From Palembang to Bangka & Belitung: An Arduous, Unforgettable Journey

MusafirStarred Page By Musafir, 6th Jul 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1i71di9c/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Indonesia>Sumatra

We may had our camera with those beautiful pictures taken, stolen - but the beautiful memories of Bangka-Belitung and the series of journey throughout our trip remained forever imprinted in our soul.
I'm glad to have made that move to leave home and be made rich by the journey that taught me and the family to began accepting the world: as our larger home!

....the Journey Began at Sekupang, Batam

We left Harbourfront, Singapore at 07:50hrs for a ferry ride to Sekupang, Batam reaching there at about 08:50hrs Singapore time (or unchanged clock time for WIB - Waktu Indonesia Barat/Western Indonesian Time which is an hour behind Singapore time).

Reaching Sekupang, Batam without a planned sea route, we were caught a little lost to chart the next phase of the journey. Hastily, on recommendation from a local tout, we jumped on board a ferry heading Tembilahan: not knowing exactly where it's located except that it is on the larger Sumatran island. It was later at home after the journey through referring the Sumatran map that we realised Tembilahan is actually situated in Central Sumatra - it's a small port along a river, and as we recollect the trail taken, we began to understand why the water way was narrow and the ferry stalled frequently then, caught in the shallow water of the river during low tide.

We had several stop-overs along the sea route - at Moro, the Port of Sungai Guntung, Teluk Lanjut, Pulau Gaung, Sangkuang and calling port, finally at Tembilahan after an arduous five hours ride from Sekupang.

Riding the ferry made us realised the importance of this sea route for these people tucked away on these remote Riau islands. The islanders' means of connection from one island to another, and to the main islands of Batam, Karimun, Bintan and the mainland Sumatra, and thus the connection to the outside world via these main islands' or towns' airports, pulsed through these narrow water ways and reasoning why this small, fast boat is always suspectingly: overloaded with both people and cargoes.

The Port of Tembilahan

Touts surrounded us like flies when we reached the port of Tembilahan; again, without a clear idea of where we were then - in all honesty, we were quite dazed and lost there, our journey was once more left in the very mercy of these touts.

It was not surprising then, we were misled to take a route on land instead of an expectant ferry ride to Palembang - via a 3-4 hours van ride on a bad road from Tembilahan to Rengat - then transferring for another 18 hours coach ride to Palembang, the main town in Southern Sumatra.

The route took us along the busy main highway via Kota Jambi and Banyunasin III. While it may be an arduous journey, still we could take comfort from fellow travellers who had began their journey earlier from Medan to Rengat, continuing to Palembang, and onwards to Java - crossing the strait of Sunda - and via Solo, Bandung and Ponorogo for a total of 2 days journey on board the bus, to finally reach their destination at the capital city: Djakarta.

Kota Palembang

We reached Kota Palembang thirty minutes past seven the next morning, and just missed the early morning ferry to Bangka. Despite effort to arrange for other available boats (which later we found to be none except the main ferry we missed earlier), the touts once more ruled our route plan and brought us to the ticketing agent at Jalan Rajawali, Palembang to book the next ferry ride of the next morning.

All the while, keeping our identity from them to prevent from being taken advantage of, they finally knew we were from Singapore instead of Djakarta/Malaysia when C.T unawarely disclosed to the ticketing agent of our nationality. And as awkwardly as they sound, one of them began conversing with C.T in stalled English with a trace and tinge of vulturing behaviour in his demeanour as if there was an instinctive regret in him not taking complete advantage of us economically.

We've been told by the tout we met in Batam to be extra cautious in Palembang and - in total irony- to be told by him, a tout from Batam - to be, and especially, wary of the touts in Palembang!

We put up for a night at the Classie Hotel - next to the ferry ticketing office and was indeed surprisingly pleased with the Hotel room and services provided by them despite being a small, 1-star hotel.

Breakfast and resting were the main course of activities for our hungry belly and aching bodies for the early half of the morning; the other half of the afternoon, was spent touring the busy Central Town of Palembang and the crowded Musi River esplanade, with the towering Ampera Bridge majestically standing at the background.

Indeed, Palembang is a crowded, bustling City founded surrounding the Musi River - a town fiercely harsh and unwelcoming.

Bangka: The Island of Tin

Bangka derived from the word "Wangka" of the old Srivijaya Empire which mean "Tin" in English. Bangka thus thrives and is economically propelled by the tin minings there. Tin was first discovered by people from Siantan and Johor of Malaysia in Bangka in 1710. With the tin minings, comes along other priceless stones/gems and minerals such granite, zirkonium, silica, gold, topaz, monazite and even, uranium. And the ability to thrives on its own resulted in the formation of a new Bangka-Belitung Province (Babel) in November 2001 - the 31st and newest province in Indonersia, detached from mother Palembang when it was part of the Southern Sumatra province centralised by the federal town of Palembang.

It took us another three hours ferry ride from the harbour of Bom Baru, Palembang to reach the port of Mentok, Bangka. Bangka-Belitung was the ultimate destination of our journey.

We were met by our guides Juli and Putra, and the sight of the grand old Tanjung Kelian Lighthouse situated next to the terminal when we first set foot on the island, greeted our keen exploration instincts. But climbing the old lighthouse built by the Dutch in 1826 with 199 steps proved challenging for the tiring limbs and left the children and C.T with tight thights the next morning.

Juli and Putra led us to Mount Menumbung next, to pay homage to Wisma Ranggam where the Indonesian former President Soekarno and Vice President Moh. Hatta were interned during their exiles in 1949.

The rest of the afternoon of our first day on Bangka Island was then spent touring the town of Mentok with lunch in between before we were led to check-in to our resort of Tanjung Parai Beach at Sungai Liat. It took three hours land ride from Mentok to Sungai Liat; leaving me in awe to realise that Bangka in actual is four-times larger than our tiny island of home!

Parai Beach Resort offers some beautiful, scenic views; the late afternoon was filled frolicking the waves and private beach at the resort.

The next day on Bangka was spent touring the Matras Beach and the holy Maria Caves at Sungai Liat District; then we headed to the home-made crackers site at Desa Gedong and followed by the beach tour at Tanjung Pesona before touring the oldest town in Bangka Island: the Belinyu Town. The rest of the afternoon after lunch was spent at Tirta Tipta, the hot spring found in Bangka.

The final day was spent sight-seeing at the local Tin Museum and trying the local food of otak-otak (different from our local version), pempet and shopping for souvenirs at Pangkal Pinang District before we get on board the ferry, onwards to Belitung.

Belitung

The ferry ride from Bangka to Belitung was as arduous as it was from Bom Baru to Mentok; it took us four hours to reach the port of Tanjung Pandan, Belitung and we were greeted by Agus and his tour staff, Ya-yan. After the formal introduction, we were sent straight for a sumptuous dinner. Then, it was time for check-in at Lor In Resort situated at Tanjung Tinggi. By the time we reached the resort, it was dark but we were glad to be in our room for a deserving, comfortable rest.

Before starting off the day for the island hopping trip/tour the next morning, Ya-yan showed off his beautiful Belitung and impressively brought us to the "Laskar Pelangi" and "Sang Pemimpi" filming sites surrounding Tanjung Tinggi; both books, made into film, are authored by Andrea Hirata, the native son of Belitung. They told stories of his childhood and early education experiences on his beloved island (we asked Ya-yan if he could get hold of "Laskar Pelangi" or "Rainbow Troops" for us but Agus pleasantly presented to us two copies of the "Laskar Pelangi" book and a VCD of the movie, as souvenirs to us from him upon our departure the next day).

The island hopping trip/tour was indeed the highlight of the whole journey: a must try itiniery for those planning to visit Belitung. With great beaches of the smaller islands surrounding Belitung, it must be said that it would be a sin trying - and not able painting the pictures of those scenic views with words - deemed fit in describing the beauty of Belitung beaches - which I would not attempt to do so (to describe them with words), for fearing of doing injustice to this beautiful, magnificient jewel of an island.

Rather, I would say let the the scenery speak for themselves: as they would, in their very own right, captured your fullest imagination to admire the beauty of the untouched, virgin islands surrounding Belitung, and the beaches of Belitung itself.

Behold then, the beauty, in your very own eyes....come visit Belitung, then.

Scenic photo of Belitung:

....copyright of Agus Pahlevi, used with permission.
Photography is one of the activities visitor to Belitung will find worth indulging in, for the beaches are truly beautiful.

More scenic photo of Belitung.....

....copyright of Agus Pahlevi, used with permission.
Another beautiful picture captured - sunset and sunrise at Belitung are truly breath-taking too.

Tanjong Tinggi, Belitung:

....copyright of Agus Pahlevi, used with permission.
The blue open sea of Belitung with the sampans or fisherman's boats doting the clear blue sea at the background and the rocks scattered along the beaches in the foreground.

The jewel island:

....copyright of Agus Pahlevi, used with permission.
You will never had enough sun bathing at the beaches and swimming in the crsytal clear water.

The well-known Lengkuas Island:

....copyright of Agus Pahlevi, used with permission.
The majestic Lighthouse built on Lengkuas Island as seen from afar onboard the fisherman's boat.

The paradise island....Belitung

......scenic photographs included are used with permission from Agus Pahlevi.
The sun, the beach and the surrounding rocks - a combination for a perfect picture to remember for a lifetime.

The Afterthought.....

We were indeed in awe with the surrounding flavour of peace and calm offered by the secluded islands. With lunch openly consumed under the shaded tree and the beaches offering an intriguing playground for the whole family, the clear water and majestic Lighthouse at one of the islands remained cast in our memories, forever.

It was fantastic and we were glad to have taken that arduous journey to finally reach this jewel of an island: Belitung.

We may had our camera with those beautiful pictures taken, stolen - but the beautiful memories of Belitung and the series of journey throughout our trip remained forever imprinted in our soul.

It taught us education we may otherwise not reaped; it complement our learning curves about life very much different from one we had in this comfortable, secured home island of Singapore.

Should we never leave and undertake those journeys, we may had not been made rich culturally and may not be made to understand and having great appreciation of the state of our very own close neighbour next door; I'm glad to have made that move to leave home and be made rich by the journey that taught me and the family to began accepting the world: as our larger home!


*Fotenote:
You need not travelled the long, arduous route we took; the easiest and shortest way to Bangka or Belitung is by flight offered by Sriwijaya and other domestic airlines directly from Singapore to Bangka or Tanjung Pandan, Belitung via Djakarta. Or alternatively, you could take a ferry to Batam from Singapore, and fly there from Hang Nadim International Airport to Bangka/Tanjung Pandan, also via transit at Djakarta.

At Belitung, LEVI Tour would be a great choice for a proper and professional tour guide for a first-time visitor to the island. They would not disappoint you, indeed.



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Tags

Ampera Bridge, Bangka, Batam, Bayunasin, Belitung, Indonesia, Jambi, Moro, Musi River, Palembang, Pulau Gaung, Rengat, Sangkuang, Sekupang, Singapore, Sungai Guntung, Teluk Lanjut, Tembilahan

Meet the author

author avatar Musafir
A traveller to a lesser known world!
Hail from Singapore, Musafir set sight to travel round the world, in particular to the lesser-known world.
Coincidentally his name "musafir" is a Malay word derived from Sanskrit that literally translated, mean...(more)

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Comments

author avatar apagung
8th Jul 2010 (#)

It is a great journey, jadi pengen ke Bangka-Belitung

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author avatar Tri lestari
27th Jun 2012 (#)

great journey and beatiful place <a href="http://www.bangkabelitungisland.com">bangka belitung for us</a>

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author avatar Tri lestari
27th Jun 2012 (#)

great journey and beatiful place <a href="http://www.bangkabelitungisland.com">bangka belitung for us</a>

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author avatar Musafir
8th Jul 2010 (#)

...yes, you ought before commercialisation began raping the beautiful islands....

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author avatar Chris nic
18th Oct 2010 (#)

how did your camera stolen ? would you share so others can take precaution

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author avatar Musafir
18th Oct 2010 (#)

...it's a careless, basic mistake on our part actually. We left the camera in the luggage at the front zipper compartment; I guess it had tempted someone during the baggage transfer to get it out whilst leaving the other not valuable item behind.
The camere should have been tugged in the waist pouch instead, as what we usually do but not on that fateful day...

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author avatar Chris nic
19th Oct 2010 (#)

thanks for sharing, hope you will get better camera soon :)

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author avatar shasel
26th Nov 2010 (#)

Congrats on the star page, bro
Nice photos and write up. :-)

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author avatar Sarah
8th Feb 2011 (#)

Thank you so much for the info.
We are going to Palembang this March and thought will go to Bangka Island, but alot people said the Ferry not save, I'm not sure how true is that.
But see you picture in Bangka Islang, give me drive to go there.

Tourist from Malaysia.

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author avatar Musafir
8th Feb 2011 (#)

Sarah,
The ferry is quite safe and by March, the monsoon will be over. It will be a safe sailing then, to cross into the open sea from the Musi River mouth at Palembang onwards to Bangka. Only thing is, you got to bear the ferry journey as it can take quite a journey, and be prepared with people jostling for entry onboard the ferry as lining in queue may not be a norm there.

And we recommend you to stay at Tanjung Parai Beach while in Bangka - it's one of the better resort/hotel on the island.

Better still, if you have extra cash & time, do island-hop to the nearby Belitung (nearby but still take few hours to sail to!), which is much pleasant in nature & less crowed between the two islands.
Enjoy your stay there, and to note, there aren't any (if I'm not mistaken) any ATM's at Babel (Bangka & Belitung) and they usually don't have, or may have limited, cards facilities over there.

Returning on the flight at Bangka or Belitung Airport would be ideal, safe you lot of tiring journey to home...

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author avatar @deeramli
9th Jul 2011 (#)

for god heaven sake.. this is heaven! I wanna go there ;(

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author avatar Thatsofarah
17th Aug 2011 (#)

My dream destination is Bangka Belitung of Indonesia. How long does it take for you to complete the trip?

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author avatar Musafir
19th Aug 2011 (#)

To fully satisfy yourselves, 8-10 days (about 5 days each on the respective Islands) would be good. Belitung is much smaller, nut it is sheer much beautiful. Make sure you go for the island hopping experience while there....

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author avatar Musafir
19th Aug 2011 (#)

...oops!

Amendment: ...."but" it is sheer much beautiful.....

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author avatar Rue
10th Nov 2011 (#)

i have watched laskar pelangi and sang pemimpi, even read the books given to me by a friend. yes..will be there one fine day. Ferry is a long journey but by flight also takes awhile as it is via jakarta. They do not have direct flight ya? Is the ferry journey boring ? Not sea-sick ? i am just curious, should i take the flight or try the ferry. thanks ya.

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author avatar Musafir
12th Nov 2011 (#)

.....the flight from Jakarta would be best to avoid any complications of sea-sick or feeling unwell.

The ferry journey we took from Palembang to Bangka, then Bangka to Belitung the next few days later, can be tough if the sea is rough; still for an adventure, it can be fun (but be prepared for long hours spent in the ferry).

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