Eco-tourism lies at the heart of Bintan Island. Beautiful beaches and nature’s wonders are the order of the day when it comes to this amazing destination. The island also possesses historical significance which dates way back to the 16th century, when it became a main trading port in the South-East Asia region.
Tales of conflict, piracy and power struggles colour its past, making the island all the more intriguing. Traditional villages are also aplenty, offering visitors a glimpse into the locals’ culture, which are as exciting as they are educational.
True to its name, the Banyan Tree Temple is easily recognisable by the massive Banyan tree over it that has, over time, become part of its structure. More than two centuries old, the temple carries with it a fascinating story, whereby an old man’s wish to die and be buried in his own home had caused the Banyan tree’s roots to grow around the house, as if enveloping it in a protective embrace.
Over the years, the house has since become a sacred temple, with devotees from as far as Thailand coming over for an annual pilgrimage. It is said that the temple can grant wishes and bring good fortune to those who visit it.
Location: Senggarang Island
Home to eight magnificent Sumatran elephants trained to perform all sorts of delightful tricks, Bintan Elephant Park offers visitors an exciting interactive adventure with these gentle beasts. Watch as they make perfect 360-degree turns on their hind legs and jive to disco music, and enjoy the forest scenery while riding on their backs afterwards. Visitors also get a chance to feed these elephants, while at the same time learning more about them – their dietary and living habits, individual and group behaviour. Tours to Bintan Elephant Park, which include return transfers, can be arranged at the hotel’s concierge desk; alternatively you can contact the park directly at (62) 770 692 282.
Opening Hours: Show starts at 10:00 on weekdays & Saturdays, with an additional show at 16:00 on Sundays.
Address: Site Ai 1, Lagoi, Bintan
Originally a humble-looking mosque, Masjid Raya Sultan Mosque was built into a grand religious monument by the people of Bintan themselves, using raw materials contributed by the locals and neighbouring islands. The story has it that the foodstuff supplied was overflowing, particularly eggs, so in order to avoid wastage, the excess foodstuff had been incorporated into the building of the new mosque. The result: a mosque built out of a mixture of egg white, sand and lime, which proves to be a solid concoction that had stood the test of time.
Location: Penyengat Island
Literally meaning ‘Souvenir Market’ in Indonesian, Pasar Oleh-Oleh is a cluster of local-style huts selling all sorts of gift items and souvenirs, as well as local delicacies such as kerupuk (prawn or fish crackers) and dried fish.
The market has four restaurants serving both local and international fare, as well as a Spa. A Visitor Centre is also available for visitors to check out the island’s history through still images and video presentations. Almost all hotels and resorts provide free shuttle services to Pasar Oleh Oleh. Check with your hotel/resort for more information.
Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 23:00
Address: Kota Sebung, Bintan (near Bintan Resorts)
Time seems to come to a standstill in Penyengat Island. Once the epicentre of the Malay Riau-Lingga empire, the island is steeped in history – full of historical monuments and interesting relics of the past. It was also known as the cultural capital of the Malay community in the 19th century, with many scholars and writers setting up base here.
An impressive stone fortress in the west serves as a reminder of Raja Haji’s (the island’s then-ruler) ongoing battle with the Dutch. Dotted all over the island are royal graves and old palaces, and an old citadel in the middle which comes with an amazing panoramic view of the island and its surroundings.
The island’s highlight comes in the form of the wondrous Sultan of Riau Grand Mosque, which was built using a mixture of egg white and lime as cement.
The 28-metre tall Raja Haji Fisabillah Monument was erected in memory of Raja Haji Fisabillah, a Malaccan ruler and a national hero, who died in a battle against the Dutch colonialists. A historical sea battle took place more than 200 years ago before the monument on January the 6th, 1784, ending with the Dutch defeat.
Location: In the western part of Tanjung Pinang, directly facing Penyengat Island.
Built in the 18th century by a Dutch priest, Santa Maria Cave is a well-preserved and well-maintained place of worship, with a Mary statue standing on half a globe gracing its entrance. A huge number of devotees throng the cave on Sundays to pray, as well as for a chance to meet other devotees in an informal weekly social gathering.
Location: Opposite Trikora Beach.
A must for seafood lovers, Sebung Village is the place to go for the best seafood in Bintan. Served in Kelong-style restaurants, the seafood here is fresh, tasty and highly affordable. This sleepy fishing village also offers some fantastic views of the mangrove river as well as a chance to observe the local’s way of life.
Location: Near Sebung River.
A small fishing village, Senggarang Chinese Village is believed to be the starting point for Chinese immigrants who had come to this part of the world back in the middle of the 18th century. Amongst the village’s biggest attractions are the 200-year-old Banyan Tree Temple and the Xuan Tian Shang-Di Temple. Today, the village portrays a charming scene of houses on stilts and cobbled squares.
Located at the mouth of Sungai Ular or Snake River, the 300-year-old Snake River Temple stands in the middle of nowhere, isolated and mysterious, only accessible via the river. Its walls are adorned with interesting paintings depicting scenes from Chinese hell with unspeakable horrors and various torture methods.
Location: Opposite the harbour in Tanjung Pinang.
A trip to Bintan Island would not be complete without a visit to its capital, Tanjung Pinang. A tour to this small and friendly town is a good exercise in learning more about the island’s culture, inhabitants and lifestyle. Plenty of bargains can be found here, from local handicrafts to priceless antiques, sold by street peddlers and in shophouses. Padang restaurants are also in abundance around town, with a concept similar to that of a tapas bar; an array of small dishes are arranged on a table for customers to choose from, with the customer paying for only what he/she eats. The most famous delicacy here is ‘otak otak’ - fish meat, cooked in coconut milk and a variety of Indonesian spices, which is then wrapped in coconut leaves and grilled over a charcoal stove.
The second most important town in Bintan, Tanjung Uban serves as a take-off point for the nearby island of Batam. Along the coast is a unique ‘pelantar’ system where houses, shops and restaurants are built on stilts over the sea, all interconnected by boardwalks. There is also a variety of shops selling local arts and crafts, as well as a local market that sells all kinds of edible goods, from local tropical fruits to dried shrimps.
Isolated and tranquil despite its popularity, Trikora Beach’s white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters provide the ideal environment to relax and unwind in the sun.
There is also a fishing village nearby marked by a number of mobile ‘kelongs’ (stilt houses built by fishermen to breed or trap fish) along the horizon, and a small boat-building ‘workshop’, where visitors have the opportunity to watch how a boat is made from scratch.
Several ‘attap’ huts doubling up as stalls selling local snacks during holiday seasons line the beachfront.
Location: On the eastern shores of Bintan Island.