Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 19 January 2015 • Destination
Riau, a province on east coast of Sumatera Island, is perhaps acknowledged more as a mining province than a tourist destination, with international oil companies rigging their way into the earth. Pekanbaru, the provincial capital city, is almost unheard of when it comes to travel talk, in the sense of tourism. Believing that there must be something interesting in every place, I decided to look into Pekanbaru.
And I was right. It looks like Pekanbaru doesn’t have mercy for mediocrity, judging from the iconic structures. Here are some interesting ones I came to notice upon my 5-day visit:
The Governor’s Office is a 9-storey building that to me, in a glance, looks like a building from some futuristic movie, with the dome and plank-shaped roof. Located on a busy t-junction, it stands out among other establishments surrounding it. In front of it is the controversial Zapin monument.
Simply looking at the Zapin Monument, I don’t think you’d find anything controversial about it. It’s a sculpture of a woman and a man dancing, a scene taken from the traditional Riau Malay Zapin dance, and is made of copper and silver by I Nyoman Nuarta, an internationally acclaimed Indonesian sculptor. Personally, I think it’s beautiful. I love how dynamic it looks, as how I think of a lot of Nuarta’s sculptures.
From what I gathered, this beautiful monument created controversy for a few reasons. First, it was located on the 0 km point of Pekanbaru, replacing the old jetfighter monument that many didn’t approve. Second, the female dancer statue is thought to be too sexy (either by the people or the government), her shape to be too sensually provocative. Third, the female dancer’s move is also said to be incorrectly depicting Zapin dance. And finally, it was said to have cost too much of the provincial governmont’s money, which was IDR4,000,000,000 or about at least USD300,000. Man, I even got lost in the zeros!
Standing exactly to the Governor’s Office is the District Library or Perpustakaan Daerah that looks even catchier. The 6-storey structure symbolizes the purpose of a library with its open-book design. Some say it is actually a huge Qoran stand, since Pekanbaru (and the whole Riau) is largely populated by religious Moslems. If you’re walking by the building, you might not see the whole shape of the building. I saw it best from the highway, on my way downtown from the airport. However, the many pillars that support the building would most likely steal your attention because they’re so visually distinct from the surrounding. Not to mention, the reliefs on the façade, which depict Riau’s progress of economy.
I was curious to see their book collection, especially books on local cultures. Too bad they were re-inventorying the books, so the only available sections were the children and school textbooks.
When other provinces try to incorporate (or sometimes force) traditional elements to their already-built modern buildings, Pekanbaru did differently. They are bold with contemporary style and not hesitant to supersize. These iconic structures include the Stadion Utama Riau, that was built for the 18th National Sports Week (PON XVIII) in 2012.
Unfortunately, corruption was involved in the project. There was a big amount of government’s money spent, but the contractor did not receive full payment, maybe until today. So the fancy upside-down large-bowl-shaped stadium has only been used twice or thrice for sporting events. It’s now abandoned with cut-off electricity, turning the vicinity into a dark and criminal-inviting area. What a shame.
Further southward on the very long Jalan Sudirman, the art center Anjungan Seni Idrus Tintin is established. It’s named after Idrus Tintin, a legendary artist and poet from Riau. The building, to be exact the exterior – because I didn’t have a chance to enter – is designed in Riau Melayu (or Riau Malay) style. The details on the walls and roof are very typical of any Malay-influenced houses. Upon my visit, young girls were practicing a traditional Malay dance on the veranda and a local pop band were waiting for the sun to soften to shoot their music video on the front court. That noon was really sunny and hot, I spent some time snacking at the gate, where a lot of food carts parked.
A little trivia: the building was initially built for the MTQ (the reading of Qoran competition), hence people also call it ‘MTQ’. Then it shifted function as a venue for art-related events. The most known event was the Indonesian Film Festival (FFI) in 2008.
Being raised as a Moslem, I think I have seen quite enough of mosques in my life. I had not fount Islamic destinations interesting because I feel like they’re too familiar. Surprisingly, An Nur Mosque did just the opposite.
I first visited the mosque just because. You know, the ‘when in Rome’ kind of thing. Then I saw how magical it looked against the dusk sky of Pekanbaru, I couldn’t take enough pictures of it! Traveling slowly also gave me much time to spend in the mosque, just admiring the interior after the prayers. Little did I know, I ended up coming back there the day after and the day after that.
An Nur (meaning ‘the light’) Mosque’s design is said to be inspired by India’s Taj Mahal. It has its own color, though. Shades of green and gray, matching perfectly with the grass field in the complex, where in the afternoon you’ll see people doing various exercises, like jogging and playing soccer.
So. Next time you have a chance to visit Pekanbaru, make sure you check out at least these buildings and monument. You might even find other interesting structures in Pekanbaru.
Or have you? Do tell us about your findings there.