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Jakpost explores Belitung island

Jessicha Valentina

The Jakarta Post in partnership with Agoda

Belitung, Bangka-Belitung Islands | Fri, April 27, 2018 | 04:51 pm
Jakpost explores Belitung island

Tall leaning boulders line the shore on Batu Berlayar Island. These giant rocks are iconic geographical features of Belitung Island. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

The island of Belitung in Bangka-Belitung Islands province is the antithesis to urbanization. 

First gaining popularity after it hit the big screen in 2008’s award-winning Laskar Pelangi (The Rainbow Troops), Belitung Island offers empty asphalt roads, white sandy beaches and lush environs, making it an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

How to get there

Flights from Jakarta to Belitung Island typically take just under an hour.

H.A.S. Hanandjoeddin International Airport in Tanjung Pandan currently serves only domestic airlines, including Batik Air, Sriwijaya Air, Citilink, Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia.

Visitors coming from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur can reach Belitung via connecting flights from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

Best times to visit

Island hopping is among the most popular activities in Belitung, so it is recommended to plan your visit during dry season from April to September. 

Those who want to avoid the crowds can visit Belitung on weekdays, as weekends are usually packed with travelers from Jakarta.

Climate

As with all regions across the archipelago, Belitung island has two seasons: the wet season that runs from October to March, and the dry season, from April to September. With the impacts of climate change, however, this is for general reference only, and be sure you pack for sudden changes in the local weather.

Read also: Jakpost explores Yogyakarta

Popular areas

Belitung Island is divided into two regencies, Belitung and East Belitung.

Tanjung Pandan, the largest town on the island, is the capital of Belitung regency and home to a variety of hotels, popular restaurants and the one and only department store on the island.

Meanwhile, East Belitung regency hosts popular tourist attractions, such as the replica of the elementary school from Laskar Pelangi, Museum Kata Andrea Hirata, Kampoeng Ahok and the Kwan Im Goddess Temple in Burung Mandi.

Kaolin Lake

Once the site of a mine, Kaolin Lake in Tanjung Pandan, Belitung regency, offers a cool vista of its turquoise waters.Once the site of a mine, Kaolin Lake in Tanjung Pandan, Belitung regency, offers a cool vista of its turquoise waters. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

Kaolin Lake is located in Tanjung Pandan and is actually an abandoned mine. However, its picturesque turquoise waters have caught the attention of many a visitor, making Kaolin Lake among the must-visit places on Belitung.  

‘Laskar Pelangi’ replica elementary school

Fans of Laskar Pelangi, whether Andrea Hirata’s original novel or the film adaptation, may want to schedule a visit to the replica SD Muhammadiyah Gantong elementary school. The structure was a shooting location and it is still well maintained, allowing visitors to see the limited facilities where Ikal (Zulfanny) and Mahar (Verrys Yamarno) studied. The entrance fee is Rp 3,000 (about 20 US cents) per person. 

Museum Kata Andrea Hirata

The colorful Museum Kata Andrea Hirata is hard to miss in Gantung, Belitung Island. The colorful Museum Kata Andrea Hirata is hard to miss in Gantung, Belitung Island. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

Established in 2010, Museum Kata Andera Hirata is said to be the first literary museum in Indonesia. Inside the colorful building, bookworms can view photos from the Laskar Pelangi film adaptation, the author’s achievements and inspirational quotes. At the back of the museum, travelers can rest and sip a cup of Belitung coffee.

The entrance fee is Rp 50,000 per person, which includes a pocket-book edition of Laskar Pelangi.

Kampoeng Ahok

A stone’s throw from the museum is a traditional Belitung house called Kampoeng Ahok. The souvenir shop offers a wide array of items from T-shirts to traditional snacks, as well as nastar (pineapple tarts) and biscuits made by the mother of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a native of Bangka-Belitung.

Across from Kampung Ahok, travelers can also drop by Ahok’s childhood home and check out the Galeri Batik Simpur. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Ahok’s mother gardening in the yard.

Up and coming areas

The southern part of Belitung remains under the radar. Located a 1.5-hour drive from Tanjung Pandan, the area is a home to Teluk Gembira Beach and Penyabong Beach.

Teluk Gembira Beach

A pier juts out from Teluk Gembira Beach on Belitung Island, where travelers can hop on a fishing boat and sail to nearby Seliu Island. A pier juts out from Teluk Gembira Beach on Belitung Island, where travelers can hop on a fishing boat and sail to nearby Seliu Island. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

Recently developed, Teluk Gembira Beach is a convenient yet quiet tourist destination that offers a wonderful view of crystal clear waters beyond a local pier.

From the pier, travelers can hop on a fishing boat and sail to Seliu Island for Rp 15,000 per person.

Penyabong Beach

Sandwiched between the Arumdalu Resort and Teluk Gembira Beach, visitors to Penyabong Beach must pay an entrance fee of Rp 20,000 per car.

The beach features giant boulders and crystal clear waters and it is even quieter than Teluk Gembira Beach. However, travelers may need to prepare their own meals and drinks to visit Penyabong Beach, as the beach does not have restaurants or other tourist facilities.

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Activities

Island hopping is a must-do while visiting Belitung Island. The white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters are the two main reasons travelers should rent a boat from Tanjung Kelayang Beach and visit the outlying small islands.

A boat that goes for a rental fee of around Rp 400,000 can accommodate up to 10 passengers.

An island hopping “tour” usually stops by at least five islands: Batu Garuda, Batu Berlayar, Lengkuas, Kelayang and Kepayang.

The island of Batu Garuda took its name from the large boulders there that resemble the head of the mythical bird. Since it is dangerous to climb the boulders, it is best that travelers take a photo of the island from the boat.

Those who want to take pictures among the giant rocks may linger on Batu Berlayar Island. The small island features the iconic rocks of the Belitung area, and it is a popular photo spot.

Meanwhile, Lengkuas Island is known for its lighthouse, which was first built in 1882. Visitors can climb up to the third level to take in a view of the green seas below. Those who want to witness marine life may snorkel off the eastern and western shores of Lengkuas Island.

Last but not least, Kepayang Island is a good place for visitors to take a break and change clothes at an entrance fee of Rp 20,000 per person.

The island also serves a variety of fresh seafood, such as udang saus Padang (shrimp in spicy Padang sauce) and grilled fish, for those feeling hungry after exploring the beautiful islands.

In addition to the white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and giant boulders famed in the region, Kelayang Island also offers hidden caves for the intrepid explorer. In addition to the white sandy beaches, crystal clear seas and giant boulders famed in the region, Kelayang Island also offers hidden caves for the intrepid explorer. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

Kelayang Island is also a must-visit spot during your island-hopping excursion. In addition to its white sand and giant boulders, the island also has interesting caves to explore. 

If the weather is good, the boat usually takes travelers to Burung (bird) Island and Pasir Island.

The former is a quiet island that has beaches of powdery sand. Meanwhile, visitors may find starfishes on Pasir Island, which literally means “sand island”.

Visitors pose for a photograph while strolling along Tanjong Tinggi Beach on Belitung Island in Bangka-Belitung Islands province. This beach was one of the shooting locations for Laskar Pelangi.Visitors pose for a photograph while strolling along Tanjong Tinggi Beach on Belitung Island in Bangka-Belitung Islands province. This beach was one of the shooting locations for Laskar Pelangi. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

After island hopping, travelers can visit Tanjong Tinggi Beach, another Laskar Pelangi shooting location. Featuring giant rocks, this beach is among the best spots on Belitung to catch the sunset.

Cuisine

The island offers a wide array of fish delicacies, such as berego (steamed rice flour with fish curry), pempek (fish cakes) and gangan (fish soup with pineapple).

Those who want to sample Belitung’s traditional dishes may head over to Timpo Duluk restaurant on Jl. Mad Daud in Tanjung Pandan. Here, foodies can sample dulang set, a set menu that is usually served on special occasions, such as wedding receptions.

Visitors to Manggar, Ahok’s birthplace, may drop by RM Fega. The spacious restaurant serves a wide array of fresh seafood from grilled fish to gangan, and from kepiting saus Padang (crab in spicy Padang sauce) to calamari.

Those who want to sample mie Belitung, the local noodle dish served with potatoes, beansprouts and sweet sauce, can check out Mie Belitung Atep and Hanggar 21.

The legendary Kong Djie Coffee is a must for coffee aficionados seeking a traditional cup of Belitung java. The legendary Kong Djie Coffee is a must for coffee aficionados seeking a traditional cup of Belitung java. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)

As for coffee lovers, make sure to visit Kong Djie and Kopi Ake. The Kong Djie chain can be found at several locations, including on Jl. Gegedek and Jl. Siburik. Here, the coffee is brewed in the famed traditional method that uses three tall coffeepots.

Kopi Ake opened its doors in 1911 and over a century later, the shop still uses its old coffee pot and traditional brewing technique. Willy, the fourth generation in the family, told The Jakarta Post that they had yet to open a branch, as they wanted deliver the same quality of coffee.

Visitors can opt for lunch and dinner with a view at the Arumdalu Private Resorts’ Sahang restaurant. Those who are not guests at the resort are required to purchase a Rp 250,000 voucher per person.  

What to take home

The choices for souvenirs from Belitung are relatively limited.

For a slightly unusual souvenir, take home the pineapple tarts made by “Mama Ahok”. At Rp 115,000, the tarts use free-range chicken eggs, and while the texture may seem a bit dry, the tarts melt in your mouth.

Visitors can also opt for sirup jeruk kunci, Belitung’s signature lime syrup, crackers, kepiting isi (stuffed crab) and freshly ground pepper to share their journey with those at home.

Where to stay

Visitors who prefer staying in the city center can book a room at the BW Suite Hotel or the Fairfield by Marriott Belitung. The BW Suite Hotel has been around for years and offers quite spacious rooms, while the Fairfield just opened on Mar. 7 this year and offers 136 rooms, including 11 suites.

Alternatively, travelers can stay at the Hotel Santika Premiere Beach Resort in Sijuk. Although it is far from the city center, it is located right on the coastline and perfect for those who want to go island hopping.

Those seeking quiet accommodations may consider the Arumdalu Private Resorts in Membalong, which had laid claim to being the “first and only eco-luxury resort” on Belitung. The resort offers 10 eco villas with an outdoor swimming pool and a private beach, making it suitable for honeymooners.

All accommodation options are available on online booking platform Agoda.

As part of a partnership between The Jakarta Post and Agoda, an 8 percent discount is available for all hotel bookings made via the above link until May 31 using "AGODA8u2" as a voucher code.

An 8 percent discount is available for all hotel bookings made via the above link until May 31 using 'AGODA8u2' as a voucher code.An 8 percent discount is available for all hotel bookings made via the above link until May 31 using 'AGODA8u2' as a voucher code. (Agoda/File)

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