Written by: Lehhman
It was to my surprise the change of Bangka has been so amazing beyond my expectation since I left the island about half a century ago. So far as I remember, there were no hotels, no tourist facilities whatsoever. The only kind of accommodations available on the island were the guest houses of the state owned Tin Mining Company which had been operating since the Dutch administration, located in several towns considered as important, mainly to accommodate the company’s guests.
The one and only best restaurant I found, the first evening I stepped my foot on the capital city, Pangkal Pinang was the “Noordpool” (Dutch word for northpool) serving only snacks and ice cream for my first (late) dinner on the island as I just arrived the place around 9:00pm after three-and-a-half-hour long drive from the island’s harbour, Muntok. More over, I had to go on foot to reach the resaurant as no public transport was available at all. Thank God, it was only a 20-minute walk anyway despite my starving stomach.
Now, Muntok is not the only harbor of the island anymore, since other harbours had been constructed for the benefit of the economic growth. One of them is serving Jet-foil connection to Belitung island. Access by air was – then, only once a week. Presently it has been growing to twice a day served by two different airlines from Jakarta, Palembang (South Sumatera), Tanjung Pandan of Belitung (the neighboring island) and Batam.
There had been hotel constructions taking place in Pangkalpinang, which status was changed to Bangka-Belitung province’s capital from Bangka regency’s capital which was relocated to Sungailiat.
Meals are now nothing to worry about. Restaurants, offering cuisines of different origins and specialties are quite easy to find.
Sungailiat is presently not only the center of the regency’s administration, but it has been emerging into a tourism activity center as it is located about ten miles away from a very fantastic beach resorts offering vacations completely away from the packed schedules of your daily business activities.
Bungalows, at Parai Beach Resort for instance, are among those offering high standard facilities and services beautifully laid out worth a break from your routine life.
Since as far back as the Dutch administration, the islands – Bangka and Belitung – were renown as the tin producers of the world. It was managed by the state owned company until early 1990s when the company was designated to close down for financial reason due to the world’s declining demand for tin.
Nevertheless, the mining activities has been going on ever since, done in unconventional way resulting in nothing but disadvantages to the environment. Fortunate enough, there are people who care for the conservation of the nature by converting the ponds – left over by the mining – into that of fishery purposes or recreation and tourism attractions.
My general impression on Bangka now is, it has changed to a peaceful and convenient place worth a vacation. Warm people of Chinese origin, which count to over 65% of its residents, warm climate of general tropical island’s nature, mixed culture and way of life of Chinese-Malay inhabitants is the atmosphere you will feel once you get around the island. Many people say, Bangka which is now complementary to Bali, would – in the near future – be its alternate destination.
It’s a paradise for you, if you’re an active vacationer type. Activities ranging from swimming, sailing, para sailing, wind surfing, water skiing etc., are among those for your choice. Or, if you prefer lying down on the beach reading your favorite books and get yourself tanned would, of course be a perfect idea as well.
What so specific about Bangka is that the island was once the place where Soekarno (independence proclaimer and first president of Indonesia) was in exile during the independence fight period (1948). The house, where Soekarno used to live in exile on Bukit Menumbing (Menumbing Hill) has been maintained as one of the historical sites of the island.
Speaking of Bangka, pewter works should not be left out from your souvenir list and the renown Bangka fishcrackers to accompany your bier as well as your meals.
Places might be of your interest – aside of the Parai Beach – are Pasir Padi Beach, Tin Museum, Pewter Handicraft Workshops, Baturusa Bridge, Ancient Chinese Temple, Regency Complex Sungailiat, Kampung Gedong – a Chinese ethnic village in the outskirt of Old city Belinyu, Matras Beach and Natural Hot Spring ‘Tirta Tapta ‘.