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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.

Rainforest, rivers and kampungs

The mainland of Riau, with it's three big rivers - Inderagiri, Kamapr and Siak - is far away from the pavesd tourist locations. Initiafive, time and practical knowledge of Indonesian can't be missed. However there is a rewasonable road system (the best connection runs from Pekanbaru to the port of Dumai), the Trans Sumatra highway passes the province entirely and the traveller is pointed to river boats most of the time. This is a slow way of transport with least confort, but the rout takes you along villages which reveal something of the original malay way of life. Below are several points.

The Siak palace

The Riau province is proud on it's historical role in the development of the Malay culture. There are many nice mosques and important burial sites, but most will only interest Malay visitors. The old royal palace near Siak Sri Inderapura however, is devenately worth while visiting from Pekanbaru. The journey downstream by speedboat takes about two hours, and the way back by bus or taxi another three hourd; The night can be spend in a small losmen above the river.

The palace was built in 1889 by sultan Abdul Jalil Syafuddin, number eleven of twelve sultans which rules over Siak from 1725 until 1945. Moorish arches and minarets give the palace a strong Indian look, the ruling style in that time. The palace was restaurated in 1989, exactly one century after is was constructed. In the meeting hall are life-size statues of the sultan and his close relatives. The walls are decorated with big pictures from the last sultans, eastern rulers which were part of the Dutch government. The furniture is European style. The main attraction is a big German playbox, of which there are said to be only two left on the world.
West of Pekanbaru (on the main road towards Bukit Tinggi) is Air Tiris, close to Bangkinang along the River Kampang. Here is the Mesjid Jamik, extended with decorated wooden work with several storeys which was built in 1901 without a single nail. Now it's not straight anymore because it's old and it's reinforces with nails. The original roof has been replaces by metal sheets. Outside the mosue is a big, mysterious stone which moves on it's own, at least that's was the story is.

Further to the west, about 135 kilometres from Pekanbaru, on the border with Sumatra Barat, are the ruins of Muara Takus. It is said that this old city once was so big, that a cat could jump from roof to roof for three months before arriving at the last house. The ruins, which spread over several, date back to the 11th or 12th century and were surrounded totally by a earth wall. The high, Mahligai stupa is the best kept one and is now totally restaurated. The temples of Muara Takus are probably royal graves; it is said that the last ruler became an elephant, and whenever it's full moon he and his deceased ascendants gather to honor their ancestor.

Wild animals

The vast tropical rainforests of Riau are a refuge for wild animals, however their habitat is threathened by woodchopping and plantations. Estimated give that there are about 1,100 to 1,700 elephants in the area, as well as 100 to 200 tigers and a few hundred rare Sumatran rhino's. All these animals have an healthy fear for humans.

Most chance to encounter elephants in the wild offer the distant lakes of Pulau Besar and Bawah, south of Siak Sri Inderapura. In the dry season they can be reached by an hired jeep. Pulau Berke, an island in the river mouth of the River Rokan across Bagansiapiapi, is the habitat of many birds. Pulau Berke can be reached by road or by boat from Dumai.

Wild anumals are also to be seen in the protects forest of Bukit Suligi Reserve, in the western side of the province near the source of Siak. This is a training camp for forestry students from all over Sumatra, with sleeping accomodation for the married people. The reserve knows a vast animal life: tapirs, brown bears, deer, wild pigs, cats and sometimes a tiger, but mostly monkeys. There are also numerous kinds of birds and rhino's as well, and along the borders of swamps wild pigs and deer eat ratten fruits which are demolished by elephants. Go there early in the morning, that's the time that the animals are visible best.

Under the influence of the full moon, huge tidal waves enter the River Kampar as far as sixty to seventy kilometres, from Pulau Ketam to the village of Kuala Panduk. The waves can have heigths upto two metres and storm the river for three hours before they are extinguished. Six or seven successive waves look like a snake crawling against the flow of the river. The waves are low when they enter the river, but get higher because the river gets smaller further upstream. These bono (local name for wave) are guided with the eerie noise of fast flowing water.

The bono can be seen best from the river bank near the village of Teluk Meranti, about eight hours upstream from Pangkalanbaru, twenty kilometres south of Pekanbaru. There is a smaller bono in the downstream area of the river Rokan, upstream of Bagansiapiapi. This bono is seen as the weaker, female power, while the bigger on the Kampar is the male one: the two are expected to meet eachother further inland.

Last revised on April 05, 2012
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