Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 April 2009 • Itinerary
It’s another stunning island that you should visit when traveling around Indonesia. East to the Sumatra island, it offers astonishing beaches with humongous rocks that made me wanting to go there since years ago. I’m so glad that I finally had the chance to go there – with 23 friends of mine!
Our itinerary in this 3D2N (3 Days 2 Nights) trip was mainly island hopping and snorkeling. Arrived at the airport in Tanjung Pandan town at about 9AM, we went straight to our hotel with rented cars, and wasted no time before going to the first beach about 30 minutes drive from the hotel: Tanjung Tinggi beach.
There was an Indonesian box office movie that was shot partly in this area called Laskar Pelangi. This movie was released in 2008 and helped boost up the popularity of Belitung’s natural beauty. Nowadays there are even tour packages that offer Laskar Pelangi Tour, visiting the spots where they shot the movie at.
We were there to behold the beautiful sceneries directly. It was even more amazing when seen with our own eyes. The white sandy beach was clean, the sea water was calm because it’s sandwiched between peninsulas.
Huge granite rocks are scattered in small clusters as far as the eyes can see, some even emerge in the middle of the sea.
There was nothing that could hold us back from running around freely on the beach, taking pictures, and even do some crazy cartwheels on the sand. We were there in a 3-day weekend, luckily the place wasn’t crowded at all. It was like we had the whole beach to ourselves!
Then we started to swim and snorkel to the deeper water for, maybe, an hour or so. Rita, our octopus buoy, came very handy for us to just relax in the water while holding on to its many tentacles. However, it was a bit of a hard work to paddle her back to the beach because of the current. Hunger struck me bad and most of us wanted to have lunch as soon as possible. One of Rita’s tentacles accidentally smacked my snorkel until it broke. Oh no! That kinda dropped my mood, other than the hunger ?.
Then we swam back to the beach, me so eager to have lunch ASAP! There’s a restaurant near our car park, Ipink and Norman arranged the food ordering for us. While waiting for our food ready, we washed up a bit by the restaurant, where they installed some faucets. There was also a bathroom for changing clothes, but most of us just put on our clothes over our swimming apparels right there in the parking lot or in the restaurant. Gee, I hope the locals or other visitors didn’t mind our manner 😛
After the delicious lunch of fresh seafood, Norman told us to walk along the beach until a determined spot. Believing that he’s such a good friend who wouldn’t mean any harm, we walked. And walked. And walked. And… gosh, there’s no end to the walk, is there? Later on, I found out that Tanjung Tinggi beach stretches until 1 kilometer (about 0.6 mile). No wonder the walk felt so endless! It felt like there were FIFTEEN TROPICAL SUNS lighting over us from any angle possible. Man, was it HOT!
The scenery was such a sight for sore eyes, coconut trees rise up to the blue sky on our left, blue calm water to our right, smooth sand beneath our feet, and gigantic rocks here and there where we’d hop up and down on to take pictures.
Some of us didn’t go walking and already drove the cars to the destination spot. Then they started to realize that we took too long to get there, so they drove back almost halfway to pick us. Aaaahhhhh…finally! All 24 of us crammed up in both cars to the beach exactly across to Lor Inn – the fanciest lodging on the island, I think, consisted of bungalows.
Still Tanjung Tinggi beach, and we continued snorkeling, while some of us snoozed under the shades. For me, the underwater scenery was okay. I actually expected more. There were colorful fishes, yes, but for me personally, the plus point here compared to other beaches I’ve visited in Indonesia is actually the formation of those humongous rocks, not the underwater scenery. The above scenery really met my expectation, I loved it!
This made me realize, there are many types of beach beauties. And when you travel around Indonesia quite much, you’ll see the variety ?
About 20 minutes drive from Tanjung Tinggi, passing houses on both sides of the long asphalt road with Rita on top of our car making people turning their heads and dropping jaws looking at the never-seen-before orange octopus, we arrived at Bukit Berahu.
There’s a hotel+restaurant, which I don’t remember the name of, in front of the location we parked our cars. We were then led down some stairs to reach the beach. I guess it literally is ‘going down to the beach’.
From the parking lot you can also see the beach and sunset view, but I recommend you to go down just like we did. There, you’ll find amazing formations of big rocks as well. Some fishing boats were sailing, it was lovely to view the silhouettes while sitting down on a rock and waiting for the sun to set.
The next day, we geared up for an island-hopping trip we’ve all been waiting for. The starting point is at Tanjung Kelayang beach, which is also a village of fishermen, about 30 minutes drive from Tanjung Pandan town.
The crossing between islands is using a fishing boat, which Norman had reserved the day before for our exclusive crossing. It cost Rp 500,000 / boat. You would have to pay the same no matter how many passengers are in the boat. Fortunately there were 24 of us, so each person only had to pay about Rp 21,000 (that’s about US$2 for today’s rate). And I think this boat has the capacity of 30 people.
We came to the beach a bit late, so the boat owner rented out the boat to someone else, so there was quite a long wait for another boat that’s available. While waiting, of course we took pictures. Hey, we’re Asian, it’s what we do when traveling!
In the afternoon, after island hopping, some of us continued snorkeling not far from the beach, and they saw colorful fishes, but not so many. I was too tired, so I just relaxed at an eatery at the beach with some other girls, previewing photos that we took with our digicams. What’s that? Oh, you wanna know about the islands that we went to? I was just about to tell you about that.. here it is..
Nearest to our starting point was Burung Island, but we didn’t dock there. We only went passed by it, and clearly we saw why it is called Burung island (‘burung’ literally means ‘bird’). Look at this picture below and, gee, take a wild guess why that is..
Our first stop was Babi Island. Now, ‘babi’ means ‘pig’, ‘boar’, or ‘swine’. We could only guess why it’s called Babi island. Some say it’s because there used to be a lot of wild boars on this island. For all I know, the island was a beauty. But I recommend you to wear sandals or booties to walk around the island because there are some parts that aren’t just soft sandy beach, but covered with small rocks or raw-surfaced rocks as well.
Snorkeling around the beach of Babi island wasn’t really satisfying. I didn’t even see any fish except the micro ones. Only pale-colored starfishes were seen here and there lying on the sea ground. But probably that wasn’t the main selling point.
The current was quite strong towards the afternoon, dragging Rita and my friends further and further from the beach, until finally the boatmen had to come pick them up in the middle of the sea with his boat. Earlier, I independently swam back to the beach. I was already hanging around the beach, looking out at the whole ‘drifting away drama’.
Next stop, Lengkuas Island. This is where the iconic lighthouse is located. It was built waaaaayyyy back in the Netherland colonial era, which was in 1882, but this 50 meters tall building doesn’t function anymore.
However, you are allowed to go in and go up the lighthouse. Looking at the beach and the sea from the top has gotta be a memorable experience, I’m guessing.
I choose not to join the gang up and above. I chose to just relax on one of the big rocks and did some light reading. Soon enough, the breezy wind made me fall asleep a little while. If only I didn’t care about getting my skin burned, I would’ve just laid there for hours.
We had lunch on the beach, a different scene to the normal table and chair scene. Since it was prepared in boxes, no worries, we care enough about the beach’s cleanness, that we put our trash in plastic bags and threw them into the sea..! Haha… gotcha! No, of course we put them in the trash bin provided on the island. If you see any trash on the beach… it wasn’t ours!
Lengkuas island is visited by quite many tourists, foreign and local. Some, like us, had their lunch on the beach in groups, some occupied some sets of wooden bench and table around the lighthouse, properties of the locals, I guess.
Snorkeling around this island gave me more or less the same experience with what I had in the previous island. Trying our luck in the area where boats were parked, this time we didn’t drag Rita along, we just swam in groups for safety reason.
The current was getting stronger and stronger, lucky we had our lifesaving device strapped to our arms (yes, just like what little children usually have on – well, it’s way cheaper than lifejackets). Some of us got lucky when snorkeling on the other side of the island. More interesting fishes were seen around a group of big rocks about 10 meters from the beach.
I walked further to the opposite side of beach – opposite of the parking boats – and found a Jacuzzi! Naaah, it’s actually a circle of rocks in which water was gathered, making it look like a natural Jacuzzi.. or was it just my imagination? Haha..
Belitung is one of the major islands of a newly declared province Bangka Belitung – it used to be part of South Sumatera province. Bangka and Belitung islands are known to be the source of raw tin for decades, some parts of the area are even said to be damaged because of the exploration. But with this long history of exploitation, there is still so much to see on this island, it’s rich above and below the earth surface!
We had lunch at Tanjung Tinggi, in a wooden-built restaurant called RINDU PANTAI (literally means Missing the Beach). It was only about 3 minutes walk from the big tall rocks which has a sign in front it that says “Shooting Location of Laskar Pelangi”.
The delicious set of food, consisted of fried fish, barbecued fish, crispy fried shrimps and squids, and veggies, only cost about Rp 25,000 / person. To me, the shrimp was much more delicious and sweeter than I’ve ever tasted in anywhere else. Everything was fresh!
In the Tanjung Pandan city, there are a lot of eateries. We once ate Mi Belitung (Belitung Noodle, that is), and as many of the Indonesian dishes, this noodle is rich in taste… can’t really describe it but I can tell you… It’s either you love it or hate it.
For my personal taste, I don’t love it. But maybe it could be different for you. I forgot how much it cost, but I think it wasn’t more than Rp 10,000 / portion.
And then on the second night we even had KFC.. hahaha… nothing ethnical about that.
If money was not a problem, we would definitely reserve rooms in Lor Inn. But we did a reality check. So Norman’s dad got us booked in a non-star hotel in Tanjung Pandan called Pondok Impian Hotel, which charged us Rp 200,000 / room / night including breakfast. It’s actually a ‘hotel melati’ (‘melati’ = ‘jasmine’, a type of budget hotel, sort of like a motel).
Renny and I shared a room exactly in front of a disco-dangdut pub (dangdut is a music genre originally from Indonesia, may have been influenced by Indian music, mostly consumed by middle to lower society). Thus, tis the genre that will easily blend you with the locals. When we chose that room, we had no idea what loud ambience we would be having each night! What’s worse, the kind of people visiting these types of pubs. Pervert-looking men and girls in skimpy clothing.. Gosh! Considering we are petite lovely looking girls, this became a little threatening. Fortunately, the next two rooms were occupied by our group as well, so we felt safer.
I’ve been in other budget hotels as well – in Indonesia or other countries – but this one isn’t as good compared to the others. The curtains had holes that looked like cigarette burns, the water in some of the bathrooms were brownish, and the cupboards were dirty, so our clothes stayed in our bags.
This hotel is divided in 2 parts. The newer – and nicer – building is across the road. That’s also where breakfast is served. I’m guessing the rooms cost more in the new building, but it looks much more decent.
I guess there aren’t so many choices of hotels in Belitung island, that’s why the prices standard are more expensive compared to other places. And that goes for car rentals as well.
Tanjung Pandan offers hotels not higher than the 2 stars rating. The good news is, it is much more closer to the city, so you have more choices to eat out even at night.
There are also hotels near the beaches at Tanjung Tinggi, Tanjung Binga, and Tanjung Kelayang. Lor Inn is one of the hotels in Tanjung Tinggi, with the minimum rate of Rp 600,000 / night.
From Jakarta, Belitung island is easy to access, just fly to their airport in Tanjung Pandan. This time around, there are also flights to Tanjung Pandan from Batam island, Pangkal Pinang (capital city of Bangka island), and Palembang (capital city of South Sumatra).
Lucky we have Norman in our group whose family now lives on the island, so we got a great deal of help for accommodation and transportation reservation. Car rental was Rp 500,000 a day, that’s for an 8-seater including the driver. We rented 2 cars for 24 people, so we jammed 12 people in each car, thanks to our relatively small asian butts. But huge asian hospitality! ?
But to transport us to and from the airport, we needed an extra car borrowed from Norman’s dad because we needed more space for our luggage.
The budget that you should prepare for a trip like this depends on the season (low or peak), ‘cos it has much to do with the airline fares and room prices.
Other than that, the number of people you travel with also makes a difference because they charge the boat and car by the number of vehicle, doesn’t matter how many people in it.
For my trip on April 2009, which was sort of a high season because it was a 3-day weekend, the prices were:
Flights to and fro (Jakarta-Tanjung Pandan by Sriwijaya Air, Tanjung Pandan-Jakarta by Batavia Air) : more or less Rp 945,000.
Car rental : Rp 500,000 / car / day, no driver provided, and still have to buy gasoline.
Hotel room : Rp 200,000 / night. Meals (other than breakfast provided by hotel) : more or less Rp 30,000 / meal.
Boat rent : Rp 500,000 / boat / day (8am-5pm), all in.
To sum up, each person only had to pay about Rp 1,600,000 – Rp 1,800,000.