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.  

Josh & Cherie – Children Book Subscription

In today’s increasingly digital world, it’s a common sight to see people glued onto their smartphones. I don’t want to go down the slippery slope of introducing gadgets to Elise too early, so I’ve stocked up on a decent number of books, mostly pre-loved. I believe that children should enjoy reading from a young age as it helps with their comprehension and language ability. 

However, the problem with buying preloved is that it’s a hit-or-miss. I’ve bought bundles where some books came with missing flaps, creased pages and yellowed edges.

Also, there is something magical about brand new books. The crispness, the knowledge that you’re the first one to read it and there won’t be weird stains of unknown origin on the next page (coffee? drool?!). 

Today, Elise received a pizza box.  

Pizza for you?

It opened up to reveal a handwritten message and 3 presents tied up with string.
 
Hello mama, what’s inside?

 

Let me open it up for you~
What was in the box (0 to 2 years old):
 
3 brand new, beautiful board books! 
This book has LARGE printed sentences so it’s easy for parents to read (YES!) and for children to understand.  
There are various illustrated scenarios (one question per scenario) which you can flip up to see the appropriate response e.g.
Mommy says “Do you want peas for breakfast?” 
What do you say? *flip* “No, thank you!”
 
It’s never too early to instill good manners in children!

 

This book teaches children that friends come in all shapes and sizes and they all get along. Idealistic in the adult world, but it is a children’s book after all! It reminds me of a Dr Seuss book with colourful illustrations, rhymes and contrasting font sizes for emphasis.
It’s an enjoyable book to dramatise and act out for toddlers. 
Elise chose to dance along to the Wheels on the Bus while exploring her book
Saving the best for the last, this book was definitely Elise’s favourite. I have a few sound books which read stories out loud, but this one plays the tune of the Wheels on the Bus! Each page shows a different verse for you to sing along to. 
 
Elise could NOT STOP pressing the big red button! She clapped and bobbed along to the tune while flipping the pages. She was so thrilled. 
Press press press
Pretending to read…
Let’s just dance!

Josh & Cherie Books:

Started by a pair of local newlyweds Cheryl and Julius (Josh and Cherie are actually names for their future children!)Josh & Cherie Books is a premium children book subscription for children from 0 to 7 years of age. Every month, depending on the child’s age, 2 to 3 books are carefully hand picked, gift wrapped and couriered.

Josh and Cherie Books

The idea came to life during a trip to a bookstore on a search for a child’s gift, where they noticed that there were more assessment books than picture books! As the both of them were exposed to good books since young and grew up with the habit of reading, they wanted children to experience the magic that books provide. 

They hope to make reading exciting for children, convenient for parents and affordable for everyone with this service.

What I find unique:


1) The books are gift wrapped so children will be excited about their “presents” and want to read them. When I was a child, I received a present of a huge carton containing pre-loved Enid Blyton books from my cousin which sparked my childhood reading habit. Books are an investment. 

2) The subscription price is cheaper than buying from the bookstores. The titles are also not readily found in local bookstores so it is unlikely that there will be duplicates. However, if you happen to already own the same book, take a photo of you giving it to a friend for a $7 deduction off your next renewal! 


I find the pricing is reasonable for the effort it takes to search for interactive, age-appropriate books and its packaging. 

4) Suitable as a birthday gift because it’s prettily packaged and educational.

5) Mandarin books are available for subscription, which is great for parents who want to introduce Mandarin to their little ones early. 


If you would like to try it out for yourself, check out their store below. The book titles will be different from that which I’ve received as you will be receiving next month’s box. 

 

** I received a box of books for review purposes. No monetary compensation was received. 

Haenim UV Steriliser

You know how some brides-to-be turn into Bridezillas? While I was quite relaxed about my ROM ceremony, I was definitely a Momzilla. I googled incessantly on “essential newborn items” and tried to create my own list of what was really needed.

The problem about these lists is that most of the things aren’t even needed. Baby cots end up being used to hold laundry and fancy diaper bins get banished to the cold palace. There’s no point buying a changing table when the baby gets changed on the bed anyway. Baby products you think you need, but don’t really.

There’s one item which outlasted most of the items on my initial shopping list.
I’m not particular on disinfecting every surface my baby comes into contact with because it simply is impossible to do that all the time. However, I am still sterilising her bottles and my pump parts at least once a day just for a peace of mind.

For newborns and younger infants, it is necessary to sterilise milk bottles and pacifiers because their immune system may not be strong enough to cope with viruses.

I noticed that Korean parents had been using UV sterilisers for a long time. In Korea, almost every eating place provides free drinking water and their cups are stored inside large UV sterilisers. Therefore, this item naturally got bumped up to the top of my shopping list.

The Haenim UV steriliser. There are other brands in the market, but there were many positive blog reviews in Korea  (Bambidonna, Happy Diaries of the Seo Sisters, MomsBlog) so I decided to go with it. I made the right choice because recently, another Korean brand recalled its sterilisers due to its toxic (!) filters.

I sent multiple variations of the same email to my husband who was working overseas then to make sure he would bring it back.

After multiple emails and constant reminders, my husband and his brother lugged it back to Singapore from Korea.

Unlike steam sterilisers or the old-school boiling method, UV sterilisers have drying functions so there’s no need for the additional step of waiting for the bottles to dry on a separate drying rack! Although slightly pricier, these little machines make sterilisation a breeze and there’s no risk of your bottles getting warped.

When your baby grows up, the steriliser can still be used for soft toys, toothbrushes and cutlery. You can even sterilise your smartphones and remote controllers!

I really hate wasting time. With this, I just wash the bottles and flanges with baby safe liquid detergent (Tollyjoy!), place them into the steriliser and press the AUTO button once where a cycle takes about 30 minutes. It lights up at different stages of the sterilisation process and when switched off, its mirror-like window hides the mess inside! 😀 Steriliser plus drying cabinet all at once.

Features & Benefits (2015 model)

  • Large storage capacity 
    Fits up to 16 standard sized baby bottles, 1 large plushie and probably a hundred smartphones.
  • Timer & Temperature Display
    Know exactly how long more you need to wait.
  • LOW MAINTENANCE No de-scaling needed. Just change the UV lamp once a year.
  • Frustration-freeHave you ever warped a baby bottle or melted a teether in the steam steriliser? There’s no such risk when you use a UV steriliser.
How to Use
    • Arrange items upright on rack, widest openings facing up
    • Choose from AUTO, UV or DRY – each button has 3 different modes.

      AUTO:
      Press once for 30 mins fan circulation (25 min dry + 5 min sterilisation)
      Press twice for 50 mins fan circulation (40 min dry + 5 min sterilisation)
      Press thrice for 70 mins fan circulation (60 min dry + 5 min sterilisation)UV:
      Press once for 5 mins fan circulation (5 mins sterilisation)
      Press twice for 10 mins fan circulation (10 mins sterilisation)DRY:
      Press once for 10 mins fan circulation (9 mins drying)
      Press twice for 20 mins fan circulation (19 mins drying)
      Press thrice for 40 mins fan circulation (39 mins drying)

      STORAGE (2016 version only):
      Auto sterilise every 2 hours for a total of 8 hours

    • Wait for the sterilisation to be complete, or forget about it until the next time.
      Just like smartphones, UV sterilisers are constantly being updated with new technology. The latest 2016 model comes with bluetooth so you can control your steriliser through an app! If I’m not wrong, it’s the first of its kind.
Instead of getting someone to lug it back from Korea like what I did, the Haenim UV steriliser can be easily purchased from thelittleonesinmylife which provides a 1 year local warranty and free delivery. thelittleonesinmylife is the exclusive distributor of Haenim in Singapore.
Disclaimer: I received store credits in exchange for a review of my 2015 Haenim UV steriliser which was purchased directly from Korea.