Pangkal Pinang : Capital Of Once Thriving Tin-mining Industry, Steeped in Chinese Peranakan Tradition

Located on the eastern coast of Bangka Island, Pangkal pinang is the island’s largest city and capital of the Province of Bangka-Belitung Islands. Aside from its role as the center of the provincial government, economic, and commercial activities, Pangkal pinang serves as gateway for visitors who wish to explore the enchanting beauty of Bangka and Belitung Islands.

Long known as the center of the tin mining industry, in its heydays Bangka produced some of the best tin ore and tin handicrafts. The tin mining industry drew Chinese workers and their descendants to the island, who brought their culture to root-down on Bangka, thus decorating the city of Pangkal pinang with visible Chinese nuances in its architecture and rituals. But besides its rich cultural heritage, Pangkal pinang also boasts some pristine beaches.

As visitors step down at the Depati Amir Airport, a huge sign welcomes them saying “Welcome to the land of Serumpun Sebalai”. Serumpun Sebalai or Seiya Sekata in Bahasa Indonesia has deep meaning that unity only comes with actions that correspond to speech and promises. More than the Province’s slogan, however,  Serumpun Sebalai underscores the spirit that unites the plural society of the islands into one big family.

Golden bridge, Pangkal Pinang city
Golden bridge, Pangkal Pinang city (Source : wisatalengkap.com)

Pangkal or Pengkal in the Malay language means center or beginning. It refers to the city’s role as the center of the tin mining industry. This once small mining town subsequently grew into the island’s commercial center as well as connecting port among all the islands. Pinang on the other hand is the palm tree found abundantly on the island.

To trace the history of tin mining industry on Bangka and Belitung and in Indonesia in general, visit the Indonesia Tin Museum located at Jl. Jendral Achmad Yani no.17 in the heart of Pangkal pinang.  Housing various collections on the subject of tin mining, the museum is the only museum of its kind in Asia. The building itself is a heritage of national history since it was once used as venue for a meeting between Indonesian leaders and Dutch representatives for Indonesia’s independence from Dutch colonial powers.

Pangkal pinang also boasts pristine beaches. Located some 7 km from downtown Pangkal pinang, the Pasir Padi Beach offers beautiful scenery of white sand and clear blue ocean waters. The beach is also a perfect site to watch the sun rise in the morning. At ebb tide, visitors can walk to the nearby Punan Island and bathe in its calm waters. Not too far from Pasir Padi Beach, about 2.5 km from here is the Tanjung Bunga Beach which offers beautiful scenery of a flat beach decorated with huge granite rock formations.

Culturally, Pangkal pinang is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, which began around 1770 when Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of Palembang Darussalam Sultanate invited laborers from China to work at tin mining industries on Bangka and Belitung. Subsequently, Chinese laborers arrived from Siam, Malaka (in present day Malaysia) and the Southern part of China. Most are Hakka (Khek) ethnic descent from the province of Guang Xi in China, The migrants would soon marry locals, since Chinese authorities at the time forbade women from migrating with their men. Their intermarriage and their descendents call themselves: Peranakan Chinese. Therefore, today the Chinese and native Malay ethnic groups form the majority of the population in Pangkal pinang .

As part of the roots of Chinese culture, the Kwan Tie Miaw temple stands beautifully at the Mayor Syarif Rachman Street. Initially called Kwan Tie Bo temple, it is one of the oldest temples on the island and according to inscriptions on the temple’s bell, it is estimated to have been built in 1841. Along with the nearby Mambo market and Singapore Alley, the area is the Chinatown of Pangkal pinang where are often held Chinese traditional ceremonies such as the ritual to repel misfortune called Pot Ngin Bun.

ACTIVITIES

TO EAT

A must try delicacy of the city and the island in general is obviously is the famous Martabak Bangka. Martabak , a crepe made with plenty of eggs, is a popular dish in Indonesia that comes in two kinds; sweet and salted crusty. The sweet Martabak of Bangka is considered by many as legendary. Its reputation has travelled way beyond its origin, to every corner of Indonesia. Also known as Terang Bulan or Kue Pangkal pinang to the locals, one of the best places to taste this is mouthwatering delicacy is at the Martabak Acau, located on Jl. Mayor Syafie Rachman, that still serves the original Martabak Bangka or hok lo pan with only sugar and sesame topping .

Other a signature dish of Pangkalpinang is the Koba Noodles. This brown thin sauced noodle has a strong taste of Seafood.

Among some of the best places to eat in the city are:

  • Mr. Asui Restaurant, Jl. Kampung Bintang Dalam 93/12
  • Aroma Laut Restaurant, Pantai Pasir Padi
  • Otak-otak Amui, Jl. Melintas 23
  • Greeng Lesehan, Jl. Ahmad Yani 97 Pangkal Pinang
  • Restoran Pondok Kelapa, Jl. Pantai Pasir Padi Pangkal Pinang
  • Rose Garden, Jl. Jend. Sudirman No. 175 Pangkal Pinang

TO BUY

If you wish to bring home a little piece of Pangkal pinang and Bangka, the island’s own Cual Batik textiles is obviously on the top of the priority list. These special handmade textiles bear the authentic patterns of Bangka Island and took about two weeks two produce.

As Pangkal pinang is dubbed as the capital of tin mining, you may also want to look for some of its finest pewter that takes unique and beautiful shapes of house-wares and other interesting forms.

Kopiah Resam,  hats made from Pakis or fern roots, and Akar bahar, or Accessories made from Black Corals, can also make fine souvenirs.

For snacks and tidbits, try kue Lapis BangkaKemplang and Chinese Basket Cookie or Kue Keranjang, that are among some of the delicacies you should seek.

Here’s a list of Souvenir shops you can find in Pangkal pinang:

  • Toko LCK, Jl. Jend. Sudirman no. 21. Pangkal pinang. Bangka.
  • Kain Cual Ishadi, Jl. Jend. A. Yani no. 46. Pangkal pinang. Bangka.
  • Maslina Cual, Jl. Raya Sungailiat no. 17. Pangkal pinang. Bangka.
  • Pewter Koperasi Timah, Jl. Jend. Sudirman no. 51. Pangkal pinang. Bangka.

There are several hotels and modest inns you can choose from in the city.

TO DO

The city of Pangkal pinang offers attractions in its pristine beaches and other natural splendors. Legacies of cultural encounter between the native and Chinese migrants also carved heritage traces in some of its well-preserved buildings and daily traditions. As a center of tin mining since the age of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate, Pangkal pinang also presents the history of tin mining from ancient to modern times in the Indonesia Tin Museum and other related locations.

The city of Pangkal pinang offers attractions in its pristine beaches and other natural splendors. Legacies of cultural encounter between the native and Chinese migrants also carved heritage traces in some of its well-preserved buildings and daily traditions.

As a center of tin mining since the age of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate, Pangkal pinang also presents the history of tin mining from ancient to modern times in the Indonesia Tin Museum and other related locations.

GET AROUND

Pangkal pinang has 4 inter-city terminals that connect all districts on Bangka Island. If you wish to get around using public transport, keep in mind that they only operate from 06.00 to 18.00 Western Indonesia Time. Public transportation or locally known as Angkutan Kota (Angkot) come in 5 routes: Pangkal pinang- Air Itam (Black painted), Pangkal pinang-Mentok (Green painted), Pangkal pinang-Pangkalbalam (Red painted), Pangkal pinang-Depati Amir Airport (Yellow painted) and Pangkal pinang-Selindung (Blue painted). The charge of this public transportation is around IDR 2.000 to IDR 3.000 per person.

GET THERE

From Jakarta, there are daily flights from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkalpinang, served by Sriwijaya Air, Citilink, Lion Air, and Garuda Indonesia. The city is also accessible from Palembang via daily flights served by Sriwijaya Air.

Pangkal pinang is also known as one of the major ports off the coast of Sumatra; tins, peppers, fish, and copra are exported from here. The Pangkal balam seaport also acts as a passenger ports serving ferries to and from Jakarta and fast boats or Jetfoils to and from Tanjung Pandan in Belitung Island. The ships schedules from Tanjung Priok to Pangkal pinang or to Belinyu in Bangka as well as from Tanjung Priok to Tanjung Pandan or Tanjung Ru in Belitung are nevertheless irregular.  It will be best to confirm beforehand with the port administrators.

Alternately, from Palembang you can also reach this city by sea via Muntok Seaport, in West Bangka. It takes about 3 hours by jetfoil from Bom Baru Palembang to Tanjung Kalian in Mentok, West Bangka, and 3-hour drive by public bus from Mentok to Pangkal pinang.

The only airline that serves direct flights from Pangkal pinang in Bangka Island to Tanjung pandan on Belitung Island, and vice versa, is the Sky Aviation. Flights are only available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The 35 minutes flight departs from Pangkal pinang Thursdays at 10:15 Western Indonesia Time, and Tuesdays and Sundays at 10:45 Western Indonesia Time. From Tanjung pandan on Belitung, flights depart the same days, Thursdays at 11:20 Western Indonesia Time, and Tuesdays and Sundays at 11:50 Western Indonesia Time.

Alternatively, you can also use the daily Bahari speed boat that will take 4 hours. This is by far the most convenient means of Sea transportation and comes complete with air conditioning. It costs around USD 17 per one way trip. Bahari Express leaves daily at 14.00 from Pangkal pinang, Bangka, to Belitung, and leaves at 07.00 from Tanjung pandan Belitung to Pangkal pinang.

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