Everything you Need to Know about Pekanbaru

Pekanbaru is the capital of Riau Province in Sumatra, Indonesia. The name of the city translates to ‘new market’. It is located on the Siak River, making the city a natural trading port due to its access to the Strait of Malacca. Pekanbaru has an area of almost 450sqkm and is home to a population of about 800,000. It is also recognized as one of the cleanest cities in the country. 

Pekanbaru used to be a sleepy town before the Americans discovered oil in the region during the 1930s. Since the discovery, the town prospered and its economy got a huge boost from the oil revenues. Today, the city remains the oil capital of Indonesia.

The city served as a transit point between ferries carrying passengers from Singapore. Because air travel is now more affordable, less people head to Pekanbaru. Nonetheless, since the city serves as a gateway to Indonesia from Singapore, it still is a favoured destination for travellers who want to go further inland.

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Pekanbaru Attractions

Pekanbaru may not be a tourist spot, but it is home to several attractions worth seeing. One of these attractions is the Mesjid An-Nur, a large mosque located off Jalan Jend Sudirman. However, the Grand Mosque found off Jalan Riau near the river is considered older and more majestic. Built in the 18th century, this mosque is where the remains of the fourth and fifth Sultans of Siak are found. 

On the road to the airport, one will find another Pekanbaru attraction: The Museum Negiri Riau. This museum features an interesting collection of cultural artefacts from all over Riau Province. Right next to the museum is another recommended stop: the Riau Cultural Park. It serves as the centre for all things related to arts and culture.

Another interesting attraction in Pekanbaru is the Alam Mayang Fishing Park. Located in Harapan Raya Street, this place is a favourite recreational spot for those who love to go fishing. There are a number of fishing ponds here containing different species of fish. However, the natural environment is enough reason for people to go here, regardless if they like to fish or not.

Pekanbaru Restaurants & Dining

The city is more known for its oil than for food, but it does feature dining establishments and as expected, most restaurants offer Indonesian fare, but others also specialize in Chinese cuisine. Some restaurants feature both on their menu. One example is the Restoran Taman Anggrek in Jalan Tuanku Tambusai. The chilli garlic crab is the establishment's most recommended dish.

Apollo Seafood Restaurant is a Chinese restaurant with two branches in Pekanbaru that seafood lovers should visit. Those who cannot get enough of fish can head on over to Pondok Samba Lado Hijau, where dishes are given a Padang/Malay twist.

Meanwhile, those who love Western cuisine should drop by Vanhollano Bakery in Jalan Sudirman. The burgers, either chicken or beef, are great, and you can finish off with any of the cakes, pastries or ice cream from the bakery's menu as dessert. Other recommended restaurants in Pekanbaru are Seroja Restoran, Saung Kuring Restoran and Pujasera.

Pekanbaru Nightlife

The nightlife scene in Pekanbaru is still at its infancy. There may be a number of bars and clubs found in this city, but there is still a long way to go before the place becomes known for its nightlife. In fact, some of the best places to go for a drink are found in the hotels in the area. An excellent example is Hugo's Cafe, which is located in the lobby level of the Grand Jatra Hotel in Jalan Teuku Zainal Abidin. With six outlets across Indonesia, this is considered as one of the best bar and club chains in Indonesia. It is famous by its creatively themed nights and is patronized by everyone: students, businessmen, locals, expats and tourists.

However, tourists should be warned: Pekanbaru may not be like Jakarta, but both places are similar price-wise. This means that cover charges and drinks in Pekanbaru and Jakarta are similarly priced.

Pekanbaru Shopping

Pekanbaru is home to several malls, some of which are great places for bargains. Four recommended shopping destinations are Senapelan Plaza, Citra Plaza, SKA Mall and Ciputra Seraya Mall.

Senapelan Plaza, which is found in the business district between Jalan Jendral Sudirman and Jalan Teuku Umar, sells cellphones, sports equipment and accessories, as well as household goods. In terms of restaurants and food stalls, its selection is more extensive. Citra Plaza, located at the junction of Jalan Tuanku Tambusai and Pepaya, is known for carrying exclusive merchandise. This is also the best place to find Muslim clothing and batik. SKA Mall, situated in Jalan Soekarno Hatta, is one of the most modern shopping centres in the city. It provides a good selection of home appliances, modern clothing, cosmetics, office stationery and sports gear. As for Ciputra Seraya Mall in Jalan Riau, it has the most complete games and entertainment centre in town.

For a more traditional shopping experience, there is the Pasar Bawah. This traditional market offers good quality products such as antiques, home accessories, ceramics and carpets. Those who want to bring home a souvenir should drop by Dekranasda Riau, which is considered a one-stop Riau souvenir centre.

Pekanbaru Activities

There are many activities in store for tourists who visit Pekanbaru. Karaoke alone will keep travellers busy until the late hours. No one would expect an oil-rich city like Pekanbaru to be a golfing enthusiast's paradise, but it really is. There are several golf courses to be found in and around the city. One of them is Labersa Golf Course, which is near the city centre. The Simpang Tiga Golf Course is about 70km from the city centre. Then there is the Rumbai Golf Course, found in the Pekanbaru sub-province of the same name.

Meanwhile, animal lovers can enjoy watching elephants do some tricks in the Riau Elephant Centre in Sebanga-Duri, Pekanbaru. Established in 1988, the Centre was granted 5,000 hectares in 1992.

Pekanbaru Information

Pekanbaru can be reached by plane, boat and bus. The city airport, Sultan Syarif Kasim II, accommodates flights to and from Pekanbaru from the following airlines: Mandala Air, Sriwijaya Air, Batavia Air, Lion Air, AirAsia, Riau Airlines, Pelita Air and Firefly. As for travelling by boat, there are ferries that travel between the Riau Islands and Pekanbaru. From Pekanbaru, there are also boats that go to Malacca, Malaysia three times a week; the trip takes about three hours. People who want to travel by bus can go to the Terminal Nangka, about five km west of the town centre. This modern terminal has both economy and air-conditioned buses going to locations such as Bengkulu, Bukittinggi, Dumai, Jambi, Medan and Padang.

Getting around Pekanbaru is not difficult thanks to the types of transportation available.

Pekanbaru has a tropical rainforest climate. It is warm all year round, but it does experience wet months. The best time to visit the city is during the dry season, which is between April and October.

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