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Explore Indonesia – Riau Islands
5 Reasons Why Riau Islands Are the Perfect Getaway Destination from Singapore
Riau Islands, Indonesia. I have to say, before my recent trip there, I had never heard about this group of islands. Indonesia consists of approximately 17000 islands and the Riau Islands make up over 3000 of them, stretching from south of Singapore half way to Borneo. This beautiful island province has quite a bit to offer and is a contrast to the buzzing metropolis to the North. If you had enough of the glitz and glamour of Singapore and are ready for some nature, beach, amazing food, and beautiful temples, maybe you should consider heading to Riau.
Here are 5 reasons why the Riau Islands are the perfect getaway destination from Singapore.
1. It is close
A quick 45 minute ferry ride will bring you from Singapore straight to the resorts on the northern shore of Bintan Pulau, one of the closest of the Riau Islands to Singapore Even if you just go for a night or two, this will be a great option as you don’t “waste” much time on getting there. And boy, those resorts are beautiful… Relax on the beach, play in the stunning pools or play golf, this is the place to get away from it all and recharge. but more about these magical places later…
Tanjungpinang, the capital of Riau Province, is a mere 1.5 hours from Singapore by ferry and a perfect location, if you want to explore a bit more off the beaten path and away from the tourist spots.
2. The Culture
Indonesia is a unique blend of cultures, which makes it a fascinating place to visit. As a major spice producer, the archipelago attracted tradesmen from all over the world. Its culture is multifaceted and rich, combining local heritage and culture with influences from Chinese, Arab, Indian, European, Southeast Asian, and even African seafarers and spice traders.
While predominantly Muslim, Tanjungpinang also has two stunning Buddhist temples that you should check out when you are there. The mosques in Tanjungpinang are colorful and plentiful, but my favorite one was the brightly colored yellow and green mosque on Penyengant island. This island should definitely be on your Must-See-List when you are in Bintan. Visit the mosque, hire a rickshaw to drive you around the temples and shrines scattered around the island and drink a coconut in a little seaside restaurant. If you really want to dive in and learn about the local culture, you can even do a homestay with a local family.
3. Indonesian Food
When people from many cultures come together, it usually leads to good food. Indonesia is no exception. In Indonesia, people eat family-style. When you go to a restaurant, an array of dishes are piled in the center of the table and people fill their plate with little tastes of everything. Rice is the dominant starch, but you also find noodle dishes and many curries have potatoes. From grilled fish to earthy Rendang, succulent lamb with saffron rice, fiery curries and pungent fish cakes, Indonesian flavors are bold and unapologetic.
Where to eat in Tanjungpinang
When you head to Tanjungpinang, make sure to eat at the restaurant just across the infamous sea snail sculpture called Sederhana. We had two excellent lunches there and each and every dish they brought out, was finger-licking good. Try their dragon fruit juice for a sweet refreshment as you enjoy their air-conditioned upstairs room.
Another great place is the fish restaurant down in the harbor called Sea Enam. The back patio overlooks the ocean and is the perfect spot for a special dinner in a beautiful location. The chili crab, sea snails (Gonggong), and fish soup are the house specialties and absolutely delicious.
Kedai Kopi Pantai
This is a cute beachfront restaurant and coffee bar that is the perfect spot to view the sunset. Simple dishes, fresh juices, and various coffee drinks are served, but the highlight is definitely the view. If you are lucky, you’ll see deer and monkeys on the beach next to it.
4. The Resorts
As I mentioned before, there is a private resort complex on the northern tip of Bintan. This complex houses 16 resorts, each unique and for a different audience and on my trip, I was able to visit two of them. You can experience a Glamping adventure at 16 resort and enjoy the largest saltwater pool in Asia or play golf at one of the most stunning golf courses I have ever seen. No matter what your interests are, you’ll find a resort that promises pure relaxation, whether you stay for a weekend or a few weeks. And since you can take a ferry directly from Singapore to the Bintan Pulau resorts, it makes it one of the most convenient getaway destinations from Singapore.
Here is a list of the resorts in Langoi Bay:
5. The Beaches
With over 3200 islands in Riau Province alone, beautiful beaches are plentiful and varied. Depending on the area, you can find any coastline you could imagine. From dreamy beaches with white sand and turquoise waters to rocky cliffs to mangrove forests. You can even find resorts that have the overwater bungalows that you’ve been daydreaming about.
When you think of Indonesia, you think of lush tropical islands, gentle waves crashing on white sandy beaches, temples, and mosques, right? Well, the Riau Islands are your quintessential Indonesian islands, if you want to find an alternative to touristy Bali and discover a more authentic and undisturbed destination in Indonesia.
Disclosure: My trip to Indonesia was courtesy of the Indonesian Consulate in Houston, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and the local Tourism Boards of South Sumatra and Riau Islands. They organized and sponsored my trip, while Singapore Airlines graciously covered my flights, however, my opinion on this blog remains my own and I am sharing my experience and adventures in Indonesia as objectively as possible.
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