The Charm of BelitungArchipelago Diaries
Blessed with countless islands and relatively calm seas with the tropical sun shining all day, out of Indonesia’s many beaches, one should not skip the hidden gem, Belitung Island.
Located on the east of Bangka Island, Belitung only covers 4,800 kilometers square, smaller than Bali. Its tourism destinations cannot be overlooked given its numerous powdery-sand beaches with snorkelling and diving spots where you can see schools of fish in the crystal clear water.
Once your plane touches down at H.A.S. Hanandjoeddin Airport in the capital Tanjung Pandan you can start looking for hotels, and, even though Belitung›s tourism potential is just recently discovered, you have plenty of choices for place to stay. Ranging from the modest one-star hotels to the upscale ones, you should choose the four-star BW Suite Hotel (www.bwsuitebelitung.com)—which only 17 kilometers awayt from the airport—if you long for a pampering stay.
Many people have spent their time here and felt instantly gratified thanks to its magnificent view of the bright blue sea available at almost every room—Superior, Deluxe, Executive, Governor and Penthouse. Take a dip at the infinity outdoor swimming pool with the romantic panorama sunset directly facing the beach. To end the evening, book a table for two and have a memorable dinner with your loved one at the hotel›s Sunset Bar with millions of stars twinkling in the night sky.
You should also visit the numerous beaches around Tanjung Pandan; Tanjungtinggi, Tanjungpendam, Tanjung Kelayang, Bukit Berahu; to name a few. The closest is only 4.4 kilometers and the furthest set at 30 kilometers away, it only takes 15 minutes up to an hour to get them.
Although the four beaches share the same characteristics — towering big stones and boulders flanking the beaches with small waves rocking the water of different hues of green and blue — each has its own signatures. Indonesian readers will surely be excited as they can explore Tanjungtinggi Beach where the shooting of the Movie and best-selling novel written by Andrea Hirata, Laskar Pelangi, Rainbow Troops, took place. The little kiosks along the coastline sell food and drink as well as rent snorkelling gear, life vests and boats for hire.
To complete your journey to the homeland of Laskar Pelangi›s, go to Museum Kata or Word Museum founded by the author himself in Gantong Village, East Belitung—the country’s first literary museum. Especially dedicated to the main characters of the book and Indonesia’s education, hundreds of Andrea’s motivational quotes in diverse fonts and styles decorate the walls and furnitures of the museum which is painted in eye catching yellow, green, pink, purple and blue. Multiple door and window frames are intentionally attached to the odd spaces including the ceilings to give the impression to visitors that they are breaking through life boundaries for inspirations and ideas.
At Tanjung Kelayang Beach, you can see unique rows of huge greyish-white granite stones beautifully eroded on the sides creating effects of horizontal stripes of different depths. It is so safe here people easily leave their motorcycles unattended with the keys in without fearing someone might steal them. Dots of small islands are scattered along the way and various models and sizes of the local fishing boats are loosely anchored—just like the pictures on postcards.
You can literally walk to a small uninhabited island from Bukit Berahu Beach when the water is receding. Cottages are available with a restaurant up on the hill facing the sea that makes your meal more enjoyable. Hungry for more? The open-air restaurants at Tanjungpendam Beach offer arrays of indigenous cuisine and refreshing coconuts while local musicians serenade you with songs. Groups of the vintage onthel bikes fans often gather here too—you might have a chance to take pictures, or if you›re lucky, even ride one.
If you are a sunset hunter, make sure you visit these beaches mentioned as, given their strategic locations on the west coast of Belitung, they always present the best scenes—a stretch of golden sky on top of orange, pink, purple, even crimson layers overlapping each other with the sun slowly going down in the middle.
As for the sunrise, opt for the eastern beaches near Belitung›s second biggest city Manggar such as Serdang, Nyiur Melambai, Punai, Burung Mandi and Bukit Batu. Just like their counterparts on the west, they also proudly show miles of chalky-white sand beaches with almost no powerful waves making it very safe to swim.
During your trip in Manggar, elevate your love for coffee as it is widely known as the city of 1001 coffee shops. Despite not being recognized as a top coffee producer, Manggar has a coffee drinking tradition as the tin labourers and the local traders used to chitchat and run business transaction while sipping cups of coffee. The city is so proud of its heritage it erected a a monument resembling a coffee pot and a cup with the number 1001 below.
It is not always about beaches on the island as visitors can also get lost in the serene beauty of Batu Mentas — a combination of forest, river and reserve for the endangered Southeast Asian primate Tarsius. Only 30 minutes from Tanjung Pandan or 50 minutes from Manggar, you can play with the cute Tarsius bancanus saltator amidst the emerald green trees while the shallow clean river runs under your feet.