The ultimate indulgence

By on April 30, 2008
Experiencing truly deep serenity, harmony, and tranquility—while at the same time holidaying with three boisterous children under the age of ten—may seem more a delusionary hope than a potential reality. However, a small resort of near-utopia does exist on the horizon, due south of the near-Eden found in Hilton’s Lost Horizon, from which Singapore’s preeminent Shangri-la received its name.

Singapore hosts two Shangri-las, the first being the chain’s flagship hotel, where rooms define comfort and service defines perfection, particularly within the hotel’s relaxed, unhurried Garden Wing. The second is on Singapore’s island of pleasure, Sentosa. Here, a tropical breeze greets you, and even though the property is not as epicurean as the one nearby the city-state’s famed Orchard Road, the meals will delight most children, as will a welcoming free-form pool, two slides through tropical surroundings, and a beach of soft white imported sand.

These Shangri-la’s, however, are only appetizers to what awaits. A one-hour high-speed catamaran to the Indonesian island of Bintan will transport you to the sanctuary of Angsana, part of the highly acclaimed Banyan Tree Group, which also has a sensuous oasis next door befitting adults in an intense state of intimacy. At Angsana, those with children will find affordable, culturally rich one- and two-bedroom suites perfectly suited for families. The two-bedroom suits offer

100-plus square meters of space, and many are safely situated on ground floors so that the pool, beach, and restaurant are only a hop, skip, and jump over pathways through soft green grass.

But the highlight of each day is the affordable spa treatment—first for him while she monitors the children, and then for her, while he strolls the powdery white beach with the younglings picking up shells and examining aquatic life,

and possibly even stopping to build a sandcastle.

During your spa treatment, which should most certainly include one of the various warm-oil massages, mind and body will enter true Shangri-La in the open-air villas that overlook palms and the South China Sea. Two hands will feel like six. Breezes, gently rolling waves, songbirds, soft soothing music, and the faint muddle of distant voices fill your ears. Warming incense burns. And into utopia you ascend.

An hour or so later, a serving of hot ginger tea with a dab of honey allows your retuned body and mind to slowly return to our earthly world with a harmonious sense of calm.

Dinners within the dimmed Lotus Cafe cooled by evening ocean breezes, by Tanjung Said Bay in candlelight at the Pantai Grill, or perched in trees amid torches and candlelight above the crashing waves at the Banyan Tree’s Treetops keep children mystified and parents within their fog of near-perfection.

Upon returning to the spacious room through grounds romantically lit, you enter a sanctum illuminated by the magical glow of a ceramic oil burner, filled with the essential oil of the day—possibly lavender, pine, rosemary, or even ylang ylang—as children fade off into dreamland and parents fall into each other’s arms. Paradise found.

Tips in Utopia

BYO Lunch

Before heading off to Bintan, stop by Carrefour—on Orchard Road at Plaza Singapura or at Suntec City Mall—to pick up fresh bread, a delightful array of seasoned canned tuna or sliced meats, fresh fruit (mangosteens anyone?), potato chips, cookies, and juice for lunch breaks. The one- and two-bedroom suites come with a kitchenette, kitchenware, small refrigerator, and a round marble-topped table that seats four.

Great Idea!

Frozen melon balls on wooden skewers are served to guests around the Angsana pool area at 11:00 each morning.

Dinner Tip

The restaurants at the Banyan Tree Resort next door do not eagerly “welcome” young children—and a visit we made with an infant years ago is probably one of the chief reasons why—but pledges of well-behaved children have since been able to secure us 6:30 dinner seatings alfresco by the sea at Treetops. (The sun sets at around 6:00 on Bintan.) And the children will love the free transport by golf carts.

Ylang Ylang?

According to the folks at Angsana, the essential oil of ylang ylang is “an aphrodisiac that enhances the senses and reduces anger, frustration, and jealousy.”

Angsana Angle

The tall, tropical angsana tree is noted for its crown of golden, fragrant flowers, which quite unexpectedly burst into bloom for only one day, crowning the tree’s dense, leafy dome in a golden splendor of fragrant yellow flowers that rain down upon rainforest floors the following day.

Info Box:

Angsana Resort & Spa Bintan


Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts

Bintan Resort Ferries

About Michael Hassett