Welcome to Jang Island, Telunas writers!

The visitors.

There’s a lot of interest in the visitors. They don’t have many on Jang Island.

We are expected.

On the rough jetty between rickety stilt houses, a guard of honour is forming. Kids from the Jang Island school beat out a deafening rhythm on hand drums as our open pancung boat pulls up and we file ashore.

Twenty students, two teachers and a visiting Australian author have come to do a writers’ camp at Telunas Beach Resort, in Indonesia’s lovely Riau Islands, a couple of hours across the water from Singapore. Each morning we set off on a different adventure. Each afternoon we gather back at Telunas to discuss and write about our experience.

There is never a shortage of material.

I’ve been to Telunas Beach for these writing camps many times since the resort opened in 2004. I think this is number 14, but I’m losing count.

Telunas Beach Resort - rustic but comfortable.

Telunas Beach Resort – rustic but comfortable.

I do love it there. The first difficulty in stimulating students’ writing is overcoming their inhibition, the idea that they have nothing worth writing about. The beauty of Telunas is that the activities organised by the staff always throw up many possible starting points for stories.

‘Marooning’ the writers on a desert island across from the resort leads to tall tales of shipwreck, survival and heroism. A hike into the jungle is a good stimulus for poetry and drama.

By arrangement with neighbouring villages, we are able to enjoy an ‘ethnotour’ which brings visiting westerners into contact with local people. We are accompanied by Indonesian guides who show us how to act and dress appropriately (most of the Melayu people are Muslim), teach us some basic greetings in Bahasa and act as interpreters.

The Telunas organisation is involved in community development projects and employs a lot of local people. And since there is practically no other tourism in the area, the contact is strictly non-commercial. The village people are happy just to share their lives with us for a short time so that we can learn together.

It is a great experience for everyone.

Jang Island fishermen's houses

Jang Island fishermen’s houses

Jang is a small island with a population of about 2000. There is a boat-building yard and some small cottage industries, but fishing employs nearly all the men of the island and provides most of the income.


The first sight of Jang village can be a little confronting, especially coming from the obsessive neatness of Singapore. Litter is strewn everywhere, cats and chickens forage in the garbage and the houses look as if they are about to fall into the water at any moment. Electricity operates for only a few hours each evening. There are few motorbikes and no cars.

But there are noticeably more TV satellite dishes than a few years ago and the children wear immaculately clean school uniforms. If some are a little shy to begin with, everybody is very friendly and welcoming to their visitors.

Selamat datang, Herr Thomas!

Selamat datang, Herr Thomas!

The Jang School drum band.

The Jang School drum band.

After some formal introductions and greetings at the school (do those microphones really have to be turned to ear-splitting volume?) we divide into smaller groups to learn drumming and dance from the students. Yes, even the visiting Australian writer is hauled to his feet to do his best.

The visitors are given a lesson (and a sound whipping) at takraw, a version of volleyball played with a wicker ball.

We taught the local students some hand-clapping games.

In return, the local students learn some hand-clapping games.

Presents are exchanged. The visitors have brought footballs and a volleyball for the Jang School, who reciprocate with some of their drums and a takraw ball. Perhaps with a bit of practice the away team will be more competitive on their next visit.

In the village, we visit the house of Ibu Rapiah to learn how to make fish chips, a form of krupuk and a popular snack in this area.

Learning to make fish chip snacks.

Learning to make fish chip snacks.

Then it is time to say farewell to our new friends at Jang Island…

Jang girls

…and to head back to Telunas for our afternoon’s writing session.

After a debriefing from the guides, I ask students to put themselves in the place of someone they met during the visit and try to tell the story from the other’s point of view. To walk a mile (or at least a few yards) in their shoes, so to speak.

Back at Telunas, we each found a quiet place to write our stories.

Back at Telunas, we each find a quiet place to work. There’s a lot to tell.

If your school or group is interested in doing a writing camp or ethnotour in Indonesia, I’m sure the Telunas Beach people would be delighted to hear from you. You can contact them HERE.

Telunas Beach also offers accommodation and activities for families and independent travellers.


Filed under Indonesia, Singapore

29 responses to “Welcome to Jang Island, Telunas writers!

  1. This sounds like the most marvelous writing retreat, Richard. I’m sure everyone was very inspired!

  2. You showed so much ‘life’ here. The real ones you find in remote areas. What a profound learning experience you must had!

  3. Looks like fun! My next ‘learning to write’ trip is to Catalonia. To prepare I have read Norman Lewis and George Orwell!

  4. Gustav

    The camp was fun and awsome thnx mr Tulloch and all of the Telunas Crew

  5. Carla

    OMG, Nadia is so right! it was awesome and i am still so inspired by Mr. Tulloch.
    Thank you for making those 5 days such an amizing expiriance, Mr. Tulloch.
    P.S: Those theaters and games were a lot of fun!!!!!!!!

  6. It was an amazing time in Telunas. I already read the book weird stuff from you. I really liked it. I hope you keep on writing new such awesome books.

  7. Xaver

    These day at telunas beach were so so so so so awesome. I didnt know that writing in englisch would be fun but it was really funny writing and thinking up storys.It was fun being with Richard Tulloch.I hope I will see Richard Tulloch again.

  8. Alena

    It was definitely one of the greatest camps I have ever been to. You help us so much in our writing and it was really a beautiful time. We all had a lot of fun and came back home as better and more creative writers then we were before the camp. Not everybody gets a chance for such a great camp but we did and I think it did help us improve in every kind of way. Thank you so much for everything

  9. Tim

    The camp was awesome! We all had a great time and learned a lot of new things. All of us got better in writing stories. Thank you for the great time!

  10. Michelle

    I loved the Telunas Beach! It was a wonderful one week and we learned a lot from the amazing mr.Tulloch!!! I wish we can go back again!!! I still remember all the private writing courses that was very memorable for us!!

  11. Tatjana

    Being allowed to spend 5 day with Richard was very inspiring, not only writing but learn to expand our imagination and to think differntly about our natur and surrounding. Thank you Richard for a marvelous time!

  12. Aline

    I really liked the creative wrighting Camp on Telunas Beach. It was a great experience for me and I am sure for all of my friends too. To meet Mr. Richard Tulloch, a famous author was just amazing!

  13. Nadia

    The camp in Telunas was unbelievable! All of the staff members were kind and there is a sublime view. I love the feeling walking on wooden pathwalks on water. It made me so sad to go. Great activities occupied our time. Even writing made us excited! We hope the next camp goes as great as last time.
    regards ,

  14. the awesome one

    This camp was one of the most amazing camps i have ever been to. it was really sadly was that we only were there for 5 days. it was allot of fun and Telunas beach isnt that far away from Singapore 😀

  15. Celine

    The camp was amazing. Everyday was a new experience for us. We had lots of activities such as: kayaking, jumping off the Jetti and lots more. It was truly the best Camp ever and im looking forward to see everybody from the Telunas comitee and obviously the famous author Richard Tulloch.

  16. Nick

    Thank you Mr. Tulloch for the great time in Telunas Beach! I had a wonderful time. I learned so much and I will never forget!

  17. Xenia

    I had a really great time at Telunas Beach, it was absolutely cool and I just loved waking up every morning and knowing that there would be a marvelous adventure coming up. Ofcourse it was absolutely amazing jumping off the high and low decks, fishing, going to the beach, having fun with everyone, experiencing different cultures and just smiling all the time! Thanks:)

  18. Sophie v. IJ

    I had a fantastic time with you, Mr. Richard!!!! All the games we played, the trips we had and the stories we wrote were amazing!! Not to forget, the beautiful beach and sunset!!! I had learned sooo much from you!!!! I’ll never forget this camp!!

  19. Wynaper

    Even though i was sick the entire time I still had a great time.

  20. Paulina

    I had an amazing time at Telunas Beach! The camp was absolutely amazing!!! I didn’t know that writing in English could be such great fun!! Not to forget the beautiful view from Telunas Beach! The camp was great fun and I learned a lot…

  21. Thanks very much for all your encouraging comments, Telunas Writers! I love going there too. The place is beautiful of course, but what makes it so great are the people. And that includes you!

    Good luck to you all whatever you may do in life, and don’t stop paying attention!

  22. wonderfull trip guys.
    i live in an island called Bulang Kebam Island(not to far from Jang island). hope you guys can come back sometimes and visit my island 🙂

  23. So happyto see you there in a week!!!

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