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.  

Little Rainbow Dreams – Personalised Books

ABOUT

Little Rainbow Dreams provides personalised books with bright, colourful illustrations and simple stories with short sentences aimed at children. It was started with the intent of using stories to engage the imagination of children, nurture a reading habit and to involve  parents in the whole process. Reading promotes bonding and can be a time for parents to put down their adult worries and just focus on spending that quality time with the children. 

A few weeks before Emmett was born, Little Rainbow Dreams invited me to choose a book from their selection as a present for Elise in addition to The Elephant Story. I picked the Big Sibling book for her to cope better with the changes in routine with her brother around. Accompanying the two personalised books was a handwritten message! Handwritten messages are rare nowadays and it adds a personal touch to the present.

Elise has a prosthetic eye which in time, will be something that she notices is different from her peers. Thankfully, at age 2, she isn’t too bothered about it yet and the loss of an eye doesn’t seem to impact her adversely. She climbs stairs and plays soccer like a pro. The Elephant Story teaches children that there is no need to compare themselves to others because everybody is special in their own way. Should she ever feel inadequate, I hope this story will encourage her. 

She has no patience to wait for me to finish reading and turns the page halfway through most children books. These softcover books are personalised from start to end and use the child’s name as the main character. Short sentences (perfect for bedtime stories) and attractive illustrations with commonly recognisable animals and characters draw children into the story. 

The Big Sibling book caught Elise’s attention and she flipped through the book at her own pace.
 

“Our baby is always sleeping.”

Said baby. Sleeping.

Not “always”! 

 


Mon Chéri Box

We also received the Mon Chéri Box, a Christmas themed gift set. The name Mon Chéri means “My Darling” in French. You can choose to include personalised messages on the front page of each book too. 

What’s inside the box: Stickers, A DIY snowglobe, Stamp and personalised Christmas book. 

What I like about the Christmas book is that it’s an interactive activity book that encourages the children to use the stickers provided in the box to decorate the pages. The box is a perfect opportunity for parents to create memories through assembling the DIY snowglobe together with the children. The globe is simple enough for children to create and they can make it their own with stickers and stamps. Elise is at that stage where she doodles on her train tracks and decorates her stacking cups with stickers.   

The DIY snowglobe makes its appearance in some pages for sharp eyed young ones to spot. 

 

We’re keeping our box for the Christmas event in Christmas storyland, 18 Nov, 3-5pm at Bove.

Do sign up early as there are limited slots! Join LRD for a immersive weekend of storytelling and fun-filled activities.
Make this Christmas a magical one for your little one with LRD magical Christmas collection!
Visit www.littlerainbowdreams.com/xmas-snowland for more details.

There is a 15% early bird discount at $57.80 (U.P. $68) for the Mon Chéri Box valid till 19 Nov.
*** Lead time is 4 weeks so do place your order early to have LRD Santa deliver your Christmas gift by Christmas!

SG Homemade: Natural Food Powders

ABOUT

SG Homemade stands for Stephanie Goh Homemade. Homemade food powders provide an alternative to processed stock cubes and liquids sold in supermarkets. These are definitely not meant as meal replacements or even ingredient replacements, but serve as natural flavour enhancers for children (and adults) with fussy tastebuds. Stephanie is a working mother to a toddler and she started her line of powders after seeing how her daughter finished an entire bowl of bee hoon soup which was made with chicken powder.

To ensure hygiene standards, she sterilises her equipment, utensils and packaging before use. Currently, she has 3 flavours in store – sakura chicken, oyster mushroom and ikan bilis.

SYSTEM
Stephanie has invested in a proper ordering system for her site so customers can pay securely via PayPal/Card instead of iBanking. There are order numbers and each order is updated with its own SmartPac tracking number when it has been sent out.


PACKAGING

SG Homemade food powders are packed in food grade glass jars with personalised labels and have quality seals along the black covers to ensure that the containers are not tampered with during the delivery process. Although the glass bottles cost more than regular ziplock bags and are heavier to ship, Stephanie prefers this option as glass is the safest medium to store food in, regardless of whether the plastic is BPA-free or not.

20g bundle with 3 different flavours – Sakura Chicken, Ikan Bilis, King Oyster Mushroom
Round stickers indicating date of creation. The tops were sealed in plastic but I opened them before taking photographs.. :O

PRODUCT

I’ve used processed chicken and ikan bilis stock cubes from the supermarket before, but found them too salty. Portion control was also an issue, as I didn’t need to use one entire cube for seasoning Elise’s food, yet the remainder could not be kept for long after opening. Previously before I was introduced to food powders, I felt it was a waste of money because I could just use the actual ingredients.

What I didn’t know then, was that there would be days where I would be sooooooooo exhausted and had zero idea what to prepare for Elise’s dinner, yet there aren’t any healthy choices for toddlers in the eating places near my place. These powders are made from actual handpicked ingredients which are baked over a controlled temperature for many hours before being ground into powder.

The powders are fine and there are no lumps. It resembles loose powder or baby powder with a light fragrance. I’ve been using them to create bases for pasta and stir-fries. Since it’s already cooked fully, they can be sprinkled onto cooked food or just mixed into hot water. Elise is not a picky eater so she doesn’t have problems eating. She has, however, been exposed to outside food which are laden with preservatives and seasoning, which is why I try as much as possible to cook with natural flavours as much as possible.


COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

According to Stephanie, here are a few questions which she gets asked a lot:

Q: Do you add anything else to your powders?
A: Only 100% of the ingredient is used, no salt no oil.

Q: Is your ikan bilis salty? 
A:
  I soak till it’s no longer salty but the fish itself originally does come with salt content.

Q: The homemade powder I made at home can only be kept up to 1 week maximum. Why can yours be kept up to 12 months? Do you add preservatives?
A:  There are methods which utilise high heat to bake the ingredients for a short period of time which kills nutrients. The outside will appear brown but it will not be dry on the inside. Hence, there is moisture retained and the resulting powder can only be kept for a short period of time before it goes stale.

SG Homemade powders can be kept up to 12 months in fridge due to zero moisture content. Ingredients are also cooked below 120 degrees to ensure that nutrients are retained.

Q: Why buy when there are so many recipes online?
A: You can create powders yourself, but the process to ensure nutrient preservation as well as zero moisture is a tedious one. This is the amount of raw product needed to create 20g of powder!

200g Mushroom -> 10x
80g Chicken -> 4x
50g Ikan Bilis -> 2.5x
Q: How long does it take to receive my product? 
A: As all items are created upon order, the current lead time is about 2 weeks.

RECIPES

Beef & Carrot Pasta

Ingredients: Baby pasta, beef, carrot bits
Method:
1) Pan-fry beef and carrots with a bit of butter. Boil baby shapes pasta in another pot.
2) Add cooked pasta to pan.
3) Sprinkle mushroom powder for added flavour.
4) Serve.

Salmon & Corn Spaghetti

Ingredients: Corn kernels, salmon, pasta, chicken powder
Method:
1) Boil water in frying pan with a bit of chicken powder.
2) Place spaghetti into pan on medium fire until it turns soft and stock is reduced.
3) Add in corn kernels and salmon.
4) Serve.


GIVEAWAY – 20g x 3 Soup Bundle (Worth $30)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Isabelle Liu for winning the soup bundle! The discount code SGNEWBIE for $10 off $50 is available for all to use!

** I received a soup bundle (20g x 3 jars) to review and purchased a 50g Sakura Chicken powder jar to test out the ordering system. No monetary compensation was received in exchange for the review.