Just a short ferry ride away from Singapore, lies an oft-visited weekend destination named Bintan. And in a less-explored trikora beach, lies a lesser known hideway called – tantalizingly – ‘Shady Shack’.
Enough of suspense-filled opening narratives. Let’s get on with the blogpost, shall we?
Riau Archipelago, Indonesia
For some of you who live in Singapore, I wouldn’t be surprised if you believed that the Riau islands – which include Bintan – was a part of Singapore. And to some extent, there is some historical credibility to this misinformation too. Bintan is a part of the Riau archipelago which – along with Singapore, or then known as Temasek – were part of the Johor Sultanate.
The chief islands in the Riau archipelago are Karimun, Rempang, Batam, Galang, Combol and Kundur.
And of course, Bintan.
Heading to Batam instead? Click here to check out my review of the Harris resort in Batam.
Bintan Island – A Home away from home for the Singaporeans
The Singaporean passport may rank 1st in the world for travel freedom, but many Singaporeans prefer their international trip to be a ferry ride away – to the island of Bintan in the Riau Archipelago. After all, a ferry ride from Singapore to the northeastern tip of the island, takes only 50 minutes!
Note: Due to it’s close proximity with Singapore, the Singapore Dollar (SGD) is accepted in almost all large establishments of Bintan. However, to experience the true Bintan (to eat in the side-streets etc), you would need IDR, or Indonesian Rupiah.
How to get there:
- By Air: There is an airport in Kijang, on the South-west side of the island. However, the Raja Haji Fisabilillah airport only has domestic flights from other parts of Indonesia. Most of these flights can be booked via Riau Airlines or via Sriwijaya airlines
- By Ferry: Probably the best option of all. There are ferry terminals at Kijang, and even Bintan Lagoon Resorts has their own ferry terminal. But if you are arriving from Singapore – like me – the chances are you will take a ferry from Singapore’s Tanah Merah ferry terminal to Tanjung Pinang in Bintan. This can be done at the ferry terminal itself (with the risk that there may not be slots anymore), or on the online booking system of Sindoferry.
Tanjung Pinang and Trikora Beach
Tanjung Pinang is not only the main town in Bintan, it is the capital of the entire Riau Province! And hence, also the main ferry point to enter Bintan. But I wasn’t here to see Tanjung Pinang. I’d have time for it on the way back. I was here to catch a 30-minute taxi-ride that would take me to see a beach on the Eastern part of the island, safely away from the touristy and glamourous Bintan Lagoon resort.
I was here for Trikora beach. And for Shady shack. And this wasn’t the first time, and wont be the last time either.
Lobo’s shack isn’t as shady as you think
In these parts of the island, Lobo is a living legend. Ask any local, to guide you on where Shady shack is, they may not have a clue. But ask them if they know Lobo, they would show you the way straight away. Trikora beach has lately developed into a ‘home away from home‘ for many Singaporeans and expats, because of the short duration that it takes to reach here. While most people head for the prominent Bintan Agro Beach Resort, the backpackers usually tend to go searching for the budget shacks.
And thats where Lobo comes in.
So years ago, right on the shores of Trikora beach, Lobo and his family set up a few nipa huts. Even as time went on, and technology became more complex, the basic huts remained just that. Basic. Very basic.
Almost all the huts are one-storeyed, except one which has two-storeys. But even in the one-storeyed huts, the toilet is on a ‘mezzanine’ floor, if you may call it that. You need to take a step-ladder to go down, almost reminiscent of medieval times when people went down step-ladders to take a crap. There is no wifi, but there is electricity. And Lobo has a small restaurant, where one can buy cheap beers at 2 or 3 dollars (that’s cheap for Singapore standards!) and order some local dishes.
This may be a public beach, but the fact that there are no other accomodation options around this area, makes it almost a private beach. In the mornings, one can just laze around on the beach for hours, or play some beach-sports. And at night, if you are the adventurous kind, gather some wood from nearby and make a bonfire. Or if you are completely useless at making bonfires, just inform Lobo and he could help you out.
There are also other activities to do here, all of which Lobo can arrange for you. These include boattrips to nearby islands, fishing trips, or trekking trips.
How much for the Shady Shack. And how to book?
So, assuming that you are visiting from Singapore for a weekend trip, here is the break-down of how much it would cost you:
- Ferry ride (from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Pinang, and back): SGD 55.
- Taxi Ride (From Tanjung Pinang to Shady shack, one way): SGD 30. This can fit a group of 4 or 5 people, so better if shared. And Lobo can arrange the taxi for you, if you tell him beforehand.
- One-Storey hut (for sharing between 2 pax): 40 SGD per night.
- Foods, drinks etc: Assume about 50 SGD for 2 days. It wont go higher than that.
So all in, a weekend trip is going to cost roughly 110 SGD to 150 SGD.
The booking process is a little old-school. The last time I was here, Lobo has not yet gone digital. Which means, he wasn’t on Agoda, booking.com or anything like that (although many have been advising him to do it). He still takes bookings old-school, i.e, on the phone. Visit his website, which has his Indonesian number, and tell him how many people, how many nights etc you want to book. And whether you need a taxi arranged from Tanjung Pinang. And he will have it taken care of.
Mind you. If you are looking for a beach with crazy party scenes, this is not for you. Trikora beach – and shady shack specially – is very silent, quiet and chill. A few months ago, a friend of mine wanted to have some solitude and space to write a book she was working on. I sent her here for a few days. By the time she came back, she had finished nearly 3 chapters of the book.
That probably best explains what Shady shack is all about.
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