01 August, 2014

Banyan Tree Bintan Part 3 (Final)

Finally, the last part of the Banyan Tree review.

Buffet Breakfast

Like every 5-star hotel, they have a wide spread of food for the buffet breakfast, from cereal, to cold cuts, to breads and pastries, to freshly cooked food:
Dried fruit and cheeses

Porridge and miso soup

They also had fresh pancakes and crepes. I didn't take those small bottles of jam home.
They have my favourite, eggs as you like them. It's outside so I didn't see it at first. You can go and order yourself, or you can also ask the staff to order for you.
A sampling of the hot food they had, including the famous Indonesian mee goreng. You'll notice the white gravy dish in the top picture was what we had for lunch the previous day, in this picture from part 1. Also in that picture from part 1, on the bottom right plate there's a small bowl of ikan bilis/anchovies, which they also had for breakfast.


Ok I gotta be honest, during breakfast we saw a cockroach on the floor. This place is a little too close to nature.

Check-Out

Like check-in, you don't have to queue at a counter. You wait in the library and check-out at a desk. It's convenient because you have time to analyse the bill after charging everything to your room!
Some people complain about, oh, everything's in USD but the final charge to your card is in IDR, so they're earning on the exchange rate. Honestly, if it matters that much to you, maybe you should stay somewhere else. I've been on enough scrimp-and-save "holidays" that I'd much rather not travel than pinch pennies.

During check-out, they'll even liaise with your ferry operator to print your ferry tickets for you! You can get a car transfer to the ferry terminal for USD12.50 one-way, for up to 3 people. I got the impression we could leave at any time, so I think the car is always there.

In conclusion, it was a very relaxing and pampering experience. A little too close to nature (insects, mosquitoes), but beautifully decorated and very friendly staff. I think if you don't leave the resort, 2 nights might be the most before you run out of things to do. Next time I might visit the market, or there are tour companies that operate interesting day-trips (shopping, massage, go-kart, nature walks etc.). Have fun!

31 July, 2014

Spam Companies

I am getting spam email from the following companies. I have never heard of them before, and certainly did not give them my email address. They have dubious business practices. Here are all their details. Name 'em and shame 'em:

Moonriver Singapore
Email from admin@moonriver.com.sg
Site: http://www.moonriver.com.sg/
Singapore Outlet:
Bugis Junction, Unit 02-40
Tampines One, Unit 01-35
HarbourFront Center, Unit 01-93
Plaza Singapura, Unit B1-33 Square2, Unit 01-39
Raffles Place Xchange, Unit B1-66
Malaysia Outlet: Unit F18, No. 1 CityOne Megamall, 93450 Kuching, Malaysia
There's also a link to http://shusingapore.com/ so they're probably related.

ClicPlan Singapore
Email from clicplan-sg@w.clicplan.sg
REWORLD MEDIA Pte Ltd (ClicPlan SG), Registration No: 201228461D
51 Goldhill plaza #12-11 308900 Singapore
members@clicplan.sg
This site uses the funny format 100,00$. Using , for decimals and putting the $ at the end? Is this even a Singapore company?

Tuition SG
Email from noreply@betterbusiness2000.com
Tel: 62977340
www.tuitionportal.info
A .info address? I've only seen those used by Sri Lankan spam.

Michsara Online Boutique
Email from info@michsara.com
http://michsara.com/
rem@link.rm0002.net
773-470-0350
Singapore 738081

Trendy Singapore
Email from enquiry@trendysg.com

I hope their details get harvested and they get hit with more spam than they create.

29 July, 2014

Zoom For Mobile Websites In Safari

http://ios.wonderhowto.com/how-to/re-enable-zoom-for-websites-block-safari-for-your-iphone-0156489/

Mobile sites are great, but for some reason most lose the ability to zoom. This hack creates a JavaScript (I think it's called a "bookmarklet") that re-enables zoom. In case the site moves, create a bookmark with the address:
javascript:document.querySelector('meta%5Bname=viewport%5D').setAttribute('content','width=device-width,initial-scale=1.0,maximum-scale=10.0,user-scalable=1');

Glass Screen Protectors

Old post on screen protectors
The trend now in screen protectors is towards glass screen protectors. I read this Lifehacker article that honestly didn't tell me anything new. It's actually pretty amazing they can make tempered glass so thin.

I'm considering trying them out, mainly for shock protection, glass being more rigid than plastic. They probably can't bend like normal PET screen protectors, so previous techniques of pasting screen protectors may not work. I wonder what happens when they shatter, do pieces of glass fall out?

25 July, 2014

Banyan Tree Bintan Part 2

Activities

What's there to do at the resort? There's the marine activities centre with things like jetskiing and ATV driving. You can borrow bicycles for free from Angsana. I think they have some environmental activities as well. And of course, there's golf (haha, course) - I think that's the primary attraction. We wanted to drive ATVs but when we called, they were all booked. So we took a buggy to Angsana (ATVs and marine activities are all at Angsana):
This is their breakfast restaurant.
A word about Angsana - it's the sister resort by the same company. You can use their facilities if you're staying at Banyan Tree, you can even charge purchases from Angsana to your Banyan Tree room. Angsana is more like a conventional hotel with a big building with many rooms, not villas like Banyan Tree.
Activity wall:
And borrowed bicycles:
We stopped by the activity centre and they had mini-cars available! I think some people canceled. So it's worth going there personally if you really want to ride. Mini-cars are actually easier to drive (more stable, but larger turning radius) than ATVs. View of an ATV from a mini-car:
What happens when you drive is they take you on a route through the forest. It's quite exciting and challenging. WEAR MOSQUITO REPELLENT!
The staff are actually very friendly and offered to take a picture for us, of his own initiative. I really like that about this resort, even the non-front-desk staff are so eager to help. You'll notice they provide helmets - great. It's better if you have your own pair of sunglasses.

Thai Restaurant


Saffron, their signature restaurant, serves Thai food. It's near The Cove, the Mediterranean restaurant, and their main swimming pool. It's really dark inside so it's hard to even see, let alone take pictures.
Like the other places in the resort, they'll surprise you with complimentary things like:
Biscuits/wafers and dip, cold drinks (I think it was lemongrass. Every drink there had lemongrass.) and towels.
Satay

We ordered a pad thai and a platter for 2. I can't remember exactly what the platter had now, but it had spring rolls, soft shell crab, prawn fritters with fried noodles (the noodle thing on the bottom right) and something else. I need to take pictures of the menu. Or write these posts earlier.
They also had a "rice master" (person) and unlimited servings of 4 kinds of rice: I think brown, jasmine, saffron, and er... one more.
Yes, the food was pretty good. The price was similar to other restaurants in the resort - about the same as more expensive restaurants outside. Halfway through the meal, the chef came out and asked if we liked the food.

A word of advice - throughout the resort, they have advertisements for their dining experiences on the beach, at one of the holes on the golf course, etc. In the activity wall picture above, the posts on the left are all about these. While eating at Saffron, we saw a couple actually eating on the beach:
There's a private jetty and they set up a table and have a staff to give you privacy. I thought it sounded very nice, but when you're there, you'll realise something - THERE ARE MOSQUITOES EVERYWHERE. Just standing outside Saffron, I was killing at least one mosquito a minute. So you might be better off eating indoors. If you must, definitely wear insect repellent.

Spa

I was lucky to try out their spa. It's actually not very expensive. Mandarin Oriental, Singapore's spa charges about $3 per minute. Banyan Tree's is about $2, and it's held in a private building, much like a villa, but 2 storeys. They have even cheaper promotional packages so do look for those when choosing your session.
The building is designed like the villas - an outer wall and then the actual building. There's a bridge to the building.
The first level is mostly empty. A counter for the staff, and (I suspect) a bed converted into a sofa with cushions. Once you go in, they'll ask you to store your valuables and ask for your preferences for the fragrances, oils etc.
First, they'll treat you to a foot wash/scrub. They'll actually kneel before you and dry your feet with a towel worn around their waist. I actually felt a bit embarrassed/sorry for them. They're so polite and treat you like royalty. I think we're all just equal humans.
Downstairs is 2 massage tables, at least 3 showers, and the room overlooks the sea (I couldn't see anything because it was at night). Besides massage, each session may have special treatments. Like I had a whole body scrub, and there's also something like a "water massage" with falling water. I thoroughly enjoyed the spa session and was so relaxed after that.

To Be Continued...

21 July, 2014

Fenix UC40 UE Anticipation

After considering several torches, and vacillating between several choices (I don't know why I used vacillating, I didn't even know I knew the word, it just popped into my head), I finally decided on the UC40 (Ultimate Edition). It must be emphasised that I chose the 960 lumen Ultimate Edition (Fenix seems to like making UEs of their torches), not the earlier 420 lumen one. By writing this post while waiting, hopefully I can record my thoughts now and, having less to write when the torch arrives, write the actual review earlier.

When choosing it I already knew it was meant more for convenience and EDC than tactical use. Reasons:
  • No intermittent on
  • Cannot save strobe mode (BUT you can activate it one-handed from any mode, unlike Nitecore's MH2C)
  • Cannot even leave strobe mode on
  • No crenulated/crenelated (there are 2 words! This is becoming an English post!) bezel
However, despite how important tactical features sound, I thought I wouldn't actually use them, and the convenience of USB charging is more important.

I was actually strongly leaning towards Nitecore's P12, which I consider a better torch, but requiring a separate charger made it more expensive and inconvenient to use.

The UC40UE is actually very similar in size, weight and price to Nitecore's MH2C. So why did I choose the UC40UE?
  • MH2C has better waterproofing, with a collar to cover the USB port, while UC40UE only has a silicone plug.
  • MH2C has a removable head - no batteries getting stuck
  • MH2C has dual battery springs
  • MH2C can charge "any" 18650 battery
  • MH2C comes with a clip
However:
  • UC40UE is side-switched
  • the main main reason is, UC40UE can enter strobe mode at any time, on or off, simply by holding down the button. MH2C requires you to twist the top to normal mode, then cycle to strobe mode. If you save strobe mode then use turbo mode, 1) you can only use turbo mode - you can't use, say, low mode then switch to strobe quickly 2) you need 2 hands to turn to strobe mode
  • UC40UE has a lower minimum mode
  • UC40UE comes with a higher capacity battery

Right off, these are the things I don't like about the UC40UE:
  • Can only unscrew the tail cap
  • Plug and switch cover don't seem to be replaceable
  • No crenelations

I bought it from http://www.fenix-store.com/, mainly because they also had the diffuser tip, and they had cheap, simple international shipping. I asked them if they had any belt clips that would fit the UC40UE, since it didn't come with one, and they were very nice and found one for me! Since the torch is a standard 1" diameter, it should be easy to find, but it still saved me the trouble and expense of looking for one.

11 July, 2014

Banyan Tree Bintan Part 1

I recently had a nice stay at Banyan Tree, so here's a review for those considering it.

A bit about the resort: unlike conventional hotels, which are usually big buildings with many rooms, each "room" in Banyan Tree Bintan is an individual structure. Since the rooms are so spread out, the resort occupies a relatively large area and has fewer rooms than most hotels. Here's something useful I couldn't find elsewhere: a map of the resort!
This is useful because for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the difference between the types of rooms were. I stayed in their "Pool Villa Seaview" room (light blue on the map), which was the cheapest, and also furthest from the sea. From the map, the Seafront and On The Rocks rooms were closest to the sea, but it's not clear if they're directly connected to the beach.

Ok, first, "if the buildings are so far apart, isn't it a pain getting around?" No, because there's a 24/7 complimentary buggy service available!
So, from anywhere within the resort, you can make a telephone call for a buggy, and within minutes, there'll be one to drive you around. You can even ask the staff e.g. at a restaurant to make the call for you. They can drive you all the way to Angsana, which is their sister resort, but can't reach the market (I forgot the name) or ferry terminal.

Check-In

I was impressed right from the check-in. Other hotels, even 5-star ones, require you to queue and check-in at a counter. Here, you are invited to wait on a couch at the reception and served with a cold drink and towel:
They even partially tear the straw's wrapper so it's still clean for you! The drink was either ginger or lemongrass, or both, I can't remember.

Since we arrived before check-in time, we went to eat first, leaving our luggage at the reception. We tried their Treetops restaurant, which I think of as the "main" restaurant, because it serves the buffet breakfast. At other times it serves Indonesian food. We tried a 2-person sampler, which came with meat:
And 2 servings of rice:
Combined:
I think the bottom-right was an appetiser. The food was good and portions were quite big. I think this item is quite good value for money. We also tried a dessert:
But weren't too impressed (I'm not a fan of grated coconut). This is an honest review - before the food came, a tiny centipede fell from the (straw? attap?) roof onto our table. The staff cleaned it up, but it made us a bit uncomfortable, since every building, including our room, had the same kind of roof!

Villa

After lunch, we were able to have our luggage delivered to our villa and didn't need to return to the reception. As a bonus, we were able to check-in slightly early. The villa was AMAZING and we promptly managed to lock ourselves out in our excitement. The outer door locks by itself! The air-conditioning was already on when we got there and the villa was delightfully cool.
Behind this door is a tiny courtyard, then the actual door to your villa:
Once you enter, to your left and right are smaller rooms. On the left is the toilet:
And shower/bath:
A sunken bath, no less. Their bath gel etc. came in cute ceramic pots, which you can buy from their store.  On the right is the sink/vanity:
With lots of amenities:
And straight ahead is the bed, in the middle of the room, facing the sea (this is the back of the bed):
In front of the bed is a balcony with your personal jacuzzi and sea view:
Now the villa is designed so that from your balcony, it's like you're alone in the forest. You can't see other villas or people (maybe corners of villas). There's this sense of serenity and privacy. It's not like there's someone living on the other side of the fence.
Well-stocked minibar:

In the evening, they'll come and turn down your room, laying flowers and folding a towel swan, and lighting incense. Oh and leaving some cookies.
Other important things about the room: yes, it has free Wi-Fi (this should be a standard in hotels now). It's really dark at night if you switch off everything. There were no mosquitoes, but lots of insects. We didn't get to eat the cookies because there were ants on it the next morning. And something ate the fruit in our room!
One problem with this stay is it as too close to nature. Mosquito repellent is freely available and should be used. You might see ants, lizards and cockroaches. It's a bit uncomfortable but this is what happened.

Ok I'd better split this review before I mess up the formatting.