This is the place I wanted to be in.
A short distance away from Tanjung Pinang, Senggarang is a small fishing village on the island of Bintan. Here, a settlement of ethnic Chinese was waiting for me to explore.
The age-old Chinese community of Orang Laut tribe has built a cluster of religious sites based on the traditions of their ancestors.
And now when I am here, it holds a veritable treasure for me to discover. Everywhere I could feel connection to the multi-ethnic charm of this serene island.
At Senggarang Village, I walked past the rows of traditional wooden houses built on stilts over the water and had a glimpse of life of ethnic Chinese who have been living here since hundreds of years. The people are friendly and still practicing the age old customs. It offered me a rustic vibe. Looked like time has frozen and not much has changed over the centuries in this fishing village of Chinese immigrants who are also known as nomadic sea gypsies.
The stilt houses always make me think how the dwellers live a difficult yet a humble lifestyle. Can we, living in concrete jungles of metro cities, live here even for a day? I saw women drying salted fish in the open, doing their laundry, children playing with gusto.
Their life is in, around and on the water.
Tian Shang Miao temple, also referred as the ‘Banyan Tree Temple’, is a century-old temple sitting under a massive 200 year old banyan tree. Tien Shang Miao was formerly a residential home Kapitang. He was a village headman in Senggarang. After he passed away, the villagers wanted to set up a place of worship for him.
The temple is overgrown by roots of the banyan. Having been to the Angkor Wat site in Cambodia, I can say, it resembles the famous Ta Prohm Temple, albeit small in size.
I met two old caretakers of the temple enjoying their afternoon and they were quite joyful and fun loving. When I requested one of them to have a picture with me, the other one jokingly said we make a good pair ! 😀
Some from our group could speak Mandarin and these two were more than happy to converse with them. Generally people in this village speak languages such as Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew.
I am told, if we come around Chinese Lunar New Year, we’ll be able to catch the festive scene with visitors coming from neighboring places including Singapore! And to tell you, this is just one of the temples from the collection here.
The range of traditional markets here were a feast for our senses. Freshly caught fish, locally grown fruits and vegetables, dried seafood products and other snacks were on display. The all-time favorites are Kerupuk, different varieties of prawn or fish flavored crackers.
I saw a school where small children were practicing music and some sports. They were shy but eager to talk to us. Giggling, shaking hands and asking our names were some of the activities they enjoyed most. Three girls followed us from a distance on the entire route till we reached a meeting place. And then they wanted some more pictures with us! 😀
Because of its strategic location near the Strait of Malacca, Bintan has been a favourite island for Malaysian, Singaporeans and even Filipinos. I would like it to become a favourite of Indians as well. 😀
The neighboring countries’ residents including Indians don’t need a visa. If you aren’t among them, then Bintan ports offer visa-on-arrival services for a fee. From Singapore, there are regular ferries to Tanjung Pinang.
Food: Many sea food restaurants are located close to the jetty at Tanjung Pinang.
Stay: Several hotels and resorts at Tanjung Pinang catering to all kind of budgets are available.
Note: My visit to Bintan Island was made possible by Tourism Indonesia. As usual the opinions are mine.
You may want to read more on Indonesia.
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Exploring Jakarta in 48 hours
Indonesia in Pictures
A Dance Drama called Barong
Top things to do in Indonesia
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Tangkuban Perahu – Arising out of a legend
Indonesia from Above
Kawah Putih, the white crater
Indonesia : Beyond Bali & Jakarta
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Flying to The Emerald of the Equator
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