Neighborhood, Outsider

Dreamy Destination

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Praised as the mini Maldives of Indonesia, Bawah Reserve is bringing back the beauty of nature in the most luxurious way. See more beauty of Bawah Reserve through the lens of Germaine Ttran and read our exclusive interview with her as one of Asia’s most prominent travel influencers. 

Being the biggest island country in the world, Indonesia always has something to offer to everyone. With more than 17,000 islands that occupy this nation, it would take over than 49 years just to visit each one of them. The island of Bali seems to be the most popular among travelers. And it’s not hard to understand why. Bali has everything that anyone who is traveling to a tropical climate is looking for. The beautiful beaches combine with the adventures of the rainforests and waterfalls, make Bali the perfect destination for anyone. But now, there’s another island and another reason why you should visit Indonesia. And the reason is to see the beauty of Bawah Reserve. 

Located in Indonesia’s remote Anambas Archipelago, Bawah Reserve rests in sheltered seclusion only 300 km away from Singapore. Surrounded by clear crystal waters, blue lagoons, and coral reefs, this hotel that sits on privately owned island caters to outdoor adventures with an appetite for indulgence and luxury that paradise seekers are looking for. Bawah Reserve is comprised of 35 villas from overwater bungalows, beachfront villas, and garden suites that are made by hand using natural materials such as Javanese bamboo, driftwood, and recycled teak. Perfectly combining luxurious moments within natural surroundings, Bawah Reserve houses a maximum of 70 guests at any one time – giving you that feeling of escaping to your very own private island. 

Get to know more about Bawah Reserve through the lens of Germaine Ttran and read our exclusive interview with this Singapore-based travel influencer below. 

First and foremost, tell everyone about yourself!

Hi guys, my name is Germaine and I’m an independent full-time creative sharing my travel dreams and fashion photography mainly via Instagram [@Germaine.ttran] to an audience of 54,000 followers. Recently, I’ve ventured into blogging [www.germainettran.com] where I get to share more about my experiences with heaps more pictures. In a nutshell, I’m a storyteller (or a travel & fashion influencer) using visuals, words, and the great outdoors to give my audience a glimpse into my travels and love for fashion. I make a living out of the work I do on photographic projects, from travel to fashion to food clients. My visuals are a way for me to capture and keep moments that moves me and I want my audience to feel like they are right there with me, experiencing all that I have in that spellbinding moment. In some ways, I let my audience into my personal life and share with them my most intimate moments, like I would with a close friend. I guess that’s how my audience feels a sense of connection to me. My works have recently been published in UK Harper’s Bazaar Feb’19 and Mar’19 issues and I couldn’t be more stoked. 

Where was the first place that you traveled to that made you think that traveling is amazing? 

I’m wracking my brain trying to come up with my FIRST awe-inspiring location to share with you. I’m sorry to disappoint but in my memory, there isn’t one specific place. From a young age, I was lucky to have been brought on many family vacations. As such, I’ve had plenty of fond childhood memories from traveling. One of them was a trip to Chang Mai, where the waitresses in a restaurant were dolled up in the traditional costumes. I couldn’t stop gazing at them in wonderment. Thereafter, I insisted on several photos with them; till this day, my mum still has those photos. Then, there was a trip to Japan where I was exposed to the Japanese culture and the Kimono. I desperately wanted my own Kimono and convinced my parents to buy me two sets of Kimonos, which I wore every time my parents brought me to a Japanese restaurant. On another occasion, I remember being in Bali with my parents and grandparents. At the age of 10, I was going through a phase where I wanted to pose for every single photo. I’d just watched the Balinese dance and was inspired to pose for photos mimicking the dancers’ movements, all while dressed in a sarong skirt. It was a hilarious time for my parents. Collectively, these were all amazing moments of being exposed to new cultures and wanting to blend in like a local. As a child, I was fascinated and eager to learn about different cultures, the way of living, and try new cuisines. Today, I’m still very much the same as I was back then; always traveling with a sense of wonder. 

If you had unlimited resources, where would you go and what would you do? 

I’m a Singaporean and grew up mostly in a cityscape. While I enjoy the pleasures of modern luxuries, design, and technology, it’s so easy to get caught up in the rat race and chase material possessions that don’t fulfill one’s soul. Over the years, I’ve acquired a travel style that gravitates towards nature. If I had unlimited resources, I would want to live a tropical island and be on island time. I would find a place where I could live close to the azure blue ocean; yet enjoy the views of lush mountainous peaks. Live salty every day. Soaking in the sun, sand, and sea, while living off the ocean and local tropical produce. I would build a large one or two-story house, made from local sustainable materials with plenty of floor to ceiling windows to allow for plenty of natural light. The house would be situated on top of a steep hill and it’ll house an infinity pool looking out to views of the ocean and mountains. For the most part of the year, I would just live here as my base, learn to surf, and enjoy the good life. Other times, I will spend time traveling to new destinations or go chasing after winters to go snowboarding. 

How did you get started in being a travel influencer?

I’ve got wanderlust and travel in my veins. Travelling is ingrained in my life, every opportunity I get I travel. I remember feeling lost after graduating from University when I had to look for my first job. While discussing my options with my family, I recall saying, “I have no idea what job I want to do, but I know I want to travel the world”. It’s come full circle now as I get to do that as my job. Before Instagram came about, I’d traveled a lot in my short lifetime yet documenting my travels as beautifully set-up photographs never crossed my mind. At least, not from the artistic point of view. Photos were shot for keepsakes, instead of being a form of expression. Honestly, I stumbled into being a travel & fashion influencer. Back when I was a private yoga instructor, I was looking for ways to market my services and created an Instagram account. It was then that I started to take an interest in photography and create shots with an artistic point of view. On one of my personal trips, I posted some pictures of my travels and found that my audience took to it and that’s when my account started to grow. I was traveling for all my life and it suddenly dawned upon me that I could make a living out of traveling, my greatest passion in life. And so, after much hesitation and a lot of support from my family, friends, and followers, I took the plunge. 

What’s your favorite place you have visited and why?

This is a tough one to answer. I have so many favorites! Some Places I visit so often like Hanoi, Bali, and France because it holds a special place in my heart. Others, like Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco had such breathtaking sights and landscapes that left me bowled over. Between these tree, if I had to choose one, I would say that my favorite was Morocco. It because I traveled to the Sahara Desert with a bunch of beautiful souls that deepened the experience. A multi-racial group of us from Singapore, London, Vancouver, Italy, and Norway spent a total of three chemistry-filled days together in Morocco. I still vividly remember arriving at the Sahara just in time to watch the sunset before taking off on a camel each. It was a two-hour journey into the desert before arriving at our tents, where we slept for the night. The journey to our tents was made in the dark, yet I thoroughly enjoyed the peace and serenity. It was just the wide-open sky and us. That night, I saw the Milky Way for the very first time and realized that city dwelling made us miss out on all the wonders of Mother earth. After a two-hour journey, we arrived at our tents and were fed with the most delicious Tagine, sand bread, and rice cooked from the desert ground by the Berber people. We even danced by the campfire to traditional music and ended the night by climbing up the dunes to watch the moonlight. It was the most magical experience I’ve ever had. 

What place do you wish more people had seen?

That would have to be Bawah Reserve! Bawah Reserve is a private island located in the Anambas Archipelago, west of Indonesia, just 300km northeast of Singapore. Consisting of 6 islands, 13 beaches and 3 lagoons, Bawah Reserve not only offers outdoor enthusiasts a variety of land and water sports activities but also a reclusive escape for individuals looking to indulge in paradise. With an all-inclusive concept, guests can expect the inclusion of round-trip transfers from Singapore (including seaplane ride), buffet or à la carte breakfasts, lunch, dinner, non-alcoholic drinks, unlimited spa treatments, yoga classes, non-motorized water sports, on-land activities, unpacking service, and daily laundry. Whereas, alcoholic drinks, diving and boutique purchases come at an additional charge. Guests in Singapore can be picked up from their residence, hotel or airport and ushered onward to Bawah whereas international travelers coming from Indonesia can arrive in Batam to take the seaplane. Not many have heard of this hidden paradise, but that’ll not be for too long as I expect Bawah Reserve to become one of the trop travel destinations of 2019 from Singapore and Indonesia. 

We finally get to see the beauty of Bawah Reserve through your story. What made you decide to visit that place? 

I’ve always been enthralled by the beauty of Maldives. When I learned of Bawah Reserve, I was particularly stoked that this slice of paradise existed so close to Singapore! I was delighted to find out that the journey to the resort started the moment I stepped out of my doorstep- a seamless, hassle-free and a premium experience where round trip transfers were included in my stay. The part I looked forward to the most about traveling there was being on the seaplane! Apart from that, I read that the resort has been 6 years in the making and the owners created Bawah with fervor to preserve it as an ecological utopia. Today, the 6 islands of Bawah are now a designated marine conservation area, making fishing illegal in these waters. Furthermore, the design and build of the resort are centered around having a light impact on the surrounding flora and fauna and minimizing energy consumption. Hence, I was ecstatic to see it for myself as I’d envisioned a picturesque turquoise paradise filled with abundant postcard views from different spots in the reserve. I was particularly excited to go snorkeling to check out the coral reefs and marine life to see it they were comparable to that of the Maldives. 

What surprised you or was the highlight of your trip to Bawah Reserve?

The seaplane ride was an adventure of its own where we flew up above the clouds for an 80-minute journey with Captain Wolski, an international pilot with more than 6000 flying hours under his belt. I felt like I was in good hands and whether it was on water or tarmac, Captain Wolski landed smoothly both ways. From up above, the views were incredible especially upon arrival to the resort. The whole journey from Singapore to Bawah took only 3 hours for me to arrive in style and just in time for lunch. 

Upon disembarking from the seaplane, I could tell that my imagination of Bawah had been spot on! I was awestruck just standing by the jetty! The sea was a turquoise shade of blue and so crystal clear that the coral reefs can be seen from above. In the distance, a white sand beach stood at the end of the azure blue sea and one begins to see some beach suites enveloped in lush greenery, it was truly a feast for the eyes. I felt like I was at the epicenter of marine biodiversity and couldn’t wait to go snorkeling and join in on some water sports activities. Bawah Reserve is a stunning private escape away from city life where it is so untouched, that a leisurely snorkel by the lagoons gives you easy access to beautiful coral reefs and an opportunity to spot colorful marine life. I even spotted a baby stingray while paddle boarding! While sustainability was at the core of its practices, a great deal of attention to detail has been poured into the design to ensure that guests were able to enjoy their surroundings while kicking back to plush interiors. Dining facilities available superseded my expectations with beautiful spaces for different moments and mood. 

As the accommodation packages is all-inclusive, I particularly enjoyed having the rare inclusion of return seaplane rides and spa treatments, usually available at extra cost in other all-inclusive resorts. Our hosts (Trioo & Bayu) went above and beyond to make personalized arrangements, all within short notice, and constantly paid close attention to our needs. Since we were on island time, it meant we literally had no care for the time of the day and they came to remind us about every engagement we’d booked for. They were so thoughtful that they even had the kitchen prepare us sandwiches before our seaplane ride home since we’d missed out on lunch! All in all, Bawah Reserve is a beautiful private oasis for those looking for a luxurious retreat close to Singapore! 

Is it really like being in the Maldives?

With 6 islands, 13 beaches and 3 lagoons coupled with being a designated marine conservation area, Bawah Reserve’s coral reefs were in pristine condition and felt more untouched than that of the Maldives. This paradise will certainly give the Maldives a run for its money. 

 

Some people travel to shop or to eat, what about you? What is it you look for when traveling to new places? 

When I travel, I look for a comprehensive travel experience, which involves enjoying delectable local food, some outdoor activity, visiting awe-inspiring landscapes, and having unique experiences. Everywhere I visit, I love to deviate from the tourist routes and travel off the beaten path so s to experience moments like a local. Having said that, capturing beautiful visuals is always a priority and the best way to do so is venturing where most don’t. 

What is the best advice that you have been given about traveling? 

My husband often says, “A bad experience always makes for a good story”. I have to agree with him on that because I think we don’t give enough credit to life experiences. We’re too busy chasing money, a good time or a relationship. So much so that when we travel, we expect to have an exceptional time and for things to go as planned – I’m guilty of that too. Travel brings unexpected surprises and I’ve learned to embrace all the good and bad that comes with it. I’m a more relaxed traveler these days and every time I feel like I’d get into a mood as a result of a bad situation or experience, I think back to this quote. 

You take some incredible photos. Can you share some of your best tips for people who also want ot take great travel photos?

My husband and I work as a team to create all the visuals you see on my Instagram account. I’m the mastermind behind the creative process, from idea conceptualization to art direction to shooting and styling to visual editing. Whereas my husband is the Photographer or videographer working painstalkingly to help me achieve my desired shots. These days, he’s taken a more active role in the creative process with inputs and applying his personal falir to our shots. 

Here are some tips for those looking to get a head start on taking pretty travel photos:

 

  • Powerful imagery can be shot simply with a phone. Focus on learning how to shoot photos with a good perspective and composition before shelling out money for an expensive camera. 
  • Learn to shoot in manual mode.
  • Shoot your photos in RAW to capture the optimum colors and unparalleled control over producing higher quality images.
  • Wake up early to beat the crowds.
  • Have patience and take the time to get your desired shot.
  • Always look for new angles and perspectives.
  • Don’t forget to chase sunrise and sunsets, they reflect some of the best colors and make for some of the best storytelling. 
  • Edit your pictures easily with Lightroom.

 

Do you plan your photographs, or do you take them as you go?

I always plan my shots for every job we work on, not only for the purpose of a storyboard and shot list but for my outfits to coordinate with my surroundings. It’s always been my practice to plan well in advance so that we can ensure that my vision is effectively communicated across for execution, a smoother more efficient shoot, and fewer headaches when I get to the editing room. While scouting for shoot locations, I like to do as much research as possible on the locations to anticipate the lighting conditions we might have to work with and bring props with us, where necessary. We may find better angles and perspectives on site and roll with it, which is always a treat. 

You always mention that you travel as a couple with your husband. What tips do you have for couples who want to travel frequently together?

I have been traveling with my husband since we met at the age of 19. We share a similar love for travel, are both constantly restless, and have a strong desire to live wildly free. Out interests, tastes, and preferences are so similar that it is a breeze for us as a couple on a daily basis, much less while traveling together. When traveling, we are always on the lookout for new experiences, to get out of our comfort zone, and try new things; that has always been the goal of our trips together. Of course, not all couples function like us and we too have moments when we’re not in sync. I would say to couples out there that are looking to travel frequently together to keep an open mind and be accommodating to what your partner wants to do. After all, both of you would be traveling to a new and foreign destination and there would be endless new experiences to try out. Respect your differences but learn to compromise and take turns to do something that interest the other person.

 

Can you finish this sentence? I travel because…….

Traveling makes me feel alive, free and fulfilled. It opens my mind to new perspectives and different ways of life.

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