I almost feel guilty about sharing this. There is a part of Indonesia that is unspoilt, with beautiful beaches, patches of dense forest, skies in which you can see the stars and friendly local people with a relaxed attitude to the very few tourists that come here.
Would we want it to become the next Bali or Phuket? Despite my raving about it, I don’t think a blog post is likely to make that happen.
Mevrouw T and I have been regularly visiting the Riau Islands since 2005, as I run writing workshops for international school students from Singapore. We’ve seen the area changing, certainly, though as far as we can determine most of the changes are positive.
The Riau Archipelago is directly south of Singapore, over 3000 volcanic islands, many uninhabited, dotting the South China Sea. To get there, we catch the Sindo ferry at Singapore’s Harbourfront for a one hour crossing to Batam’s Sekupang wharf.
There we’re met by staff from our host resort, who guide us past the gaggle of motorbikes and taxis and local ferry ticket sellers yelling for custom, to one of the open pancung boats bobbing by the jetty.
Soon we’re skimming across the flat waters of the South China Sea, past traditional fish traps and the stilt house villages clinging to the shores of the islands.
It takes about 90 minutes to reach Telunas Beach Resort, a collection of thatched huts built over the water, connected by a rickety wooden jetty. The sweep of clean white sand is backed by jungle. The sea lapping below the floor is the only sound.
In the course of the next few days we are able to explore the area. We take the boats up the river through the mangroves of Sugi Island.
Telunas staff have arranged for us to visit Pulau Jang (Jang Island), a community of about 200 families, where the local school has prepared a welcome for us.
At the home of Ibu Rafiah, we learn how to mix fish paste with sago flour and baking powder to make krupuk.
A crowd gathers wherever we go, but there is no hassling and no hawking. Though Telunas regularly brings guests to Jang, people still seem to be interested in their visitors and anxious to make contact, be friendly and to share their lives.
Too soon, it’s time to go back to Telunas, to write about our experiences and the people we’ve met.
Telunas Resorts cater for individuals and families. For individual enquiries and bookings, click HERE.
For information about Telunas writers’ camps and other school and group bookings, click HERE.
The writer was the guest of Telunas Resorts.