Jul 17, 2009
A HOLIDAY IN THE SUN, BELITUNG
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!
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, some parts of the area are even said to be damaged because of the exploration.
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.
TANJUNG TINGGI BEACH
There’s an Indonesian box office movie that was shot partly in this area called Laskar Pelangi. This movie helped boosting 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.
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 silly flips 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 ☹
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 :P
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!
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 once in a while.
BUT.. it felt like there were FIFTEEN SUNS lighting over us from any angle possible. Man, was it HOT! Did Hell just move there?
Before we got to the spot that we were reaching for, some of us took our cars and picked us up about 2/3 of the way. 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.
It is still Tanjung Tinggi beach, and we continued snorkeling, while some of us snoozed under the shades.
For me, the underwater scenery was just okay. There were colorful fishes, yes, but for me personally, the plus point here compared to other beaches I’ve visited in Indonesia is the formation of those humongous rocks. Hm, when you travel around Indonesia quite much, you’ll see there are many types of beach beauties.BUKIT BERAHU
About half-an-hour-or-so 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.
It’s a beach down below the parking lot, which you can reach by going down the stairs. From the parking lot (of a hotel and restaurant) you can see the beach and sunset view, but I recommend you to go down just like we did.
There, you’ll find big rocks as well. I was mostly just sitting and lying down on a rock waiting for the sun to set, while most of my friends were busy taking pretty pictures of the scenery or of each other.
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, about 30 minutes drive from Tanjung Pandan town, which is also a village of fishermen.
The crossing between islands is using a fishing boat which we had reserved the day before. It cost Rp 500,000 / 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 the ideal number of passengers shouldn’t be more than 30 people. But if there’s only, like, 5 of you, well, you still have to pay Rp 500,000 for the whole boat.
There was quite a long wait for the boat. Well, we did come to the beach a bit late, so the boat owner rented out the boat to someone else. We had to 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..
ISLAND HOPPING – BABI ISLAND AND LENGKUAS ISLAND
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’). The shape of the rock formation was very much like the profile of an eagle.
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 aren’t just soft sandy beach, but there are 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.
The current was quite strong towards the day, 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. I was already at the beach because I swam independently and went back to the beach way earlier than they did.
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 there. Looking at the beach and sea from up there has gotta be a memorable experience.
While my friends went up there, I chose to just relax on one of the big rocks, doing some light reading and fell asleep a little bit. If only I didn’t care about getting my skin too tanned, I would’ve just laid there for hours.
Then, we had our lunch which were prepared in boxes, on the beach. Don’t worry, 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.
Lengkuas island is visited by quite many tourists, foreign and local ones. Some, like us, had their lunch on the beach in groups, some occupied some sets of wooden bench and table around the lighthouse.
Snorkeling around this island gave me a 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, and takes less space when packing).
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! Nah, 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..
Lucky we have Norman in our group whose family now live 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 bodies.
But for transporting us to and from airport, we needed an extra car that’s borrowed from Norman’s dad because we needed more space for our luggage.ZZZZ....
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 lower class people). When we chose that room, we had no idea what loud ambience we would be having each night! What’s worse, is the kind of people that the pubs were like. Perverse-looking men and girls in skimpy clothing.. Gosh, fortunately the next two rooms were occupied by our group as well, so we felt safer. The rest got the rooms in the back part of the hotel.
I’ve been in other budget hotels as well – in Indonesia or other countries – but this one isn’t so 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. I got this info from http://www.belitungisland.com/jan2008/index.php?id_dest=38
I’m really sorry that I forgot the name of eatery where we had lunch at Tanjung Tinggi. But 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!
Breakfast at the hotel was so so. Nothing special. They served rice and side dishes, as well as breads and jams, and eggs.
In the Tanjung Pandan city, there are a lot of eateries. We once ate Mi Belitung (Belitung Noodle, that is), some of us liked it a lot, some of us didn’t. I forgot how much it cost, but I think it wasn’t more than Rp 10,000 / portion.
And then we on the second night we even had KFC.. hahaha… nothing ethnical, but almost in any of our trips we eat out at KFC, somehow.
HOW TO GET THERE
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). But the most flights are from Jakarta.
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.
Each person only had to pay about Rp 1,600,000 – Rp 1,800,000.