Looking for a luxury trip somewhere? If jetting off to Bali or Phuket involves time that you don’t have and you’ve done enough staycations, thankfully, there’s a whole new world in Bintan that could be your well-appointed oyster for a couple of days – and just one hour away from Singapore.

Say hello to the award-winning The Sanchaya.

The Sanchaya Lobby

Sitting pretty on a (still) secluded site on the Lagoi Bay, Bintan, this hidden, 9.6 hectare beachfront estate brought luxury to a whole new level on the nearby Indonesian island when it opened three years ago. Meaning “collection” in Sanskrit, The Sanchaya is perhaps owner Natalya Pavchinskaya’s way of gathering the things she love in one place, thus realising a vision of a home away from home for herself – and sharing that dream come true with guests as well. Boasting 21 villas and nine suites, the architecture of the property is inspired by European salons of the 18th and 19th centuries while seamlessly integrating Southeast Asian references; think black-and-white panel work, Peranakan tiles, Chinese-style cabinets, and the use of traditional materials.

Reception

It’s safe to say that The Sanchaya experience started even before we left this side of the water. Upon checking in for the ferry at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, we received a thoughtful welcome package of their signature ginger honey rock candy and luggage tags for your bags (yep, they’ll get it for you on the other side). It’s a lovely gesture that helps mentally prepare you for the holiday so that you can enjoy it to the fullest.

The Sanchaya’s VIP Lounge at Bandar Bentan Talani Ferry Terminal

The moment we stepped off the ferry, we were whisked to the express custom clearance queue and then ushered into their very own VIP Lounge equipped with private bathrooms as well as an assortment of coffee, tea, and dried fruit to accompany the check-in process of the resort. When that’s done and the bags are out (the wait is longer during peak travel season), a private car will be waiting to take you to The Sanchaya less than 15 minutes away.

The landscaped garden anchored by a fountain, with a backdrop of the striking Great House, catches the eye when the vehicle pulls up in the driveway. And once we walked through the lobby furnished with white marble tables, dark lacquer wood chairs and chandeliers, we started to feel the magic of The Sanchaya when the corridor opened to a large water feature framed by palm trees on the beach beyond the infinity pool.

Rooms

We were recommended the Lawan Thai Villa. The cluster of seven Thai-inspired villas are situated away from the main complex for more privacy – thus the residents are mostly sedate couples instead of families – and are emphatically named after emblematic flowers of Southeast Asian nations. We were in Ratree (the Thai name of the night blooming jasmine), whose 54 square metres (581 square feet) of space is supplemented by a spacious verandah complete with patio furniture that overlooks the lagoon.

Under the wooden Thai-style roofing of the bedroom, a romantic super king size four poster bed might dominate the space, but you’ll notice the understated art amidst the neutral, crisp, and earthy tones with polished parquet flooring. All amenities in the villa are plush – think 464 thread count Egyptian cotton linen, Bang & Olufsen television and sound system, an iPad stocked with a wide selection of movies, Ronnefeldt teas and Malongo espresso, and even a private wine friggie. The Sanchaya also adopts the maxi-bar concept, where juices and even Bintang beer are complimentary.

The bathroom continues the sophisticated, minimalist interior design with more monochrome of white marble and dark wood, with a free-standing, claw-footed Lefroy Brooks bathtub that is totally worth luxuriating in.

Food & Beverage

As drinks-loving people, it’s natural that The Bar was the first outlet we checked out. A hat tip to the salons and gentlemens’ clubs of the colonial times, the bar is rather masculine with burnish brown chesterfield sofas and balloon chairs, as well as barrels for aging spirits scattered around the room. The back shelves hosted a curated selection of premium spirits – some brands you’ll recognise include Monkey 47 gin, Ciroc vodka, and Diplomatico rum.

Cocktails are certainly pricier here than at most of the hotel bars in Singapore given the high-end house spirits and the 300% tax slapped on alcohol in Indonesia. So while the Sanchaya Island Julep (Rp. 297k) and table-side served Vesper Martini (Rp. 350k) would have cost a pretty penny, we also daresay that these are the best cocktails on the island. There is plenty of effort in ensuring the tipples have depth, such as using barrel aged rum – they have a mini solera system – and in the execution, as was evident from the table-side served martini. The Bar also has a shisha selection (something that’s currently banned in Singapore, I should add) and a cigar collection to explore.

We have to say that The Dining Room makes crossing the compound to go to breakfast a far more attractive affair. The light-filled space features a small Continental buffet line-up and one live noodle station during the first mealtime of the day, on top of a large list of a la carte mains to try as well. While you’re pondering your options, an artisan (the term used to refer to member of the staff) will swing by with the jamu, a traditional Indonesian herbal medicine made from ingredients like ginger, turmeric, and aromatic galangal.  

With an Italian Executive Chef and an Indonesian Sous Chef, it’s no wonder that the menus at the restaurant (even breakfast) borrow from influences around the globe. Take for example the Bo Ne (Vietnamese steak and eggs), which saw minute steak sizzling on a hot plate in soy sauce, topped with a sunny side egg and grilled tomato, and the well-fried, quintessentially Indonesian Mee Goreng. For a more Western-leaning brekkie, the Truffle Scented Eggs are subtly delicious and you can hardly go wrong with a platter of cold cuts (just note that there’s no pork) and cheeses. On chatting with Executive Chef Giacomo on his breakfast rounds, we also learn that the kitchen team grows what herbs and vegetables they can on the property, in a quest for fresher and more sustainable produce.

While breakfast was undoubtedly satisfying, we returned to The Dining Room at lunchtime for their three-course Italian Set Lunch (Rp. 1100k per person), as curated by Executive Chef Giacomo Turzo. One highlight of lunch was the Aubergine Timbale, a cold antipasto of thinly sliced grilled eggplant and cherry tomatoes compote – exceedingly vegetarian but excellent. The Red Snapper Fillet needed a little more seasoning but was firm and flaky; the accompanying sautéed black olive, mushrooms, and vegetables add an eat-clean Mediterranean vibe to the meal.

Recreation

Whiling time away at The Sanchaya is easy since bumming by the infinity pool or on the beach with a book ticks all the boxes of a resort getaway for us. What’s more, they have a well-stocked library furnished in the style of The Bar so you could always read in air-conditioned comfort too. However, if you’re in the mood to indulge and to be indulged, there are wine and cheese tasting sessions at The Decanter held by the estate’s sommelier and a mini art gallery in the on-site boutique. The latter also stocks under-the-radar brands like August Society and MAH MadAboutHue.

The more active can also look forward to a variety of activities such as archery, croquet, Blokart sailing, and even gourmet picnics on the resort’s private yacht.

The Little Things

The devil is in the details, and the artisans at The Sanchaya never failed nor disappointed us once during the stay. They learnt our names and greeted us by them. We were even asked whether we were left- or right-handed so the cutlery is set properly at the table and kept in mind every meal we sat down for. It’s VIP treatment like that that keeps guests returning to The Sanchaya; and if you can afford to splurge, the experience is definitely something to remember.

The Sanchaya is located at Lagoi Bay, Bintan, Riau Islands, Indonesia, p. +62 770 692200, e. reservations@thesanchaya.com.