Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Retreat @ Banyu Biru Villa

It all began when AMDG Office called up & said, “Hi Kasandra… Mr. Eric See (Who advises, formulates & strategizes all Training & Development Programs for all Artistes & Talents in AMDG; who is also my Grandmentor) suggested sending you and Rena (My Artiste & Talent Manager) to Bintan for a week of retreat to recharge & revitalize and perhaps, along the way, may trigger more new refreshing inspiration for your 2nd book... Thus, the date was set on 3rd October 2010.

Trigger more new refreshing inspiration…? Sounds great!” I literally yelled out loud!

You know… A teaching my GrandMentor once taught me has become my sole principle when writing... “See With Your Mind & Listen With Your Heart.” Therefore, if you happen to see me staring into space or the ceiling that looks like I’m day dreaming, be it in a cafe, the library or anywhere else, please excuse me... because my plots always envisage in my mind first. At times, I listen to a range of music for inspirations... But when I’m down to work, churning my manuscripts, New Age music always puts me in the mood.

However, they don't come up with a phrase like “Writer's Block” for no rhyme or reason... and I’m no exception to it. It's stressful when your mind's a blank, despite thinking hard about it all day and nothing comes up or when you absolutely can't put to words your ideas. It really sucks to be stuck. On top of that, a deadline counts down every second, every minute, every day...

Thankfully, I have a Management & Representation Firm that really takes the interest and well-being of their Artistes to heart; AMDG – who organized this Retreat for me to take a break and charge up my brain cells!

Destination: BINTAN…!

(And Rena did a great job by pulling GrandMentor; Mr. Eric See along… Because he never intended to come along AFTER suggesting to AMDG to pack us there – His presence always make a difference, really! Having him around is like having an aura of protection & inspiration shield around whoever is with him… Those who know him personally will understand what I mean.)

We grouped up at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, got our boarding passes and made our way up the Wan Sendari  Vessel...

Upon touching Bintan grounds, we proceeded to Nirwana Gardens to checked in for our Banyu Biru Villa.

There, we met our very first friend in Bintan...

The heart-warming, cheerful, courteous and friendly; Refnaldi (A.K.A. Al) who greeted us at the entrance (together with the group of performers who put up a welcoming ethnic dance for all arriving guests).

Not only was Refnaldi helpful with our luggages, but every day when we saw him in the lobby of Nirwana Gardens, he would wave and smile at us happily and ask about our programmes for the day. He even gave us suggestions on the things we could do and the places we could go to on this beautiful island. Throughout our whole stay there, he’s like our personal Concierge Cum Personal Guide… And he’s very sensitive to our needs & wants, everyday!

In fact, in our entire stay on this retreat, the staffs working in Bintan were amazingly smiley and hospitable towards us... Their impeccable service attitude certainly made my retreat a very enjoyable one... Hence, I made lots of friends along the way! (Anything that’s organized & hosted by AMDG… It always seems that there’s magic in the air… We always get that extra touch of great services… I wonder why!)

There was once when we missed the shuttle bus, Refnaldi was kind to personally buggy us (without us even asking...) all the way to the Kelong Restaurant and even gave us a personal tour to all the nearby good spots around the island before arriving at our destination... That was how we got to see the mini zoo, with Elephants, Snakes, Eagle & so forth.

When we finally got to the KelongRoy welcomed us in, and Maya settled us down; with Yanti taking our order and Ijo (pronounced as “E-jo”) served our dishes.

They were all simply nice people beyond words of description...

They were very respectful to all of us, this which I personally never experienced before when I first came here many years ago with my own group of friends - It’s just different, as if I had been to two different islands…

I guess their service has peaked-up superbly high over the years; and even the security guards around the island were wonderfully cheerful, nice & helpful toward us!

We also got to know the Banyu Biru Villa Supervisor; Dwi when he first came to introduce himself to Mr. Eric See - This guy is humble, nice and really cares for his guests. He asked about our stay in the Villa and personally offered to help us with ANYTHING we (may) need.

Dwi was one of the many kind souls who kindly gave us a buggy ride whenever we needed one... Complimentary!

Even the Security Guards at the Banyu Biru Villa entrance were wonderfully warm too... No matter how many times we went in and out, Rodot and Kunto (The Day & Night guard) would always smile and wave at us, raising the security-bar as we greeted each other.

Dino Bistro, being the most convenient place to dine at Nirwana Gardens; was usually packed but it was a good place to have High-Tea as they serve a range of cakes, cookies and bread, together with a line of exotic tea.

The first time I met Harry, he asked me if I was a model... I felt a little embarrassed & got tongue-tied; and Rena, my Artiste & Talent Manger stepped in to answer on my behalf.

After Harry asked me that question, I became consciously aware that the staffs & diners in Dino Bistro were watching us every now & then, in a subtle way - It's pretty intimidating actually... but we still managed to properly enjoy our meal, and I must say that the ambience & view were simply great!

We usually lunch at Makan Makan – which is similar to a Food Court actually – where it sat atop a hill that overlooked a field of outdoor activity, and a wide horizon along a stretch of beach.

And just outside the entrance to Makan Makan is a balcony of seating area where you can just admire the scenic view, below and above; and in the day and night respectively.

Even Rena & Mr. Eric See who couldn't get enough of all the twinkling stars above – just laid back on the chair and stared into the night sky... Every night!

Ut Chok, a chef at the Indonesian stall gave some recommendations on what we might like to have; not only at his stall, but at all the others as well... Thoughtful & considerate indeed.

Although the menu doesn't seem appetizing; but the food is really delicious!

I liked the Seafood Bee Hoon so much that I ate the same dish throughout my stay there! It didn't need to be eaten at a luxurious restaurant, cooked by a famous chef or with top-notch ingredients for me to love it as long as I’m enjoying my meal. And it's not just me... My GrandMentor loves the Belacan Chili from the Indonesian Stall so much that every meal at Makan Makan, Ut Chok would generously give him portion after portion!

Beautiful night’s spots where you can feel not only the breeze; but also hear the hypnotic call of the sea; is the open-space called NBC Restaurant - The large, cool blue neon counter gave the entire white-painted wooden furniture a wave of calm...

Evi (pronounced as “A-vi”); the waitress there would always flash her bright smile when she sees us coming. She was so sweet and her out-going personality just made me want to talk to her so much more!

And know what I found out? She has the same horoscope as me and we wished each other a belated and advanced Happy Birthday respectively! My very first Birthday greeting, from a stranger... yet somehow feels so much more from a dear friend... Evi, thank you...!

From place to place, we would ride the shuttle bus or buggy and every time we passed by this particular place, it'll definitely catch my attention, especially at night where it stood out in the dark.

The warm dim lightings that lit up the place, made the blood red drapes hanging down from the ceiling so luring, which gives an ambience of class and luxury... And when we want to chill out at night, I’ll immediately suggest this particular beach house... There can be no other better setting for a chill-out than Baan Aarya Thai Restaurant and Bar!

Here, I met a very soft-spoken and gentle Suriati, who was always very polite & gracious. The first time we met, she came up to me & said, “You are so pretty…” (I was taken aback with that sudden sweet gesture actually) - But Suriati, did you know that your smile is as blossoming as the Morning Glory if nobody told you that before… I mean it - And Hendri, was always sweet & kind to ask his colleague to personally drive us back to our villa directly when they could’ve just let us wait for the next shuttle bus that caters to all guests in the island (But we would have to go ONE BIG ROUND before we could reach our Villa destination that is...) And that’s what I meant when I said ANYTHING that’s organized & hosted by AMDG… It always seems that there’s magic in the air… We always get that extra touch of great services… (And AMDG is not telling me WHY either…)

Not only did I make lots of friends with the people in Bintan, I also got to know a charming white pony; Malati.

Wayan and his gang of colleagues were very passionate & energetic in their work and they quickly got me into gear, with the cowboy hat and vest... Soon, I was ready to Hee-Hahhh…!

Although Sitari (Malati's “guardian”) is not very fluent with English, he tries his best to communicate with me during my ride and I really appreciate the effort, so the both of us were speaking in broken English, literally! We could only say the individual words that we thought the other could comprehend, if not search a simpler word to express what we wanted to say...

You can imagine a lot of “Urms...”, “Arh...” and “Err...” in our conversation but it was interesting... If I weren't on a pony, I might very well use my hands and legs to show him what I meant...

The change of environment, the breath of freshness and the many things that I wouldn't be able to experience in a cosmopolitan city, totally invigorates my Mind, Body & Soul in this place!

Nature has a life of its own and devoting your being to the serenity, without the disturbances of modern technologies and inconsiderate noise pollution, gives one the clarity in the mind to move forward with certainty...

That's why the best time and place to meditate; is during a retreat.

Watching the bright orange sun rising and taking my morning stroll down the beach daily, it just makes you appreciate the little things in life that we take for granted and the beauty we fail to see, as we rush through our life...

From the friendly service staff in the Restaurants, Bistros & Bars, to the helpful Buggy Drivers, Security Guards and caring Hotel / Villa staffs, they displayed passion and joy for their work... Even when we were leaving on the bus to the Ferry Terminal, Al and Dwi personally came to send us off; shook our hands and bade us farewell... They seemed reluctant to let us go; and we were reluctant to go too (as drama as I may have sound... But that's how we felt then.) And this whole week has been paradise to us all… They treated us VERY well with their hospitality & sweet gestures flavoured with kindness from their heart!!!

It was a long time since I’ve felt rejuvenated... And it's all thanks to EVERY SINGLE PERSON I’ve met in Bintan; giving me this pleasant and enjoyable time...

But without AMDG giving me this opportunity & making this arrangement to vacate, such an experience would not have come by...

Therefore, a huge THANK YOU to AMDG… To Rena (My Artiste & Talent Manager & Mentor), and to Mr. Eric See (My GrandMentor & AMDG Advisor) who’d inspired me greatly during this trip & taught me many more new knowledge I’ve acquire!!!

To see many more photos of this wonderful trip…

Click HERE for Part ONE

Click HERE for Part TWO

(Take note that photos taken on this trip are either by DSLR Camera, normal Compact Camera and/ or Handphone Camera – Thus the varies in quality level on each pictures ya… All photos come with a caption... Enjoy!)


Hock Yee said...

Hi Kasandra, it's me (Hock Yee) again.
Thanks for loading up all the lovely photos. Surely you have taken a long time to do that right?
I've been to Bintan once, but not staying at the same place as you.
Looking at all your photos, it's not surprising that you'll be mistaken as a model. They are really beautiful, nicely taken. But definitely must have a pretty "model" to enhance the pics. :)

I love photography, but do not have a good camera. Quite dependent on my iphone4 nowadays. At least there are numerous free applications that can create different effects.
But I'm still waiting to own a good DSLR camera. :)

Hope to see more of your pictures. :)

Hock Yee

The Tree Mouseketeer said...

First time visiting. I've just skipped and skimmed through a few pages.

I write too.

You mentioned writer's block. I've discovered that when you encounter writer's block - GO DO SOMETHING ELSE. It's your mind telling you it's not ready to contribute.

Ideas come when you least expect it. It always happen. Jot them down if you can.

To capture it when you cannot record them physically, just mentally tag them to one key word of your choice. Consciously remember that keyword. The keyword will help you to recall that idea later.

It pays to record your bits and pieces. They are gems. Later just link them up to form your story. Or use them for your stories.

Good writing comes from RE-writing. Re-write until you are reasonably happy with your end product.

I'll come back often and comment.

In the meantime, keep writing. :)