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Riau

Riau is a province of Indonesia, located in the center of Sumatra along the Strait of Malacca. Riau is currently one of the richest provinces in Indonesia. This province is rich with natural resources, particularly petroleum, natural gas, rubber, palm oil and fiber plantations. The Riau Islands were part of Riau province until 2004, when they were made a separate province.


Lingga
Symbol of durability

The Lingga archipelago is a group of scattered islands along both sides of the equator, about 50 to 150 kilometres south of Batam and Bintan, and about ten hours from Tanjung Pinang by slow ferry. The two main islands are Lingga and Singkep; in the north is a number of smaller islands, among them Sebangka and Bakung, which are the biggest ones. Those form the ideal place for real romantic people: only a handful of the locals speak English, and the visitors can be counted on one hand.

The boat trip to Dabo on the island of Singkep - the main harbour for the Lingga group - is magical. The ferry leaves late in the morning from Tanjung Pinang and lingers past numerous islands in the calm and shallow sea. A lonely kelong (fishing huts on pillars) rise from the ocean; under it are big fish traps.

Houses, often nothing more than a few sheets of wood, are scattered along the waterside and break the monotone landscape with unnumbered small bays with sand. Late in the afternoon the fuzzy contours of Gunung Daik on Pulau Lingga appear. This mountain has three sharp teeth as peak, one of them seems to have broken of at it's base, and it was immortalized by Malay poetics as the symbol of durability. Pulau Lingga got it's name from Gunung Diak's unusual profile, linga means fallus in Sanscrite.
When the evening is falling, the blue colors of the sea intensify and the setting sun lights the sky with fuzzy grey and white clouds. The boat continues along dark islands with rocky, by forest covered coasts. In the fields behind the village, fires shine, and the call for prayer flows over the calm sea. Suddenly it's dark - it's only a few minutes from the equator - and the houses along the coast besome blinking islands of soft light.

Singkep and Lingga

Singkep is a small island, full of holes of the big tin mines which have been exploited for the last 150 years and which are far from finished. The main coty Dabo settles at the foot of a steep hill which offers a nice climb early in the morning. The vegetable- and fish markets are close to the harbour and can best be visited early, when the local boats put ashore their cargo. Pantai batu Bedaun, a nice white sand beach surrounded by palm trees, is four kilometres south of the city.

The neighboring island of Lingga once was the residence of sultan Mahmud, the last successfull ruler of the Malay sultanate Riau, which moved his court to this island at the start of the 19th century because he feared Dutch counter attacks for a pirates attack which he provoked. The island is dominated by Gunung Daik (1164 metres).

Crossing the open sea from Dabo to Daik in a small boat is exciting: the boat has a bumpy ride and foaming waves wet the people. The trip ends in a muddy creek which seems to be in the mangrove forests for nothing but the small boats.

The city itself seems to be taken directly from a book of Joseph Conrad, with small wooden houses which hang over the riverbank dangerously. North of Daik, on one and a half our walking distance, is the ruin of the palace of sultan Mahmud. It was built on a reasonable distance of the sea as protection against regular attacks of pirates. The island was once defended by a number of fortresses. Visit the palace early in the morning, when it's still cool.

When leaving the city you will pass the camat district offices. Here are who big bronze cannons from the end of the 18th century. The cannon on the left is called pecah piring (plate breaker), and the other one padam pelita (light exstinguiser). These name have something to do with the mighty sound when they are fired. In front of the offices is a flag on a pawl with iron foot that says: "W. Macfarlane and Co. Saracen Foundry Glasgow".

Outside the city is Mesjid Jamik, the royal mosque, which is even older than the one on Penyengat. The floor is made of cool white marble, and the big drum near the entrance dates from the 19th century. Inside is a nice woodcarved mimbar, made by the same craftsman as the one from Penyengat. The story goes that he was later sentenced to death, so no other ruler could ever posses a masterpiece like this. The grave of sultan Mahmud, behind the mosqke, is still visited by people who want his berkat, blessings.

The path towards the palace crosses a cool mountain river with a deep small lake, a nice place for a swimming afternoon after the long hot trip from the city. Ahead along the path on the left side if Bukit Cengket (Clove Hill), with on the peak the graves of later Malay rulers. The path leads towards an old road which is hardly visible because it's overgrown, towards Robat where you can find the grave of an Buginese royal member, partially covered and surrounded by an iron fence.

Eventually you will end up near the royal palace in Damnah. The last sultan who lived here, Abdul Rahman, was forced to step down by the Dutch in 1911, and died in Singapore in 1930. The palace was totally built from wood, but only the fundaments and stone stairs remain. In front of the fundaments still are the, overgrown, remains of balairong, a pavilion where the rulers met with visitors.

At the back is a key-shaped royal toilet, complete with tiled well, and nearby are the fundamental remains of a gigantic harem which the sultan was about to complete when he was forces to step down. The Dutch said Abdul Rahman was 'sensual and extravagant'. A sign simply tells '44 uncompleted rooms'.


Last revised on April 05, 2012
    
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