Formerly, Kepulauan Riau was part of Riau province whose capital lies in Pekanbaru. But since 2004 saw the establishment of 32 provinces, Kepulauan Riau now has a new capital in Tanjung Pinang. The province is usually called “Kepri” and has a long and varied history. In particular, a small island called Penyengat Island, which became the foremost user of what is now Bahasa Indonesia, the mother tongue of the Republic of Indonesia.
Penyengat Island is located not too far from Tanjung Pinang so you can use a pompong (wooden boat) which departs from Tanjung Pinang to Penyengat Island any time you want for only Rp. 7,000 for a one way trip. On the island, you can learn the history and life of the Malay people. You will find a historical building called Masjid Raya Sultan Riau which became its main attraction. This ancient mosque was built between 1761-1812. In 1832, this yellow mosque was expanded by King Abdurrahman, who was the Sultan of the Riau-Lingga Kingdom at that time.
A famous inhabitant of this small island was Raja Ali Haji and it was here that the Malay poet composed his twelve majestic Gurindam or Islamic advisements which he wrote in the official Malay language.
In addition to mosques and languages, Penyengat Island also houses other historical treasures such as the tombs of the Malay kings, palaces, and a fortress from the war against the Dutch.
Kepulauan Riau is a province that has islands spread from Bintan to Natuna on the northern part of the Indonesian sea border, so if you are looking to enjoy a tropical archipelago holiday, then this is the place to come. It has so many islands that you may be confused as to which to choose.
Bintan is the main island that became the central government district for Kepulauan Riau and which is home to Tanjung Pinang. In Bintan, you can visit Lagoi, a beach and luxury resort area where you and your family or your business colleagues can spend a weekend or long holiday renting a villa or hotel room. The accommodation they provide is no less luxurious than Nusa Dua in Bali. A variety of water sports are also available around Lagoi, such as jet skiing and parasailing. Beach-style restaurants are also easy to find, as easy as looking for white sandy beaches and blue sea.
You can also visit the Anambas Islands with many beaches, dive sites and uninhabited tropical islands. In addition, Anambas also offers several remote resorts that are far from the noise of big cities. For example, Pulau Bawah Resort and Anambas Resort close to Tarempa. This small regency is accessable from Batam and Tanjung Pinang by small plane. There are many tropical islands you can visit around Tarempa like Semut Island, Langok Island, Penjalin Island, and Palmatak Island.
Located about two hours from Tarempa, you can visit Letung Island, another archipelago in Anambas which has excellent destinations such as Padang Melang Beach and Jemaja. There are several dive operators ready to serve you around Anambas and undersea Anambas is known as the best location for diving activities.
Located furthest away, you can stop at Natuna Regency, directly adjacent to international waters. The regency’s capital is Ranai and is known for its beautiful nature. Just like Anambas, here you can also see many beaches and small islands. For example, Alif Stone Park, a beach that has hundreds of large granite stones spread along the banks near the sea and which offer views similar to the beaches in Bangka Belitung. Alif Stone Park also offers other activities such as kolek (small boats typical of Natuna), snorkeling and also a camping ground.
About an hour away from Ranai, you can experience the beautiful blue Natuna sea in Buton Bay. Here, there you will find Tanjung Datuk, and small, unnamed islands with stunning white-sand beaches. For those who like climbing activities, you can join local people to climb Mount Ranai. The mountain has an altitude of 1,035m and can be climbed in about 4 hours. If lucky, you can meet Kekah, the rare, endemic monkeys of Natuna.
Not far from Ranai, there is the island of Senoa. A white sand island with graded blue sea, this is a mainstay of Natuna tourism. The island of Senoa is one of the uninhabited islands in the Natuna Islands and here you can swim or snorkel among the expanse of coral reefs scattered around the island.
Kepulauan Riau does not only offer the island and beaches, you can also explore the urban areas like Batam, Tanjung Pinang and Tarempa. Batam City may already be familiar to you because this city is industrial and a business center for activities in Kepulauan Riau. Its location is very close to Singapore, ensuring Batam has transformed into a fairly developed city.
In Batam, you can visit its main landmark, the Barelang Bridge or shop and eat as much as you can in Nagoya Hill. Do not forget to take a moment to stop by the Batam Center, where you will encounter the magnificent buildings typical of Batam, such as Masjid Raya Batam, Dataran Engku Putri Gate and also the Megamall, one of the commercial centres in Batam.
If Batam offers the rhythm of the typical metropolis life of big cities, then Tanjung Pinang is as if you have returned to a simpler Malay life. In this city, you can explore the old city that has existed for centuries or take time to walk around the edge of the sea. Here you will find a typical coastal city landscape equipped with parks, pedestrian paths, night market and museum. Do not forget to try Jalan Bintan, an area known for its many coffee shops and cheap hotels. Not far from the city center, you can visit Dompak Raya Mosque which stands in the middle of Dompak Island in the government area of Kepulauan Riau.
The atmosphere of the small town of Tarempa in the Anambas Islands is different. It is only crowded around the sea port and offers a unique coastal city holiday experience. You can walk and then stop at a coffee shop or spend the evening at Laluna Café, which directly faces the sunset view of Anambas.
Local Culinary Treats
When you travel to an area, it never feels complete without testing the local food and Kepulauan Riau has plenty to offer.
In Tanjung Pinang for example, you can taste Mie Lendir, made from local processed noodles served with chunks of boiled eggs, celery leaves, fried onions and a typical thick soup. Aneka Ria Depot in Bintan Street, is one of the famous stalls for Mie Lendir and are open from 7 am to 2 pm.
Come to Jalan Akau Potong Lembu, here lie dozens of evening food stalls selling various seafood, Chinese, and Malay dishes, like pepes (steam) stingrays and roasted cuttlefish. Not only that, they also provide coffee and Otak-otak seafood.
At Natuna, you will easily find local people who sell Kernas and Table Mando, two types of original food made from sago and tuna. Kernas for example, a fried snack which is a bit like bakwan but whose taste is very different. Natuna residents are also good at making Fish Meatballs made from tuna fish. The village of Sepempang, which is about 15 minutes from Ranai, is an area famous for its kernas and fish meatballs.
Tarempa also offers delicious local cuisine. The name is Mie Tarempa. A local food made from noodles with a mixture of tuna fish and spices typical of Anambas. The taste is delicious and slightly spicy. Mie Tarempa is sold in many coffee shops along Hang Tuah street.
There are many types of accommodatiion with prices to match around Kepulauan Riau. For instance, Banyan Tree in Lagoi, Bintan Island, Pulau Bawah Resort in Anambas, the Grand Hotel in Batam and Alif Stone Park Homestay in Natuna. The prices range from five hundred thousand to tens of millions, depending on your budget. Alif Stone Park Homestay in Natuna for example, is a small minimalist-style inn combining stylish rooms with granite rocks. You will be presented with a unique experience staying in one of the existing granite stone rooms. If you have a bigger budget, stay at Pulau Bawah Resort in the Anambas Islands. This premium-class resort will be an unforgettable tropical paradise holiday experience for you.
photos by NASRUDIN ANSORI