Trip.com X Nirwana Gardens Hotel Bintan *GIVEAWAY + PROMO CODE*

Trip.com

Trip.com is a one-stop travel solutions provider offering hotel, flight, train and car bookings. Part of the CTrip Group (which acquired Skyscanner), a NASDAQ-listed company since 2003, Trip.com has over 30,000 employees and over 300 million members with worldwide coverage of over 1.2 million hotels in more than 200 countries and flights to over 5,000 cities. 

One of the largest online travel agencies in the world, it ranked in the Top 30 of Forbes World’s Most Innovative Companies. It has 9 global offices with one in Singapore.

Bookings can be made via Trip.com or on its mobile app (Apple and Android versions available). The app is fuss-free and straightforward. Plan your trip in-app using My Trips to monitor your flight status and hotel confirmations. There’s a Rewards Program called PointsPLUS where you can accumulate points to redeem airline miles and other services. 


Nirwana Gardens

Nirwana Gardens is a resort located at the northern part of Bintan with various accommodation types to suit all sorts of travellers – from families with children to honeymooners, employees on corporate retreats and solo backpackers. Spanning across 330 hectares, there is a wide range of facilities such as the infinity pool, fitness studio, dive centre, jumbo elephant park, recreational activities, water sports and kids club. Food and beverages are available in the resort’s 14 restaurants, bars and pubs.

There are a total of 5 unique properties in Nirwana Gardens:

  • Nirwana Resort Hotel, where we stayed at, is the largest accommodation with 242 rooms, all facing either the pool, garden or sea. All the standard facilities of a hotel room are included. 
  • Indra Maya Pool Villa, 8 exclusive and beautiful pool villas with individual courtyards and private pools facing the South China Sea. Indra Maya Pool Villas come with Personalised Villa Host Services. 
  • Banyu Biru Villa, newly refurbished double-storey 2 or 3 bedroom villas fully equipped with all the comforts of home that are perfect for group gatherings or large families. 
  • Mayang Sari Beach Resort includes 51 air-conditioned chalets with attached bathrooms and private verandahs. Choose between the Sea View chalet, Garden View chalet or Family Loft. 
  • Nirwana Beach Club is for water sports lovers. 42 decorated cabanas situated near the dive centre provides easy access to the sea. Sundecks are available for those who suntan.

The latest addition to the group is Grand Lagoi Hotel by Nirwana Gardens. It is approximately 10 minutes away by car from its sister resort.

You might not be aware, but Nirwana Gardens has a Newborn Turtle Release project as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts. They operate a turtle conservatory and hatchery to protect turtles and hatchlings from predators and poachers. Established since 2005 to increase awareness of marine conservation and increase the declining number of turtles in the region, the successful programme has seen 431 green turtles and 916 hawksbill turtles released into the ocean in 2017 alone. Resort guests are welcome to view the release of turtle hatchlings into the ocean which occurs between June to September each year.



The resort is well paved with roads but of a distance to travel via foot. With the convenient travel options like the complimentary shuttle bus, buggy or car, we didn’t see anyone walking from point to point!

Nirwana Resort Hotel

From Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, it takes a comfortable 55-min ferry ride via Bintan Resort Ferries and a 10-min land transfer to reach the hotel lobby. Upon arrival, we were treated to a traditional Indonesian dance with live percussion music. Only Indonesian Rupiah is accepted in Bintan, and there is a money changer located at the hotel lobby for convenience. Indonesian timing is GMT+7, an hour behind Singapore.

We checked in on a Monday and the process was smooth. The resort is rather full on weekends. Singaporeans make up the bulk of visitors, followed by tourists from China.

The resort provided an extra bed for the kids, but look at those monkeys on the big bed. Standard amenities were provided – a TV, study desk, armchair, bar fridge, closet, rain shower and hair dryer. Our room overlooked a water fountain and there were lots of greenery. The room was clean with no visible traces of the previous occupant. 

Facilities/Activities

I was surprised to find out that there was a dive centre in Nirwana Gardens! It’s been more than five years since I last dived but I couldn’t due to time and kid constraints. For those who live for water sports, there’s a whole host of activities ranging from diving, snorkeling, banana boating, jet skiing, parasailing, kayaking, windsurfing and more. Here’s the full list of activities and corresponding prices.

We were brought on a tour around the resort and stopped by the D’Ranch Oasis, a herb garden and mini-zoo. There were rabbits, a resident parrot, monitor lizards and guinea fowl waddling to the small stream beside for water. How cute!

Traditional fishing can be done here at this small lake with the most basic type of rod with no reel. My husband gave it a go and hauled in a bountiful catch of zero fishes. The fishes were too smart for him that day. 

For a fee, you can ride around the compound in a horse carriage or on horseback. 

The Jumbo Elephant Park houses seven Sumatran elephants. The elephant in this photo is a grand dame of 28 years old. I’d never been up close to an elephant in my life, and we got to touch its trunk and watch them drink water from their trunks. The park provides an opportunity for visitors to get up close and personal with the gentle giants and watch a show where they can observe the elephants’ individual characteristics, living habits and group behaviours. 

 

The camping ground at the resort has many outdoor adventure equipment and is suitable for school groups and company team bonding activities. There’s a four-storey Flying Fox zipline, paintball park, Air Rifle, archery corner and indoor AirSoft gun shooting.   

A two storey complex houses the 14-lane bowling centre, cafe, meeting rooms, fitness centre and NABLEZ Kids Club. 

The NABLEZ Kids Club is suitable for children aged four years and up and you can choose to pay per session or per day. Parents can sign their children for the day course if they want to sneak off for some golf or a spa session.

The indoor playground has full length glass windows to let in natural light and is decorated with familiar cartoon characters. A messy creative corner for painting lets your child unleash their inner artistic talent. The cosy beanbag and TV area is perfect for lounging and relaxing. Younger babies are not left out, as the fully padded play area stocked with toys protects against injuries.

Our time was tight and we chose to forego the indoor kids’ playground for THIS.

The four ‘S’s of any perfect outdoor holiday – Sun. Sand. Sea. Sky. The weather happened to be perfect throughout our stay and we were blessed with this view. As it was a weekday, the beach was practically empty! We actually couldn’t resist it when we were taken there in our day clothes and ended up with sandy and wet kids. We made sure to go again after lunch in proper swimwear, and again the next day.  

I let the kids play in the sand. Didi put some sand into his mouth, but that boy eats just about anything. The kids touched seaweed, flung sand around and dug holes. There was sand everywhere. 

The outdoor pool was where we spent most of our time. Overlooking the sea, the pool is a nice place to read a book, suntan or sip a drink at the pool bar. The infinity pool is not suitable for small children because it’s where the deep end is, demarcated with floats, but the rest of the pool is huge. 

The 0.5M wading pool where Elise fulfilled her sisterly duties of pushing her little brother in his inflatable whale throne around the pool. 

My Prince of W(h)ales.

What we loved about the pool was that the temperature of the water was perfect for swimming. Not bone-chillingly cold where you have to say a prayer before dipping yourself in, but toasty warm. 

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Food

Spice Restaurant

Located at the main lobby of Mayang Sari Beach Resort, this restaurant with a view of the beach and sea serves authentic traditional Indonesian and Indian cuisine. We had the Nasi Goreng that my husband couldn’t stop raving about, butter chicken with naan and fish masala. The kids had chicken noodle soup and Mac’N’Cheese.    

The Kelong Seafood Restaurant

The Kelong Seafood Restaurant is a Chinese restaurant situated on top of the sea. The restaurant is naturally ventilated with a balmy sea breeze from the South China Sea and has a laid-back atmosphere. We were pleasantly surprised with a small cake before dinner as part of Elise’s belated birthday celebration. 

The walls were adorned with messages scrawled on crab shells, typical of seafood places serving crabs. There’s a small kelong below the bridge where the fishes are reared.

Dinner was a scrumptious spread of cereal prawns, seafood soup, kailan in oyster sauce and their signature dishes, black pepper crab and sea snails (gong gong). Part of a set menu, it was sufficient for two adults. The crab meat was piquant, sweet and easily separated from its shell, a sign of freshness.

The fresh seafood, service and sea breeze made for a pleasant evening. 

The Coffee Shop

The Coffee Shop is where daily breakfast buffet is served at. Check out the view. 

The food stations are modelled after traditional food push carts, giving it a rustic feel. 

The generous buffet spread included the standard egg station, salad and fruits bar, bread counter, cereal station and cooked food from International (ham, baked beans, potato wedges), Chinese (stir-fried noodles, fried rice, congee) and Indonesian (nasi lemak, soto ayam) cuisine. 

Poolside Restaurant

Our last meal in Nirwana Resort Hotel before checking out was at Poolside Restaurant. As the name implies, the restaurant mainly serves visitors who want a quick meal near the pool. 

We had two set meals with seafood pizza and grilled chicken leg as mains. The kimchi beef soup as a starter was a winner and gone so fast, we didn’t manage to take a photo. There was a good variety of kids’ meals and we ordered the mini pizza with french fries and steamed fish with mashed potatoes and boiled vegetables.  

Conclusion

Our 2D1N stay at Nirwana Gardens was on a packed schedule and we only wish we had more time to explore the more thrilling ATV, water sports and dive spots. With children, there’s still plenty to do at the beach, pool, bowling centre, elephant park and planned activities like the mangrove swamp tour and elephant experience. 

It was a brief respite from our daily routine and we enjoyed the large pool and the beach view. It’s an option worth considering if you only have a few days to spare, due to its easy accessibility from mainland Singapore.

Promo Code

Use code JAMIEK18 for S$18 OFF hotel bookings through the Trip.com App!
Valid till 31st Jan 2019!

Giveaway

Hop on over to Facebook for giveaway details! 

*** This is a sponsored review. We were invited to review Nirwana Resort Hotel by Trip.com.  

ShopBack CashBack Buddy



ShopBack Cashback Buddy

I’ve been using ShopBack since April 2017 and have since accumulated about S$100 in cashback savings. It is stackable, meaning that store discounts and credit card cashbacks will still apply. The brands that ShopBack works with are well-known and commonly used like Grab, Shopee, Qoo10, Eatigo (cashback on a discount app!) and ASOS.  

If you prefer to shop online using a desktop or notebook instead of using the ShopBack app for mobile, here’s a little time-saving hack: the ShopBack Browser extensiothat is compatible with Chrome (what I’m using), Safari and Firefox. After installing the web extension, it’ll become a tiny icon at the top right corner where you can browse through the top stores or access your account easily. 

This web extension was made to save time and cut short on the process to earn cashback. Without the extension, you’d have to first log into ShopBack before navigating to the relevant brand in order to activate the cashback. Only heaven knows how many times I’ve missed out on collecting cashback before installing the extension.

This is one pop-up I’d gladly welcome – a friendly reminder to click for cashback activation. 

Once you’ve clicked on the button, the icon turns green and cashback will be recorded.

Not only that, the ShopBack Browser extension highlights stores that are eligible for cashback in search engine results! In red! It’s neat yet attention catching. You’d have to be drunk to miss it. 

Taobao with ShopBack
ShopBack has partnered Taobao so you can actually receive a very generous cashback of up to 10% when you shop at Taobao! They’ve come up with an easy to follow guide on how to use Taobao and ShopBack like a boss. It’s time to keep a wish list of items before carting out on 12/12!

The ShopBack extension helps you out with your Taobao shopping by streamlining the process. Without the extension, you will have to search for a product using the search bar in the ShopBack Taobao page before adding to cart the available products in the search results. You will then have to repeat that process by doing another search in the search bar within the ShopBack Taobao page. With the extension, the search bar is embedded in the extension itself so you only need to do your searches in the search bar. That makes it easier!

Steps to collecting CashBack
1. Sign up for a ShopBack account.
2. Add the ShopBack Browser extension to your web browser.
3. Download the ShopBack app for mobile shopping.
4. Activate and accumulate cashback for shopping! Use it for big purchases like air tickets, home appliances, hotel bookings and gadgets if you can’t be bothered to activate cashback for small, frequent purchases (Honestbee, Deliveroo, Foodpanda…)

*** This post was brought to you by ShopBack and written based on my experience using ShopBack and the CashBack Buddy extension.  

Today Got Class X The Musical Voyage #2

Elise has been attending about 5 lessons of Kindermusik so far. I had a hunch she’d like it. We missed Lesson #3 because I had an exam and my husband who promised to bring her ended up slacking at home not bringing her there. We’ll also be missing out on two upcoming lessons when we fly to Korea and it’s a pity because the curriculum runs concurrently for the classes, so while there are make-up classes available, they are only suitable if you can’t make it on the day itself.

Each term (12 lessons) is split into 3 themes, 4 lessons per theme.

This was taken during the 3rd lesson of Playtime. At the start of each concept, a take-home kit consisting of related materials will be given out for parents to continue the concepts at home. It usually includes an instrument, a board book and a CD. The songs sang in the lessons relate to the theme. There were songs like Pop! Goes the Weasel for Playtime.

Elise under a rainbow parachute – part of “Playtime”.

There is a structure to lessons. After singing the Hello song, there’s some circle time where we do some actions with the children to instill some concepts in them. For example, last week, they learnt about inhibitory control Inhibitory control is simply the process which allows an individual to restrict their natural impulses or behaviour e.g. freezing on hearing the word “stop”. To emphasize this, they waved, rolled, clapped and waved their egg shakers to the music and stopped when the music stopped.

Whenever a new toy or book is introduced, the children all rush up to the front for a closer look. Sometimes, teacher Natasha hides the toy or box behind her for them to focus on the current object in her hand but they just go around her to hunt for it. It’s also interesting to observe that at this age, even though each segment is kept short in view of the limited attention span that children have, their natural impulses are still dominant (I do whatever I want to do) so you see kids lying down on the floor “swimming”, running about or hiding in corners during lesson time.

For most part, they join in when there’s something new to see or do. A positive improvement I observed from Elise over the course of a few lessons is that while she used to be reluctant in returning the toys after the exercise was over (she would yell if I tried to pry it from her grip so she held on to it even after the next activity commenced), she now returns the toys, waves bye to them and claps. She was the only one who wouldn’t return the toys and now she’s still one of the last to return toys but it’s a visible difference.

What I like about teacher Natasha is that she doesn’t use harsh voices on the children even when they don’t behave very well. Many times, they go right up to her face when she’s trying to read a book to the class but she entertains them. That’s not to say she’s a pushover as she controls them in different ways. When handing out instruments for a new activity, she tells the children that they will only receive them if they sit down and bypasses those who are standing up, jumping to get her attention so they learn to follow instructions.

Children love scarves, veils and pieces of cloth where they can hide behind to play peek-a-boo. It helps with sensory exploration.

Unglam face!

We’re on the theme of Yum! so the lessons revolve around food. Flashcards with commonly seen vegetables were shown to the children, after which they got to choose their favourite vegetables to play with.

These colourful plush balls with bells inside were used in place of “apples”.

The children chose shakers resembling buns, croissants and bread. Elise tried biting into it but they were made of hard plastic. She also tried to feed me with it and almost knocked out my front teeth. -_- Her friend in front is trying to get a bite of her croissant! My impression of the class so far has been positive as Elise has been proactively participating in the songs. She hasn’t yet attended playgroup so this is the closest she gets to learning about being in a structured environment and socialising with peers.

Also, musical experiences in childhood have been found to accelerate brain development and assist in increasing overall literacy. Dancing also helps them work on their motor skills and express themselves. I find her speaking skills rather limited at this time – her spoken vocabulary hasn’t exceeded 20 words and she chooses to babble to us in her own language with gestures. It’d be great if music helps her speak more.

The food-related songs sung include Pancake Day and Rise, Sugar, Rise which apart from introducing actions like mixing, whisking, flipping (pancakes), rising, incorporate vocal techniques to familiarise them with music e.g. Pancake Day uses glissando, a continuous slide upwards or downwards between two notes. I can’t find the song here on YouTube due to strict copyright issues, so maybe you can enrol your kid for trial lessons to see if your child likes it.

Near the end, there is about 3 minutes of quiet time where the room is darkened and soothing music is played for the toddlers to calm their mood down. Sometimes they lie down and rest, have a water break but other times they just roam around the room. Teacher Natasha also recaps the activities covered during the lesson and their purpose for us to practise at home.

 

** This is Part 2 of an ongoing review of Kindermusik, The Musical Voyage, brought to you by TodayGotClass and The Musical Voyage.
Read Part 1 here. They are currently having a very attractive promotion of S$24 for 4 trial lessons!