The Sanchaya in Bintan fuses colonial splendour with modern luxury

Glory Days

Sweeping into the manicured grounds of The Sanchaya is like entering a film set from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The Great House marches into view, resembling the grand colonial manors of British Resident-Generals and English aristocrats. It looks like a place where characters – played by Cary Grant or Rhett Butler, Rita Hayworth or Lauren Bacall – would swan around in a swirl of mystery, intrigue and glamour. And on closer inspection, it is all that, and more.

The passion project of Singapore-based Russian businesswoman Natalya Pavchinskaya, The Sanchaya is the undisputed pinnacle of luxury on Bintan, an Indonesian island considered the resort enclave of Singapore. Traditionally, Bintan hospitality properties traditionally veer towards cheap, cheery and family, but The Sanchaya is one of the few to make luxury its signature; and it is certainly the most successful at it, crafting the sort of resort experience expected in The Maldives or French Polynesia a mere hour away from Singapore.

The Sanchaya experience begins even before you step foot into the property. Although there is a small airport in Bintan, most guests will arrive via boat from Singapore. Once you cross the gang plank to Bandar Bentan Telani Terminal, others will turn right while you will go left, past a dedicated immigration counter into The Sanchaya’s dedicated lounge. Dwarfing the adjacent public terminal, it is a place to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, idle and marvel at what awaits.

First, the mystery. Surely this must be a restored heritage building? Well, it isn’t. The Sanchaya’s Great House meticulously recreates an Asian colonial mansion in a regal black-and-white monochrome down to the balustrades, awnings and floor tiles from scratch. From the main entrance, it splits into two wings; on the left, the matter-of-fact titled Dining Room, and on the right, the Bar, Salon and Library. All are decorated in rich tones of brown, a sort of gentlemen’s club meets safari lounge with overarching Southeast Asian motifs; the abode of an intrepid British world traveller that would be the setting for – suddenly a shot rang out! – an Agatha Christie mystery.

Then, the intrigue. What does staying at The Sanchaya entail? There are three ecosystems on offer, starting at SG$920 (RM2,865) per night. The Great House suites occupy the first floor of the Great House, while the Villas are single- and double-storey options that continue the colonial style, which include the palatial Vanda Villa (SG$13,500/RM42,000). Then there is Lawan Village, a clutch of villas that are a stylistic jump towards Thailand encircling a pond that includes Leelawadee, an elegant compound of three villas. Though the interior design differ slightly – the Great House suites and Villas hold true to the stately black-and-white theme, while Lawan Villages adds brushstrokes of rich brown to its palette – they are united by the same plush atmosphere which include unbelievably comfortable beds, Bang & Olufsen electronics and Pavchinskaya’s personal collection of art and curios: vintage maps, charcoal sketchings, preserved fossils and horse-hair rugs that give the resort its name, as Sanchaya means ‘collection’ in Sanskrit.

And finally, the glamour. Privacy may be an emphasis – it would be easy to remain ensconced in the comfortable cocoons and staff seem to be able to appear and disappear at will – but The Sanchaya has an atmosphere that invites surveillance. You’ll find yourself compelled to walk the length of the pristine beach, lounge under palm trees and swim laps in the spectacular 50m infinity pool. Or watch others wander about in the same bliss while sipping on a cocktail – mixed tableside for you, of course. Meals incorporate fine examples of European and Asian cuisine, and can be taken at the refined Dining Room or the more resort-like Tasanee Grill. Then there is The Sanchaya Spa – an oasis of calm that promises, and delivers on, rejuvenation. And if you choose to venture beyond The Sanchaya, Bintan has plenty of golf and water sports options as well.

The world is your oyster. It feels that way at here. Squint and you can imagine this being a sepia-toned tableau of royalty and celebrity directed by Josef von Sternberg. Open your eyes a bit wider, and that vision sharpens into a throwback wonder. The Sanchaya is a heady mixture of a glorious past, the cutting edge of modern luxury and a clear vision of opulence, brought together in a magnificent way. And Bintan is all the more richer for it.

The Sanchaya

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Published November 29, 2016
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