Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 12 July 2019 • Destination
On our media trip sponsored by the Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs, we were taken to interesting places that aren’t all normally associated with Belitung’s tourism. Some places are already popular among travelers but they are just too good to pass. The following is a list of 10 things to do in Belitung based on the recent trip.
(Check out our other post on Belitung from.. a while ago here.)
There are restaurants that serve food the bedulang way, but we were introduced to it at the town hall. Bedulang is a way to have meals where the dishes are served in several plates on a big tray. It can consist of chicken, fish, vegetables, tempe and whatnot. Usually the one in the middle is a kind of fish soup called gangan.
What’s more interesting is the way they commence the eating. Each tray is to be served for 4-5 people. The youngest of the group has to serve others by scooping down steamed rice to their plates. Then everyone takes the dishes by themselves. And then the oldest person washes her/his right hand in the only finger bowl filled with water. The rest then wash their hands in the same bowl, the same water. Um, it doesn’t seem hygienic, but I think nowadays it is just a formality. You can wash your hands for real in the washing basin or in the kitchen before all this takes place.
Indonesians in general love their meals in groups, even in modern settings. It brings people together to chat, joke, and gossip while eating (yes, sometimes with their mouths full!).
were taken to a pepper plantation in Kacang Bator village.
Pepper is actually a vine plant, and they are tied to wooden sticks that are planted vertically. The pepper that becomes the spice in your kitchen comes from the seeds – dark green and red ones are the ripe ones, ready for harvest. The seeds are then soaked for 2 weeks in a river. Then they are peeled, and then dried under the sun for 2 days. So this process is better be done in the dry season where the sun shines the most.
It wasn’t much of a fun activity like the usual touristy activities, but I find it interesting because it’s where a part of my favorite food comes from. I can stand a month without eating rice, our staple food, but do not take my spices away from me even only for 2 days!
Not unlike food, coffee can also be the reason for Indonesians to gather, especially in a coffee shop. Kong Djie is one of the oldest coffee shops in Belitung, and we visited the original shop, popular as Kong Djie Siburik. As I’m not really a coffee drinker and it was quite late at night and I needed a good sleep afterward, I only sat with my friends and enjoyed the vintage ambiance. Lucky that we sat outside because there was no divider for smoker or non-smoker areas.
The coffee they use is from Java and Lampung, a mixture of Arabica and Robusta. It’s brewed with hot water in tall kettles, which are heated non-stop on a stove with charcoal. The kettles and stove are placed just outside a window, providing an iconic photo op. Kong Djie was founded in 1943, and now you can find the franchised shops in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Batam, Palembang, Bandung, and Belitung as well. Even so, I didn’t want my first Kong Djie coffee experience to be in a franchise. So I got myself a pack of their coffee and brought it home to Jakarta. I’ve tried it now, and I actually like it, though next time I should put less sugar to make it perfect (for my liking). Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, I suggest this coffeeshop to be one of the things to do in Belitung for its authenticity.
Being influenced by Chinese, Indonesia has so many noodle (mie) cuisines. Mie Belitung is one of them and Mie Belitung Atep is the most popular one. It’s yellow noodles with cuts of potatos, shrimp cake, cucumber, boiled egg, beansprouts, melinjo crackers, and shrimps in shrimp broth soup. It’s sweet with a bit of savory, I personally can only enjoy it with a bit of chili added.
The diner is located on Sriwijaya street in Tanjung Pandan. It was founded in 1973 by Mrs. Atep, hence the name. Locals like to eat there, and it is a must-eat for tourists as well.
Tanjung Tinggi is known for the huge granite rocks along the white sand beach. It became a popular tourism spot since it became one of the shooting locations of the movie “Laskar Pelangi” in 2008. Many go there for Instagram photos, but it also has a nice spot for kids to swim. We were there on a Monday so there weren’t too many people, and the beach was clean from trash. Floaties business was slow that day, so was the coconut stall where we sat and enjoyed the ambiance for a while.
Lengkuas Island is known for the lighthouse that was built by the Dutch in 1882. Since 2016 the authority started to prohibit visitors from going up the building because it was distracting the official activities there. Even so, you can still have fun and enjoy the beautiful sight of the island. There are also granite rocks on the white sand beach.
To get to Lengkuas Island, usually people take a 20 minute boat ride from Tanjung Kelayang beach, not far from Tanjung Tinggi (but not really a walking distance).
This is where you can get a nice sunset view at the beach and a good stroll through a mangrove park. Our visit was first to attend the ceremony of mangrove planting. Then the next day we went there to see the Titik Temu Festival, where local communities and theater artist/director Wawan Sofwan from Bandung co-created an event that celebrates nature and culture, greatly supported by the local government.
Because we were there on a festival, I can only imagine how the place looks like on regular days, without the bazaar, the crowd, and loud noise from the speakers. I’m guessing it’s a pretty quiet place to hang around.
The fresh water fishermen of Lintang village have initiated a nature-based tourism spot called Tebat Rasau. They make use of the rasau trees (a type of pandanus plant) into woven crafts like sitting mats, build wooden bridges to cross the river and for people to sightsee. There are also two watch towers along the bridge. A hut is built to receive guests, where the locals will explain about the habitat there as well as serve bedulang meals, local latte and tea.
Having traveled to quite many villages in Indonesia, this type of initiative in making use of the nature commercially with tourism in mind in a sustainable way is rather scarce. There are things yet to improve but I salute these people for walking the walk.
The old part of a town is always interesting because there lies so many history and hidden gems that can explain or reveal much of the town’s today’s state. Our visit to the old town of Tanjung Pandan had to be cut short due to some technical problems, but it was interesting enough to see some of the remains. Before really getting to know the history, I can at least capture its physical beauty in pictures, one of them being the Art Deco (or a look-alike, I’m not sure) function hall that’s about to be renovated.
Belitung has been appointed as a National Geopark by the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs since 2017. Now it is pursuing to be a UNESCO Global Geopark. To claim that status, it has to have, among others, ecological, archeological, and cultural values, as well as local people’s involvement in sustainable economy and environmental care.
To prepare for the assessment for Global Geopark status, there is a Geopark Information Center. Upon our visit, the Vice-regent Isyak Meirobie guided us through the information panels. In the back yard, there is a stone park that forms Belitung island and its geo sites when viewed from a bird’s eye view. There is no view deck from above to prove it, but there is going to be geo café built near it. I wonder what kind of menu they will offer there.