Tanjung Pinang, The Capital City Of Riau Archipelago

Once the former capital of Bintan island only, today, the town of Tanjung Pinang has grown into the capital city of the entire Province of the Riau Archipelago – or Kepulauan Riau, better known as Keppri for short.  And since 21 June 2001 Tanjung Pinang was also designated an autonomous Municipality.

Tanjung Pinang is located at the south western coast of the island of Bintan and faces the historic little island of Penyengat, that once was the seat of the  powerful Johor-Riau kingdom. However, in 1782, the last sultan, Raja Haji Fisabilillah, was defeated by the Dutch,  which ended the Riau kingdom.

Because of its strategic location on the southern end of the Malay peninsula that separates the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea, Bintan was for centuries the haven for trading vessels to shelter, when they waited out typhoons either on their journey to China or to India. The famous Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, is said to have also sojourned on the island. Tanjung Pinang, therefore, has always been a cosmopolitan city. It is small wonder, therefore, that you can find here mosques, churches, Buddhist, Tao and Hindu temples located close to one another.  While the different ethnic communities and races live peacefully with one another.

Tanjung Pinang, Riau archipelago
Tanjung Pinang, Riau archipelago (Source : wikipedia .org)

The city is not large, but definitely growing outwards with new roads leading around and out of the city. Most of its inhabitants, including on the many surrounding small islands are Malay and Bugis (originally from South Sulawesi), Banjar from Kalimantan and Chinese Peranakan, mostly of Teochew and Hokien descent,  who have lived here for generations. There are also many Bajau sea nomads that live on boats but sail among the islands. Lately, as the economy of the city grew, Tanjung Pinang attracted migrants from Batak lands in North Sumatra, Minangkabau from West Sumatra and Sundanese from West Java.

The old part of the city is along the boulevard by the sea that faces Penyengat where stands the Residence of the Bupati or Regent.  The building is easily recognizable by its colonial architecture with pillars on its front veranda. Slightly  across  the road is the busy ferry terminal , named Sri Bintan Pura, where ferries from Singapore and Malaysia bring in tourists, while smaller ferries and boats carry passengers to the other islands of Riau, including to Batam, Rempang, the Karimun  Islands, and other smaller islands.

Today this area is the commercial hub of the city, where are located banks, malls, hotels, restaurants  and shopping centers.

Meanwhile, with growth, the provincial government has moved further north to the Senggarang area.  Senggarang used to be a small seaside village inhabited mostly by the Chinese who built their houses on stilts over the sea.  To reach these houses one had to walk on boardwalks, but nowadays  large parts have been paved to allow for motorized vehicles.

The construction of modern Tanjung Pinang‘s Sultan Haji Fisabilillah airport and the daily flights now available between Jakarta and Tanjung Pinang by Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air have increased passenger traffic to Bintan, that was formerly easier accessible from Singapore rather than from Jakarta. Flights to Tarempa  and the amazing dive spots in the Anambas islands also take off from this airport.

Bintan and the more than 3,000 Riau islands have many beautiful beaches , historic sites, offering many exciting activities like snorkeling, fishing, cycling, sailing and a whole lot more.

Tanjung Pinang is your entry port to explore the many wonders that the Riau Islands have to offer.


Tanjung Pinang is a paradise for food lovers especially those who enjoy seafood. You just need to watch your cholesterol levels. For here are served  the most tasty fresh crabs, prawns, fish, oysters, and all kinds of fish cooked any style. The special seafood dish of Bintan is the “gonggong” molluscs, that are really worth a try.

Having a large population of Chinese, Chinese food can be found in abundance. There are also Padang restaurants that serve the famous rendang, and other spicy dishes from West Sumatra.

Bintan’s favorite souvenirs and foods to take home are its “lapis legit” or  thousand layer cakes,  and the fish “Otak-otak”,  besides wooden handicrafts.

Best known is the Mois Layer Cake House at Jalan Wiratno near Kaputra Hotel. This cake shop also has varieties of cheese filled lapis legit.

Otak-otak are fish snacks in fact wrapped in leaves and barbecued over an open charcoal fire. The otak-otak of Bintan are special since they are filled with tasty fish.

There are many hotels in Tanjung Pinang city.

Main attractions around the city of Tanjung Pinang itself are Senggarang, the village on stilts, the historic Penyengat island which is reachable by boat, the Snake river (which gets its name from its winding stream), and Trikora Beach.

There is also a large Buddhist temple near the airport known as the Maritria temple or Vihara Avalokitesvara at Km. 14  said to be the largest in South East Asia, officiated in 2009. The temple houses  a large bronze statue of the goddess Quan Yin  which is 16.8 meters high and weighs 40 tons, covered with 22 carats gold leaf. The temple itself is built on a total area of 10 hectares. Beautiful ornate carvings adorn the pillars and there are intricate statues carved by Chinese masters. This temple is crowded especially on Chinese and Buddhist holy days with devotees coming not only from all around the Riau islands but also from Singapore and Malaysia.

Senggarang is the old village mostly inhabited by Chinese Teochew,  built on stilts. You can also reach Senggarang by boat or water taxi from Pelantar II.  Here you will find the oldest Chinese temple on Bintan, that is picturesquely  entwined by the roots of a large banyan trees.

Nearby is the Snake river. Although it has  a rather foreboding name this river, in fact, got its name only because it winds its way across the landscape.

When in Tanjung Pinang,  you must definitely not miss a visit to Penyengat Island. The tiny island of Penyengat was once the seat of the Johor-Riau kingdom and in the 19th century became the cultural capital of the Malay world. It was also wellknown as a place for Islamic religious learning. Penyengat is famous for its sophisticated Malay language and literature, on which Bahasa Indonesia, Indonesia’s national language is based. It has an iconic picturesque mosque that seen from afar peeks among the green foliage. Today Penyengat’s  inhabitants are  descendents from the Bugis-Malay aristocracy.

Penyengat can be reached by a short 15 minutes boat ride from Tanjung Pinang.

Some 65 km, north of Tanjung Pinang is the long stretch of white sand beach called Trikora Beach. This is a favorite weekend  beach picnic ground for the locals and favorite fishing ground for anglers. Staying at simple “kelong” accommodations,  avid fishing enthusiasts will start from here to try and catch larger fish further out to sea.

But favorite spot at night must be the open air “Akau” or food street at Jalan Potong Lembu Street, where even from far you will be drawn here by the different inviting aromas of delicious dishes such as chiili crabs, fish head curry, barbecued fish, fried rice or fried noodles and a whole lot more.


By Air, Tanjung Pinang on Bintan is now easily reached from Jakarta. Garuda has daily flights to Tanjung Pinang from Jakarta as does Lion Air, operating Boeing 737-500 aircrafts. Sriwijaya Air also serves the Jakarta-Tanjung Pinang route.

With the present good roads across Bintan, it will take less than half an hour by car from Kijang, – location of the airport, – to Tanjung Pinang.

By Sea, Tanjung Pinang is accesible by ferry from Singapore and Malaysia. There are 5 to 7 ferries per day plying between Singapore’s Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal (TMFT) and Tanjung Pinang’s Sri Bentan Pura sea port. Operators are Penguin, Indo Falcon

When hiring a taxi, make sure to tell the driver your destination and fix the price with him before boarding.

If you plan to travel to Bintan Resorts in  Bintan’s the north coast upon arrival at Tanjung Pinang airport, it is best to ask your hotel to fetch you from the airport. It takes less than an hour’s drive from Tanjung Pinang airport to Bintan Resort by the new smooth road, while travelling by the old road will  take some two hours.

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