Penyengat Island, small but great

Morphologically, it is a very small island of only 3.5 square kilometers and populated by around 3,000 people.

However, this small island has a lot of great and interesting historical sites, picturesque panorama and unique geological features worth visiting to complete a trip to Riau Islands whose people are hospitable.

That is Penyengat Island. As its name also means “hornet”, the island used to have many bees that stung visitors who were mostly sailors several centuries ago when they were trying to get fresh water from wells on the island.

Nowadays, people should not be worried as bees are no longer ubiquotous in the island which is now gorgeous and memorable due to its beautiful nature, hospitable people and a long history.

Even, the islands old history left many attractive sites that are much related to Malay cultures. The local government has proposed to the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) that Penyengats historical sites to be worlds heritage.

Fresh water

Although it was found many centuries ago, the fresh water from several wells on the island is still serving peoples needs. One of which is located below the Penyengat Islands Customs Hall that functions to welcome guests or to be a reception venue for very important persons.

According to Anwar who takes care of the well, the fresh water well is frequently visited by tourists who are tired after travelling around the island.

Tourists can enjoy fresh, clear and pristine water from the old well to wash faces and hands, or even drink the water.

“This 2.5-m deep well never dries although it is in dry season, and people keep taking the water,” Anwar said.

The man who has been taking care the well since 12 years ago, explained that the fresh water which was found in the 16th century is not salty like water found in places adjacent to the sea. The fresh water well in Penyengat Island is situated only 30 meters from the beach.


Tourists can take a pong-pong (an engine-wooden boat with 12-15 seats covered by a roof) for approximately 15 minutes from Sri Bintan Pura port, Tanjung Pinang, with a ticket price of about Rp15,000 per person, to the island that was once the center of administration, customs, Islam and Malay culture in the 19th century.

It is true what was said by Riau Islands Governor Nurdin Basirun that Tanjung Pinang people, including those living in the island are polite, friendly, gentle and loyal.

“Tanjung Pinang is a beautiful city with its typical traditional foods and natural charms showing a waff of Riau Islands to call on people to visit,” the governor said when delivering his speech at the opening of the Maritime Festival 2016 in Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands on October 29.

That atmosphere makes averyone visiting Penyengat Island feel comfortable and safe, especially when visitors start to step on the island looking at a yellow majestic mosque, the Grand Masjid of Sultan Riau which is as if welcoming them right away.

Among the visitors who were enjoying their trip in the island were three journalists from Vietnam, China and Japan who were on their touristic works to see Tanjung Pinangs social atmosphere, attractions and typical foods such as grilled fish and a sea shell which is locally known as “gonggong” (L. canarium). This sea snail has been declared as a city icon of Tanjung Pinang.

The journalists asked a businessman from a travel bureau in Tanjung Pinang, Sapril Sembiring, to accompany them travelling around the island, which is also called Island of Mas Kawin or “Dowry”. The name was given as the island was a dowry from Sultan Mahmud, who built Penyengat Island to be a kingdom country, to Princess Engku Putri or Raja Hamidah, Raja Hajis princess who is famous in Riau-Lingga, Johor and Pahang history.

By renting a motor rickshaw for an hour at a rate of Rp30,000 per one trip, Sapril took the three journalists to visit the historic sites on the island which is also recognized as Air Tawar Island named after the fresh water wells.

The foreign journalists expressed admiration for the hospitality of local people and were interested in the islands historical sites, especially the fresh water wells.

“Please taste the water from the old well. You can wash your face or drink it,” Sapril, who was involved as a member of the organizing committee of the Maritime Festival of Riau Islands 2016. Sapri was in charge of organizing partipating yachts from different countries including Australia, Singapore, the United States, Switzerland, England, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Malaysia.

“Yes, the water is clear and fresh,” a Xinhua reporter (China), Du Yu said after washing his face and drinking water from the old well.

The foreign journalists ended their travel at the Grand Masjid of Sultan Riau, after visiting several historical sites including the tomb of the Gurindam 12 author, Raja Ali Haji, who was also Riaus famous poet, composer of Malay grammar, spelling and lexicography, and made the Riau Malay language be used for correspondence, books and literatures.

Gurindam is a type of irregular verse forms of traditional Malay poetry. It is a combination of two clauses where the relative clause forms a line and is thus linked to the second line, or the main clause. Each pair of lines provides complete ideas within the pair and has the same rhyme in its end. There is no limit on the number words per line and neither the rhythm per line is fixed.

“The color of golden yellow on the mosque gives the sense of grandeur or splendor,” Sapril said, adding that the Sultan Riau Mosque which was built by Sultan Mahmud in 1803 was also known as “Eggwhite” Masjid because the first construction used a mix of soil and eggwhite as the adhesive material.

During their stay in Tanjung Pinang, the foreign journalists also had the chance eat Tanjung Pinangs sea shell of “gonggong” which is only found in the city. The uniqueness of gonggong makes it Tanjung Pinangs new city icon.

Source: Antara News