Get caught in the local tales that make Belitung Island an island of sheer fascination.
Belitung’s mesmerizing beaches are clear reasons why you must go, but once you arrive in town, you’ll find yourself caught in the fascinating (and appetizing) local tales you’ll want to explore more. Setting out with a local guide, I’ve jumped into unique attractions with each one having a story to tell.
Falling from the sky
The Satam Stone Monument, standing mightily in the rotunda of Tanjung Pandan, displays a replica of the meteorite that hit the island. According to my local guide, tin miners first discovered chunks of the meteorite, both small and large, outside the mining pits. These rocks are jet black and glossy with grooves resembling that of the brain. The fascinating colour is the result of the stones burning past through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Down at the Kaolin Lake and in most tourist areas, locals sell meteorites as rings, bracelets, and other fashionable wear. Other gems are also for sale with proof of authenticity.
The remnants of ‘batum satam’ or meteorite stones the locals sell as jewellery.
A museum for a literary hero
Before it became an abode of colourful paints and words, Museum Kata Andrea Hirata was a barracks of local tin miners, recalls the local guide. But it wasn’t a total transformation; some walls are still up with the most significant area as the coffee nook “Kupi Kuli.” The area remains what it was back then after the planners of the museum decided to keep it.
Entering the museum is like stepping into the pages of Laskar Pelangi, the international best-selling novel of author Andrea Hirata. Inspiring images from the novel’s movie adaptation are displayed all around the museum. In the other rooms, quaint displays emanate a homey vibe, making it a highly regarded feature of Indonesia’s first and only literature museum.
Rainbow pillars inside Museum Kata Andrea Hirata.
The school that captivated the heart of the nation
Continuing the tale on Laskar Pelangi, Sekolah Dasar Muhammadiya is the story’s iconic setting. As Hirata described in his book, it’s one of the poorest schools in Belitung during his time. So when the story became widespread, tourists flocked the school causing a disturbance. The local government acted and put up a replica to control the tourist arrival. The school’s replica has similar features of the real one: dilapidated walls, wooden chairs and the rest.
Replica of SD Muhammadiya that inspired the novel Laskar Pelangi.
A local coffee break
Need to take a break after a long trip? Walk around the charming town of Tanjung Pandan and find Warung Kopi Kong Djie. Here, coffee has been brewing the traditional way since 1943. The recipes have been around for decades. The locals love to sip their cups with friends over animated conversations.
The person-in-charge mentioned two main sources of Kong Djie’s coffee beans: Arabica from West Java and Robusta from Lampung, Sumatra. As for the house blend recipe, they use 80% of Robusta and the rest is Arabica. Meanwhile, the cacao for the chocolate drinks comes from West Java.
A view outside Kong Djie coffee’s first shop in Belitung.
How to whet an appetite
Indonesia is home of wonderful traditional dishes. We’ve asked Chef Vindex Tengker before and he showed us what authentic flavours are all about. But if you’re in Belitung, one place you must visit is Rumah Makan Belitong Timpo Duluk. It’s a bit hard to remember, so we’ll just let the food do all the talking.
The local dishes here are at their finest. Prices are friendly, too. Two dishes that wowed our palates are nasi lemak and otak-otak or fish cakes. Along with the other items, the specialties here are bursting with flavours you can’t help but eat with your hands.
Scrumptious delicacies in Timpo Duluk, a food stop full local favourites.
Text and in-article photo credits:
Don Gaoiran, Travel Guide writer