Riau, which includes a large part of East Sumatra, is homeland to Malays and the source of Indonesians Malay-based national language. The first book of Malay grammar, called Bustanul Katibin, was written and published here in 1857.
Pekanbaru became the provincial capital in 1959, taking over from the former capital of Tanjungpinang on the Island of Bintan. About 160 kms upstream on the Siak River you can find a number of buildings in the traditional style. Among them are Balai Dang Merdu, Balai Adat and Taman Budaya Riau, or Riau Cultural Park.
Riau Islands were ruled by Malay kingdoms in the 16th century. The kings found it difficult to maintain their power because aside from fighting sea pirates, they also had to fend off attacks from Portuguese, Dutch and English who were keen in controlling this southern entrance of the Strait of Malacca--a strategic place for trade with China and India back then.
Oil was found near Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau, before World War 2. The first oil well was drilled in Minas, about 10-15 kms away from Pekanbaru. To this day, oil has become one of major sources of wealth in Riau Province.
Simpang Tiga Airport is a busy visa free entry point. Pelangi flies to Kuala Lumpur and Silk Air flies to Singapore. Domestic airlines direct flights are available from Jakarta as well as from Medan and Batam. There are frequent departures from the bus station. Agencies all around town sell tickets for the boats to Batam.
People & Culture
The people inhabited Riau provinces are mostly Malays. They are known for their geniality, warmth and affection, also diverse styles of language. There are several protected tribes too in Riau province, most famous perhaps Sakai tribe, that still lives and thrives on the woods.
Traditional Malay cuisine is normally spicy, however you can always find other types of food here. Most famous perhaps for its kare--some kind of curry--based dishes, Malay dishes offer fabulous recipes made of sea food ingredients. Due to its proximity to neighboring provinces, Riau also boasts collection of Western Sumatra and North Sumatra dishes. Western food and fast food are available virtually everywhere so tourists without strong stomachs will be able to get their fills here.
Jl. Jend. Sudirman No. 200, Pekanbaru Phone. (62-761) 31452, 40356, Fax. (62-761) 40356
Riau Archipelago with Tanjung Pinang as the capital is blessed with a lot potential tourism objects, beautiful beaches and cultural attractions.
Batam is one of the 3,000 islands, which make up the Riau Archipelago and is closest to Singapore, which is only 20 km away or twenty minutes by air-conditioned ferry. It has a rapid-growing population of around 100.000. As the island develops into a major industrial and tourist area, it attracts an ever-increasing population from other Indonesian islands who see Batam as a haven of opportunity. Once almost uninhabited, save for a few scattered fishing communities, Batam′s history took a sharp turn beginning 1969, when it became support base for the State-owned ′Pertamina oil company′ and its offshore oil exploration. In 1971 a presidential decree designated it as an industrial area and in 1975 the Batam Authority was formed. In 1978 Batam was established as a bonded area.
International standard hotels and numerous economy establishments cater to the expanding demand for accommodation. Business, as they say, is booming. An island two-thirds the size of Singapore, Batam progresses by leaps and bounds. Where virgin jungle once stood are now whole new towns, mosques, churches, temples and supermarkets, soon to be followed by reservoirs with enough water to supply a population of 800,000 and for industrial use, an airport-to become an international gateway ,a fine telecommunication system, well equipped industrial parks and the beginnings of a large new urban center.
From Sriwijaya era until the 16th century, Riau was a part of greater Malay kingdoms or sultanates, in the heart of what is often called the ′Malay World′, which stretches from eastern Sumatra to Borneo. The Malay-related Orang Laut tribes inhabited the islands and formed the backbone of most Malay kingdoms from Sriwijaya to the Sultanate of Johor for the control of trade routes going through the straits. After the fall of Melaka in 1511, Riau islands became the center of political power of the mighty Sultanate of Johor or Johor - Riau, based on Bintan island, and were considered the center of Malay culture.
But history changed the fate of Riau as a political, cultural or economic center when European powers struggled to control the regional trade routes and took advantage of political weaknesses within the sultanate. Singapore Island, that had been for centuries part of the same greater Malay kingdoms and sultanates, and under direct control of Sultan of Johor, came under British control. The creation of a European-controlled territory in Johor-Riau heart natural boundaries broke the sultanate into two parts, destroying the cultural and political unity that had existed for centuries. The Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824 consolidated this separation, with the British controlling all territories north of the Singapore Strait and Dutch controlling territories from Riau to Java.
But while bringing back some economical wealth to Riau, the Sijori Growth Triangle somewhat broke the cultural unity within the islands. With Batam island receiving most of the industrial investments and dramatically developing into a regional industrial center, it attracted hundred of thousands of non-Malay Indonesian migrants, changing forever the demographic balance in the archipelago.
Today the name of Riau merely refers to this administrative region of Indonesia, a free trade zone heavily supported by Indonesian, Singaporean and international investments.
Riau Island can easily be reached by air or sea from Jakarta and Pekanbaru directly. Batam and Bintan have intrnational shiplines and flight. It is only 45 minutes away from Singapore by ferry.
People & Culture
Malay people who inhabit Riau Islands are renowned for their hospitality and warm welcome. However due to the economical and opportunity increases in certain islands, many people try to seek their fortune here thus creating Riau Islands as melting pot for various ethnic groups and races.
Renowned for its freshl ingredients and Malay-influenced cuisine, Riau Islands offer fabulous places to eat for sea food lovers.
Jl. D. I Panjaitan km. 8 No. 12, Tj. Pinang - Kep. Riau
Phone/Fax (62-771) 443377
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