Getaway: Mama & Allegra Go To Cassia, Bintan, Indonesia

So baby girl no. 1 and I got the chance to try out Banyan Tree’s new hotel, Cassia in Bintan, Indonesia.

It was a chance to relax and bond with each other. I mean, it really isn’t often that I get to spend 3 days with her alone. And she doesn’t get mama all to herself for that long either.

We took the ferry across and luckily she didn’t get seasick. She already got car sick in the taxi on the way to the Tanah Merah ferry terminal and threw up all over herself 😦 I had to wash her in the ladies room at the ferry terminal and was appalled that there was no soap in the soap dispensers. The place was also quite dirty by Singapore standards. (Don’t we usually have better service at checkpoints such as these so we give tourists a good impression? Or we want to force people to buy soap from the overpriced shops just outside the restrooms? A discussion for another post!)

She enjoyed munching on snacks and took a nap. It’s nice to be rocked to sleep sometimes 😀

I didn’t really know what to expect at Cassia. At the time when we went, there wasn’t too much info online about it since it was a new hotel.  Its concept is pretty cool and targeted at a younger audience. It’s tempting to say “Milennials” but that’s not entirely true either. I would say 25-45, young adults and young families, plus the young at heart. Its apartment hotel concept gives it a casual vibe, but true to Banyan Tree standards, it is still immaculately styled to envelope guests a level of luxury that is relatable, welcoming and exciting.

We were greeted by enthusiastic staff who tried to get us to dance our way into the lobby. (Singaporeans are not very excitable. Not without alcohol at least hurhur). When we got there, we were greeted with bright colours, Latin chill music, the view of the infinity pool inhabited by unicorn, flamingo and swan floats and of course, the beach.

 

 

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Pondering unicorns.

Cassia is built right next to the other Banyan Tree hotels. Right next to Cassia is Angsana, which is right next to Banyan Tree so these other properties are just a walk or a buggy ride away. Guests at Cassia are welcomed at Angsana and Banyan Tree too.

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We went to Angsana’s Lotus Cafe for lunch and they served delicious Indonesian food. We loved that we’re served kerupuk (deep fried crackers) before each meal!

We were put in a one-bedroom apartment on the 5th floor. It had a lot of light, and was quite comfortable.

The great thing about Cassia is that there’s an equipped kitchen for you to make your own meals.

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They had all the toiletries you’d need. But at the time we went, they didn’t have combs, so you might have to bring your own. I just used my hands 😀

 

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Queen-sized bed
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View from our balcony.

 

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She only wanted to ride on the “pink one”.
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Little lady

This was essentially how we spent our holiday – at the beach, building sand castles, watching the waves, dipping in the water. Bliss.

Well, until I tried to get Allegra to sit with me in the water. She dropped her sunglasses into the waves and I had to look for it, and in the mean time, she ran all the way back onto the dry sand by herself because she was scared of the waves! Luckily, the water was clear so it didn’t take me long to locate her sunglasses whilst keeping an eye on her as she ran away from the water.

Haiyo.

For some reason, I thought building sandcastles was going to be easy but I was so very wrong. Too much water, and you get a sticky mess. Too little water, nothing stays up. The balance of wet and dry sand has to be perfect.

 

The entrepreneur in me can’t ignore the lesson here. In a lot of things in business, nobody has the answers. You just have to come up with what seems like the most logical and balanced strategy and try it out. If it doesn’t work, tweak and try again. If I had the luxury of time and money to keep a business going while it is still not self-sustaining, then there would be many chances to try until I got it right. But very often, time and money are scarce resources and there are limited chances.

The next day, we went to visit Banyan Tree’s Tree Tops Restaurant and there was a pool there too. The little girl insisted on swimming in this pool once she saw it. Seriously, do you remember the commotion about Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool when it opened? That’s nothing compared to this ocean view. The OCEAN. This pool might be a lot smaller, but I prefer it. It’s surrounded by the ocean and trees and this combination makes it a lot easier to relax.

 

Also, the food at Tree Tops Restaurant will make you fall in love with Indonesian food. If the food at Lotus Cafe was delicious, the food at Tree Tops knocked it out of the park!

2 types of kerupuk and 6 different sambals for appetizers. Then, satay, nasi goreng, beef ribs, and kueh kueh for dessert. I tried their tasting menu too and it was all. so. good. So good that I had to bring some home for the husband!

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3 going on 13!?

Baby Sea Turtle Send Off

So this was the highlight of our trip: the turtle send off! As part of Banyan Tree’s conservation efforts, they collect sea turtle eggs to prevent predators (including humans) from eating them up. These baby turtles are hatched in their hatchery and released at 3 months old back into the sea to give them a better chance at survival.

 

We were very lucky to be there when Claire was there. After the turtle send off, we had cocktails on the roof of the lobby building, and then went for a barbecue dinner with some of my new entrepreneur friends!

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Cassia is beautiful at night. Notice the apartment blocks are built on a hill? The gentle hill creates a natural amphitheatre. Claire mentioned that they might have performances at the foot of the hill and guests can sit down on the grass to watch or watch from their apartment balconies.
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Thanks Claire for the experience! (or “婆婆 Claire” to Allegra).
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New friends!

My dear Allegra,

I don’t know if you’ll remember this trip, but I do hope you remember some of it at least. We had so much fun and I’m glad I got to know you more. You’re so funny, charming, thoughtful and loving. You love to chat, learn, play and you’re so creative. A natural out-of-the-box thinker.

I hope you’ll always be confident in who you are, even when you don’t exactly fit the mould, especially when it comes to traditional learning methods in school. I already know that the Singapore school system will be tough for you, not because you’re not smart, but because the system is set up in a way that will not bring the best out in someone like you. 

But don’t fret, Mummy and Daddy will always be here for you. We will support you when it is tough and celebrate with you in your triumphs. We will fight to create a better future for you. 

I hope you’ll always feel safe with Mummy and Daddy and that even when we have our epic battles in the future, you can always count on us to be there for you.

I hope I will be a good example for you, as a woman, daughter, wife and mother. And most of all, I hope that by being and believing in who I am, you will also find the courage to be who you are. 

I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to holiday alone like this in the future, but I’m looking forward to it anyway!

Love, 

Mama 

 

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Stay cool with Cassia!

Perhaps if we are lucky enough, both the husband and I will get a chance to holiday with each kid alone at different times in their lives.

After all, they are only small once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MentorMission – EVENT INVITE: Jamiyah’s 24th Exemplary Mother Award

Honouring Extraordinary Mothers with Awards, High Tea & Fashion.

As you might know, I have the privilege of being mentored by Claire Chiang, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of Banyan Tree Holdings. A mentoring lunch turned into a mentoring afternoon because she brought us (me and another mentee, Amu) to a press conference at Jamiyah Singapore after lunch.

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From Left to Right: Amutha Saravanan COO of the Da Vinci Group, Our mentor and original Supermamapreneur, Claire Chiang, and me at Jamiyah Singapore.

This is where I learned about the Exemplary Mother Award (“EMA”) and the Award ceremony that will be held on 22 October 2016. This year’s award presentation ceremony and high tea also comes with a Charity Fashion Show.

Every year, the EMA Committee receives different inspiring stories from mothers of all walks of life, races and religions and who have contributed to the community. Claire was one of the judges. These mothers have been extraordinary in being a role model for their children, by nurturing them with strong moral values, persevere for a better life and education for their children. Their exemplary attitudes continue by going the extra mile to contribute their time and energy through involvement in career and community services, without compromising their parental roles at home.

Thus, this meaningful event promotes inter-faith and multi-racial bonding and enhancing reverence for mothers in general. It also places paramount importance on filial piety.

This year, there will also be a very special fashion show by 3 local designers, Adlina Anis, Kavita Thulasidas and Sylvia Lim, who will all use batik prints by Batik Master, Sarkasi Said, in their designs.

On a personal note, when I asked Claire how and why she is involved in so many community projects, she told me that she learned the need for support when she was very young.  She grew up on Race Course Road with the Malay and Indian community and her mother would often get her to bring food to their neighbours. And when her mother had a stroke when Claire was 17, her neighbours helped them out by buying food, for example.

This gotong-royong* concept of mutual help and reciprocity and the Kampong** spirit was how she grew up. I don’t think I’ve ever thought as much about the community around me until now.

Event Details: 

Date: 22 October 2016, Saturday

Time: 2.30pm to 5pm

Venue: Mandarin Orchard Hotel, Singapore

Ticket price: $100

Guest of Honour: President of Singapore, His Excellency Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yam

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If you’re interested in giving back to the community and supporting this meaningful event or even if you’d just like to make a donation, please contact Nora at nora_r@jamiyah.org.sg or call 6743 1211.

*gotong-royong is a conception of sociality familiar to large parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. The phrase has been translated into English in many ways, most of which harken to the conception of reciprocity or mutual aid.

*Kampong means village in Bahasa Melayu.