We stayed for a couple of nights on Kentar – a small island in the Riau group before we all headed into Tanjung Pinang on the island of Bintan. I had been here 16 years ago on a work conference and had not seen any of the island except the resort we were staying, so I wanted to explore it this time. It is very close to Singapore and as a result the tourism industry consists mainly of Singaporeans and Malaysians. The port town of Tanjung Pinang was hectic – with both Indonesian rallies, and a power boat rally coming in from Singapore. They had flags and banners up everywhere and it felt really festive. We had come here to check out, have the wind-up party and spend one last week in our beloved Indonesia.
The next day we all boarded a bus and had a tour of the town. This included a squid factory – wow the smell…. There were various stops – temples, an expo and an amazing lunch but the highlight was when we all ended up at the Governors residence. We were seated next to all the bigwigs with a prime view of the stage – where we were again fed and watered. We have all felt quite humbled by the generosity of the people from the towns we have visited. Here in Tanjung Pinang we were not only given t-shirts etc, but each of us was also given a dry-bag and an umbrella. Very thoughtful, as these two items are very useful. We were not sure what to expect – maybe traditional dancing, singing and speeches? Some people actually left and walked home because they were tired – they missed an incredible spectacle.
I have seen many costumes in my life, but nothing to what we were about to witness. Some of these costumes would have taken months to make and would have been really heavy to wear. We went backstage and saw them before their parade across the stage and managed to see them up close. Even their make-up was incredible. The artists involved in this parade would have to be so proud of their work.
There were far more than this – all different themes. Animals, marine, and elements. They then all walked around the stage to huge applause. It was so bright and colourful and I doubt I will ever see costumes like these again.
We spent the next couple of days preparing the leave Indonesia. It has been an amazing three months – I didn’t know what to expect here. I only really knew Bali but that is like saying that New York is only what America has to offer. Indonesia is an incredible place, and completely unspoiled. The people are the kindest gentlest people you will meet. They will open their hearts and their homes to you and I felt totally safe at all times. There are many religions here, all living happily together. Muslims and Christians work and play together which in this day and age is lovely to see. The only downside was that unfortunately they have not got the environmental issue under control. They use the ocean as their rubbish bin and as a result the beaches and harbours are filthy. Many a time we got fouled props meaning that Ian had to dive over the side and clean them off. Belitung was the only place where they had really made an effort with their rubbish and it showed. Their beaches were spectacular, their water clean and they will reap the rewards with tourists returning. Ketawai was also educating their children about pollution and rubbish so hopefully this will filter through to the islands further east.
Thank you Indonesia for showing us a wealth of history and beauty in your gorgeous islands. Next stop: Malaysia & Singapore.