into tree poses. Feeling limber and energised, we float to the Dining Room for breakfast on the veranda, where the unhurried service allows us to linger over the view of the pool and ocean. However, the petite serving size of an otherwise lovely bubur ayam (rice congee with shredded chicken) sends me to the buffet to fill up on pastries and fresh fruit.
Unfortunately, the saying ‘When in Rome…’ falls a little short at The Dining Room. When Mr Smith and I order Indonesian favourites sate campur (beef, lamb and chicken satay skewers) and rendang minang (beef rendang) from what is a menu of predominantly Western fare, we are underwhelmed by both the ingredients and the flavours. Perhaps it was an off day. However, the open-air Thai Tasanee Grill at the end of the pool better meets expectations of a resort of this calibre, so it’s a shame it only opens for dinner. Our tip: order the moreish tod mun khao pod (crispy fried corn cake with mango sweet chilli dip).
In between meals, the Sanchaya offers an extensive list of activities, from croquet and stand-up paddle boarding to wine tastings or boat tours of the nearby mangroves. However, the lure of the infinity pool is too strong, and Mr Smith and I succumb to two lounge chairs under an umbrella. While we had planned to swim at the beach, we were dissuaded by a note in our room that warned of oil and tar washing up on the shore. But when a pool attendant delivers a picnic basket containing two glass bottles of still and sparkling water, sunscreen, after-sun lotion and the cocktail menu, our decision to spend the day poolside is reaffirmed. Regrets? We have none.
We leave only when our spa appointment beckons. In the serene confines of a wooden hut, surrounded by tropical gardens, we choose from six customised chakra massage oils, before being kneaded into blissful oblivion in the traditional Balinese style. Living in Southeast Asia, Mr Smith and I know a good Balinese massage from a bad one. The Sanchaya’s was the best we’ve experienced anywhere. Relaxed? We are 50 minutes from Singapore, and a world away from cares.