Time Out Singapore: A Quick Guide to Nusa Dua, Bali

Gwen Pew and Berwin Song check out three new properties of note in Bali’s Nusa Dua region.

Photos can do no justice to the stunning Grand Nikko Bali. Image courtesy of the hotel.

Photos can do no justice to the stunning Grand Nikko Bali. Image courtesy of the resort.

13 Nov 2013: On the east coast of the southern tip of Bali, the district of Nusa Dua is traditionally known as a gated enclave of swanky resorts, home to five-star properties such as the Conrad, Grand Hyatt Bali and the Westin. While there aren’t many sights in the area itself (the bland Bali Collection shopping complex is the only real retail centre in the area), the region is perfect for those looking for a quiet, all-inclusive getaway or resort conference – recently, both the 2013 Miss World competition and the security-heavy APEC summit were held inside the gated region. The district is also seeing increased development in the wide swathes of land outside of the gates, with numerous resorts in the works.

Best for romantic getaways

Grand Nikko Bali

Walking around the sprawling, stunning grounds of Grand Nikko Bali, you wouldn’t think that the resort is about to celebrate its 18th anniversary. Everything is kept in mint condition, the staff members are all friendly and attentive, and the facilities are top notch. The five-star resort was rebranded just a few months ago, following the refurbishment of all 389 guest rooms and the introduction of 19 villas that each boast their own private infinity pool with either an ocean or garden view (there are 17 one-bedroom, one two-bedroom and one threebedroom villa), plus an exclusive villa lounge, a ballroom and an open-air wedding gazebo.

Guests staying at the villas are also welcomed to use the Nikko Club Lounge – a prime location to watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean, enjoy a complimentary a la carte breakfast, or relax over canapés and cocktails at dusk – and get pampered by a range of treatments, such as the recommended two-hour Harmony massage, at the Mandara Spa.

With four restaurants and a bar, as well as a range of other activities (including camel rides) and direct beach access, there is no real need to leave the Grand Nikko if you don’t want to, making it perfect for those who are looking for a truly private romantic getaway.

Guest rooms start from USD350++/ night; villas from USD650++/night. A discount of 33 percent off villas is available until March 2014. Seewww.grandnikkobali.com for details.

Best for beach activites

Chedi Sakala

The third property by luxury hotel group General Hotel Management (GHM) to open in Bali, the Chedi Sakala just started welcoming its first guests at the end of October, and officially opens this month. The resort occupies 2.4 hectares of land and is located right along the well-developed beaches of Tanjung Benoa at the northern end of Nusa Dua (inside the gated enclave), which features numerous water activies and sports. Impressively, all of the 247 guest rooms are suites; there are also 14 private one- and two-bedroom pool villas.

Other facilities at the resort include two swimming pools, a wellness spa, health club, lagoon bar and kid’s club. An all-daydining restaurant serves up an international cuisine, while the Sakala Bali restaurant across the road from the resort provides a more upscale, contemporary French dining option.

Guest rooms start from USD310++/ night; villas from USD800++/night. Seewww.ghmhotels.com/en/thechedi- sakala/home for details.

Best for those on a budget

Mantra Nusa Dua

One of the most affordable options in the area, Mantra Nusa Dua is the brand’s flagship resort outside of Australia (where they have 52 properties). While it doesn’t boast the all-out swankiness of some of the surrounding resorts (such as the ridiculously massive Mulia compound across the street), it’s great for a quiet getaway with wellsized rooms.

There are 172 rooms in three categories, situated in two wings surrounding the centrepiece pool, which runs the length of the hotel (with an overhead walkway creating a few waterfall features that leads to their dining room). All rooms feature a balcony with an outdoor daybed and rain showers in the bathrooms. Superior and Deluxe rooms start at a relatively spacious 51sqm – the difference comes in the form of an extra sofa area or a bathtub, respectively. The top rooms are the suites (24 in total) – all sized at 102sqm and still significantly cheaper than most other resorts in the area.

Though there’s no direct beach access, free shuttles are provided to Geger Beach, which is a threeminute drive away. Here, Mantra has a small area with a few beach chairs reserved specially for their guests.

The resort is also home to the Chakra spa, a first for the Mantra brand, featuring their signature Chakra balancing massage (which involves a Tibetan singing bowl and Indonesian massage). Look out for more as Mantra expands in Asia, with plans for multiple properties across Bali (including their budget hotel Brand Free and the higher-end Peppers, the first of which will be a rebranded property taking over Sentosa Seminyak).

Superior rooms start from USD99/ night; suites start from USD242/ night Seewww.mantranusadua.com for details.

Time Out Singapore: Bintan Lagoon Resort (Feature)

Bintan Lagoon Resort remains one of the most popular accommodations in Bintan despite its sixteen years, as Gwen Pew discovers.

Bintan Lagoon Resort's private ferry terminal. Image courtesy of Mozaic Resorts.

Bintan Lagoon Resort’s private ferry terminal. Image courtesy of Mozaic Resorts.

3 Jul 2013: When it opened its doors in 1997, Bintan Lagoon Resort was only the second hotel complex on this sunny Indonesian island. But while it’s admittedly no longer as modern or shiny as its younger neighbours, its features have improved over the years. One of its selling points is its own ferry terminal – the 75-minute boat trip from Tanah Merah takes you directly to its doorstep and, at the time that we went, away from the worst of the haze.

Stretched out across 300ha of tropical landscape, the resort makes for an ideal weekend getaway without breaking the bank. You may choose to stay in one of their their newly renovated deluxe rooms, which faces the gardens or the South China Sea; their themed suites if you’re looking for something more extravagant; or their three-, four- or five- bedroom villas that come with a free use of a buggy.

We got a sea-facing deluxe room equipped with a cosy balcony, stylish Indonesian teak furniture, king-size bed, raised cushioned platform that doubled as a huge sofa, and a comfortably-sized bathtub.

Wi-Fi is available for a fee if you can’t detach yourself from the outside world, although we highly recommend staying offline. There is, after all, a huge amount to do. Riding the jetski, kayak and the super-intense banana boat (it’s great fun but your limbs will get a proper work out from this, trust us) is great for thrill-seekers. There’s also a snorkelling tour twice daily (10am and 2pm) if you’d like to get up close and personal with the colourful inhabitants of the oceans; the water was slightly murky when we went, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to get a glimpse of what goes on under the sea.

For those who’d rather stay dry, we’d recommend giving the ATV (All-Terrain Vehicles – aka quad bikes) a go. Otherwise, a host of sports facilities are also available, from archery to tennis. Golfers will find paradise here in the resort’s two signature 18-hole courses – the Ian Baker-Finch Woodlands Course and the Jack Nicklaus Sea View course – which offer spectacular views.

Mind you, these activities are pretty pricey – as are the services at Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa, but there are cheaper options. We suggest going for a beach massage in the hut located under palm trees by the sea instead: their Javanese Massage ($30 for 30 minutes) untied all the knots that we had. Do be prepared to become the target for people watchers, but overall it’s relaxing and it’s lovely to have the breeze in our hair.

We also enjoyed being spoilt for food choices. With 12 restaurants and bars on offer, we especially loved the surprisingly authentic Miyako Japanese Restaurant, Orzo Italian and Mediterranean Restaurant (though we’d recommend skipping the mediocre desserts) and their latest addition, Rice Beachfront Bar and Dining. Sipping cocktails while watching the sunset at Rice was certainly an experience we’d remember for a long time, although we were unfortunately forced to move indoors when the food arrived due to the swarms of flies that were too eager to join in the party; it’d have been nice if there were insect lamps installed around the terrace.

The drinks menu at their nightclub/bar, Silk, was impressive and all very well made, but we found their crowd rather seedy on the night that we went. Instead, we much preferred taking a stroll along the pristine Pasir Panjang Beach under the bright moonlight – plus it’s free! Just make sure you bring insect repellent – the sand flies and mosquitoes are merciless.

Apart from families and friends, Bintan Lagon Resort is also ideal for companies looking to do a corporate holiday – their brand new, 1300-persons capacity conference centre, the Great Hall, is due to be completed by the end of July.

Time Out Singapore: Four Points by Sheraton, Bangkok (Feature)

With its young and hip vibe, Four Points by Sheraton in Bangkok’s Asok district is a wallet-friendly, luxury getaway.

A room at Four Points by Sheraton, Sukhumvit 15, Bangkok.

A room at Four Points by Sheraton, Sukhumvit 15, Bangkok.

22 Apr 2013: Our stay at Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok’s Junior Suite over the Easter weekend was fantastic; that is, once we managed to locate the hotel. Despite its very central location – it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Asok BTS station, and is a stone’s throw away from shopping mecca Terminal 21 and spas like the locals-approved Healthland – the route is not signposted at all.

We first stumbled into the nearby Sheraton Hotel and then got lost as we followed somewhat confusing directions. We were later informed by the staff there Thai government wouldn’t allow any more hotels to be built along the already-overcrowded Sukhumvit Road – hence the tucked-away location. The plus side is that it’s also far from angry the car horns and the ear-piercing whistles of traffic wardens, thus making it the perfect hideaway.

At any rate, we immediately forgot how difficult it was to get there once we stepped into the vast, bright hotel lobby. Adopting a bright, cheerful colour palate and matching it with quirky – but still elegant – décor, the place exudes a friendlier and more casual vibe compared with other four- or five-star places, though its quality is hardly compromised. Granted, our suite was by no means a room with a view, but it was clean, modern, and tastefully decked out with plush carpeted floors, a deep standalone bathtub and a decadently comfortable king-sized bed. A flat screen TV is conveniently located in the space between the bed and the sofa, which can be swivelled to face whichever side of the room we happened to be in at the time – you can even turn it at an angle if you wished to catch up on some telly in the bath. WiFi is available for free in public areas such as the lobby, although there is a fee of THB450 ($20)/day if you want to surf the net from the comforts of your room.

We also enjoyed some downtime at their rooftop infinity pool after a satisfying buffet breakfast at The Eatery the next morning. Although not massive and surrounded by skyscrapers on almost all sides, it does the job if you’re craving a nice mid-afternoon dip or sun-bathing session, with ample deckchairs and beds lined up in rows on one side. amBar, which is daintily decorated with a flock of butterfly silhouettes, is situated right next to the pool and offers a selection of signature and standard cocktails, as well as other tipples. The Blackberry Mojito (THB300; $13) that we tried was refreshing and had an interesting spicy kick – though perhaps a little too bitter for our liking.

The thing that really struck us about the hotel, however, was the friendly staff – the receptionists were incredibly helpful – going so far as to book a massage appointment for us at a nearby spa – and the cleaners would always say ‘Sawasdee!’ with a smile. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Four Points – especially since prices are reasonable given their excellent standards. And don’t forget to take advantage of their tuk-tuk service, which takes you to any of the designated hotspots within the vicinity of the hotel – for free.

Four Points by Sheraton Bangkok, Sukhumvit 15, 4 Sukhumvit Soi 15, Sukhumvit Rd, Klongtoey-Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 (+66 2309 3000, fourpoints.com/bangkoksukhumvit15).