New builds can be game changers, as Zara Horner discovers at The Sanchaya, Bintan
Not even two-years-old, and already The Sanchaya on the Indonesian island of Bintan is operating as a standard setter. Because that is what it is.
From the moment of arrival at the ferry terminal, just an hour’s journey from Singapore, things are different.
The Sanchaya is the only property on Bintan with its own VIP lounge at the terminal so staff handle guests’ passage through customs as they sit back and relax, refreshments and cool towels at the ready.
A short drive away the 21 villa and nine suite property – which opened in December 2014 – overlooks the secluded, pristine Lagoi Bay on an island lush with tropical forest and mangroves, and which has clearly been marked as a future tourism hotspot.
Inspired by European architectue of the 18th and 19th centuries, The Sanchaya – meaning ‘collection’ in Sanskrit – is an award-winning juxtapositioning of western influences and Asian culture and design.
Home from home
Estate manager Anshuman Narayan explains, “In a nutshell, the design brief was to create a resort that was more than just a resort. It was to tell a story where the guest would feel at home, as if they were guests at a luxurious personal estate.
“Carl Almeida and the team at P49 Design and Associates were chosen to design the interiors and exteriors. They had an innate ability to bring this vision to fruition.
“The resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, and cultivates highly refined service standards that pay homage to the attentiveness observed by artisans on a private estate.
“We refer to our guests as our residents, and endeavour to make it feel like they are coming home or coming to visit a close friend’s luxurious estate.
“Visually, The Sanchaya’s design and layout are residential. It looks like a private estate.
“The 21 villas are spaciously situated across the 9.6 hectare estate, with landscaping evident between all of the built-up areas, resulting in seclusion. In fact, even when The Sanchaya is fully occupied, our residents have commented that it is as if they have the estate to themselves. Our residents appreciate privacy.”
Meanwhile, The Sanchaya’s nine suites are situated in the estate’s main building, The Great House, an immaculate two-storey beachfront manor with ample wraparound balconies, gleaming hardwood, and black-and-white panel work.
This is home to the dining room, the bar, the salon and library and decanter – which houses the wine cellar and is also the estate’s wine and cheese tasting area.
Within these key locations (restaurants, bar, library, spa) the design themes run seamlessly throughout.
“The Sanchaya is luxurious but not pretentious,” Narayan says. “It is understated luxury at its finest, elegant and timeless, and this contributes to the feeling of being at a close friend’s luxurious estate. It enables guests to escape the hustle and bustle for the ultimate R&R experience.
“The venues throughout the estate such as the bar and the salon and library are designed to recreate the hospitality of the old European salons, of bringing people together in 19th century ambience.”
Like the villas and suites, these locations are bedecked with rare furnishings and art carefully hand-picked to create the feeling of being in a collector’s home and to provide glimpses into the histories and cultures of Southeast Asia’s clutch of countries. The rare furnishings and artworks help to truly distinguish The Sanchaya’s interiors.
“Every piece of furniture has been handcrafted in Indonesia. Our founder, Natalya Pavchinskaya personally visited the factory in which the furniture was created in a remote part of Indonesia and was told no other hotel owners had ever visited the factory before,” Narayan points out.
“She met the craftsmen, selected the materials for the furniture with them, and was in awe of how they still used traditional methods to craft the furniture. In all, 149 different styles of furniture can be found across the estate.”
There are two distinct designs across the estate, one throughout suites and villas around The Great House, the other for the lagoon villas.
“The nine suites situated in The Great House feature a colonial classic design redolent of the colonial architecture that emerged when Europeans arrived in Southeast Asia,” Narayan explains.
“The villas in this area represent a collection of 10 Southeast Asian countries, making for a captivating microcosm of the region’s rich history, cultural depth and variety. The estate embraces design elements, stories, artworks and artifacts from Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
“To further pay tribute to Southeast Asia’s diversity, the villas are named after various emblematic flowers from different countries.
“The Thai-inspired Lawan Village’s seven one-bedroom villas line the lagoon’s banks while the Leelawadee compound features a private pool. This was designed as a village within the estate. Traditional materials were used in the construction of the estate’s Thai village to emulate that true essence of Thailand.”
And it appears the different styles appeal to different guests.
“Couples love the suites in The Great House and the Thai-themed Lawan Village’s villas. Our two-bedroom villas appeal to families due to increased living space and gardens. Our Leelawadee compound, which features a private pool, is popular with families and friends travelling together.
“The jewel in the crown is our presidential four-bedroom Vanda Villa, akin to a private beach house, that comes with a private butler and chef,” says Narayan.
Sustainability and corporate responsibility are delicate issues for hotel owners, and new builds in particular, but both are watch words in practically every aspect of the industry now.
“The Sanchaya has been designed to blend into its natural surrounds, so minimal changes were made to the landscape,” Narayan points out.
“We purify and bottle our own still and sparkling water right on the estate. The specialised mineralisation procedure involved results in safe, pure and healthy water. The bottles are fully recyclable, saving up to 80,000 plastic bottles a year.
“Annually, we award two local people with a year-long hospitality scholarship to financially support their education and provide in-house work experience while they develop their industry knowledge and skills. They are able to gain employment at the estate upon successful completion of the programme,” Narayan says.
Always on the lookout for ways to build on the guest experience, The Sanchaya has just launched “a modern Asian salon”. Called Pala, a reference to Aldous Huxley’s fictitious island setting where eastern and western ideals fused to create an enlightened community – the salon will play host to a range of events designed to achieve just that.
In addition, a special detox programme at the spa has been introduced. The spa offers up a full menu of treatments using bespoke products both indoors, and in beautifully appointed outdoor pavilions, again… designed to be part of their surroundings and yet are the very definition of luxury.