The Sanchaya is a one of kind resort. Since I first heared about the place from Chinmoylad (Luxury Travel Concierge) I have dreamt about visiting this hotel that evokes dreams of living in the collonial era Indochina or perhaps Carribean, however, with all the modern day luxuries.
The Sanchaya opened in 2014 after six years of work since the land was purchased and it was the results of Natalya’s collaboration with Thai design firm P49 Deesign.
Sanchaya means Collection in Sanskrit and reflects the resort’s amalgamation of Southeast Asian inspiration, Natalya’s personal art collection compiled through three years of research and art exploration and the historical experience the first explorers had when they came to Asia, bringing a piece of what they saw back home to their collection.
There are pieces from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and each piece has its own place in this large puzzle of styles and themes. Not a singular theme runs through all the spaces, only the textures and hues are common. Side by side you can find naval instruments, tools, items which would be suited to an explorer’s basement.
The furniture was handmade in Indonesia at a factory that had not produced any furniture or furnishing for any other hotel.
02. THE ARRIVAL
It is a long weekend getaway and there I am, checking in at the ferry terminal in Tanah Merah, near Changi Airport, and already noticing the details that justify The Sanchaya premium positioning: a small welcome pouch with ginger candies designed to counter seasickness and two luggage tags.
When we arrived in Bintan the staff were there to greet us and the priority treatment continued. We were whisked through the fast immigration lane, put our luggage through a scanner and were at the resort’s private ferry terminal lounge within minutes.
I would normally tell you about check-in after arriving at the resort, but The Sanchaya has decided to leave the administrative formalities for the ferry terminal reception so by the time you arrive at the resort you are ready to enjoy and not to attend to paperwork. And that is a great use of the brief waiting time we had before our short transfer to the resort.
Because of this efficient check-in process, we arrived at the resort ready to be greeted by the larger than life Estate Manager, Magnus, who warmly welcomed us to The Sanchaya and introduced us to the Front Office Manager. He was ready to hand us over to his staff for our short resort tour and buggy ride to our Sanchaya Suite.
02. THE ROOMS AND VILLAS
There are only 33 rooms and villas in this large property, split across several categories but only 29 can be booked separately as the last four are all part of the Vanda Villa and booked as a whole. Each room has a name regardless of its category so you don’t write down a number when signing dining bills, but the name of your room.
The entry level rooms are the Lawan Villas which sit along a man-made lagoon and are inspired by a Thai village. The wooden villas on stilts face the lagoon and are cozy and warm. They are quite large and have an outdoor verandah above the water, a four poster bed (which no longer has the draping it had when the resort opened), a walk in closet and a very large bathroom.
The furniture and furnishings are colonial-inspired and splashed with Southeast Asian antiques. The walls are covered in art pieces and made of wood. The bathroom is black and white only and holds a decadent and inviting clawfoot freestanding white bathtub from Lefroy Brooks. There is also a dressing table with a premium beauty bag including bird’s nest masks and cosmetics available for purchase.
Next category up from the Lawan Villas are the Junior Suites which follows the caramel wood, black and white style of the rest of the rooms but with more white than black. Bathrooms have the same freestanding bathtub but a larger dose of white than the Lawan Villas. These suites are located on the upper floor of The Great House where the restaurant, library and bar area are located.
Their verandahs with white columns and rattan sofas, take you to the Caribbean, perhaps to a sugarcane plantation. No better place to relax than with a book than the outdoor verandah with views over the tall swaying palm trees and the sea breeze.
The Sanchaya Suite comes with its own living room space and is twice the size of the Junior Suites. They have large outdoor spaces and are also located on the main building’s upper floor which grants them extraordinary views of the sea, or on the other buildings. Some are on the ground floor with direct access to the beach. The colors here are the same caramel wood, white and black with beige and marble. The Sanchaya Suite is a really spacious room to stay at and comes with sun loungers for the verandah to sunbathe or read.
The highest category room is the owner’s estate, the Vanda Villa which comes with a cottage and a main building accommodating up to eight guests in four rooms. The entirety needs to be booked together and it has its own pool. The Vanda villa is located to the left of the main building right on the sand. Inside, there is a splash of white with some dashes of caramel and beige but the decoration is largely similar to the rest of the rooms, just whiter, and it is stunning.
03. DINING OPTIONS
The Sanchaya has two restaurants, the main restaurant opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the Dining Room and is located by the entrance across from the water feature. The Dining Room serves food all day; when breakfast ends, lunch begins and when lunch ends dinner is served. The second restaurant, the Tasanee Grill is open for dinner and serves Thai street-food inspired cuisine. They are both refined and serving a fine dining version of hotel food. There are juice shots given at breakfast, nightly sweets (not the typical chocolates) left in the room and amuse bouche before dinner.
Both restaurant menus are extensive and have several international dishes with a French touch as well as a local Indonesian and Southeast Asian options.
Breakfast is made of a buffet with pastries, breads, cereals and a changing Southeast Asian dish prepared in the live station (noodles, etc.) plus a large hot dish menu made to order. You can eat as much as you want and order as many dishes as you can possibly eat. Breakfast is laid back and relaxed and finishes at 11am. We wanted to try a few dishes and found ourselves over-ordering on both mornings which meant that we were barely hungry for lunch, so lighter versions worked for us. Look out for the traditionally dressed lady offering three types of jamu, an Indonesian herbal tonic. Or order a fresh coconut.
Lunch can be eaten by the pool or the Dining Room with a few lighter options available. Drinks and cocktails are served all day from the very extensive cocktail list and I found them to be great and perfectly suited to the tropical setting.
Dinner can be had both at the Dining Room or the Tasanee Grill by the pool. The Dining Room has an indoor air conditioned area while Tasanee Grill is 100% outdoor. The comprehensive menu can be enjoyed at both restaurants and I found the Thai dishes from Tasanee Grill were fantastic.
I found the food was fresh and the very extensive menu offered a wide range of choices from many cuisines and styles that did not force you to go out of the resort for variation, but the prices were on the high side with mains that could go up to S$60 or S$70 and even soups and salads for S$30 or more. Food was priced at the level of fine dining restaurants in Singapore.
04. THE SERVICE
The staff at The Sanchaya are not called butlers, guest relations or concierges they are Companions and they are ready to help you with anything.
The amount of nice touches and thoughtfulness is stunning and it reminded me of Aman Resorts which I am a huge fan of (who isn’t!).
Anytime you need anything it is provided without fail and quickly. I wanted an iron for a maxi dress and it came in just a few minutes, the time it took to walk to our villa from the main building essentially, and complete with a pretty wooden ironing board, not one of those plastic ones you get at any business hotel. Thoughtfulness went as far as thinking of a designer ironing board.
The staff knows you by name, expected in a small property like this, and the management team regularly comes to check in. The Sommelier will drop by to see if you need help selecting a wine, the General Manager will occasionally come to converse, the Egyptian Front Office Manager will approach with late check out when realising your ferry is later in the day. You can be sure that you will be taken care of.
Perhaps what I admired the most was the level of attention to detail that went into every aspect of the property. Nothing at The Sanchaya was done without careful thought, everything had a reason to be there. The many artefacts were meticulously staged across every room, the books were piled up with a logic in mind, the baseball caps were adequately worn, the symmetry was everything. Even the beach palm trees were perfectly arranged in a straight line and from shortest to tallest. It was an Instagrammer’s dream and my OCD photographer alter-ego took great pleasure in taking pictures of perfectly proportionate frames.