I finally got to visit Belitung a few months ago. It was certainly worth the wait and occasionally hair-pulling arrangements.
Belitung, in Sumatra, rose to tourism fame after the showing of blockbuster movie “Laskar Pelangi”, which used the island as its main setting. I have heard my friends gushing about it as well, so I was excited to go.
However, this was my first dab at planning a trip all by myself to a place I have never been before. I browsed and asked for advices from friends who had been there and tried to imagine how it would be like.
Transportation was a cinch. I picked Sriwijaya air because it had the earliest flight. The return ticket from Jakarta cost around Rp 700k. The trickiest part was deciding where to stay. I finally decided to book a hotel in the middle of the city. As I had very vague picture of how far the beaches-the main reason I want to go there- were from the city and it seems that all the hotels near the beaches had its own faults.
So I went with a friend’s advice and picked Hotel Martani. I was interested because it was said to be the oldest star hotel there. And indeed the place was interesting. It had the necessary facilities-hot water, air con, spacious rooms, but you can tell right away that it was built perhaps at a time when fake waterfall sceneries and aquariums were cool. It was very reasonably priced, though, to the point that I found hard to believe. I mean, the room was HUGE and yet it cost around 200k. Also, you get to see an authentic cannon from the Dutch Colonial era displayed at the entrance.
After a night, and a visit to the nearest beach-it was allright, certainly cleaner than Ancol, but it was also low tide so not much to see- we asked about the beaches and tried to get a grip of how far they were. But I guess the best way was to go ahead and try to get there. And so we rented a bike for Rp 50 k a day and explored.
The road was well-paved but they were getting a widening treatment because of an upcoming tourism event. So there were a few roadblocks and we had to be extra careful. Despite that, an accident occurred and now I have scars on my leg to prove it.
But on to the trip. We discovered that it would be much more convenient to rent a room outside the city near one of the beaches. And so there were three options: Bukit Berahu, which is about 30 minutes from the city, Tanjung Kelayang Cottages, which is a bit further away (10 minutes), and Lor in Resort, which is still further away, about 10 minutes from Tanjung Kelayang.
I hesitated to book one of these because my internet research found faults with all of them: Bukit Berahu’s beach had stinging jellyfishes, a review on Tanjung Kelayang said one of the rooms had bedbugs in it, and Lor In was just too expensive (around US$80 a night).
But after seeing for ourselves, we decided to go for Bukit Berahu Cottages. So Tanjung Kelayang’s beach might be much nicer and sans jellyfish, but we weren’t keen on the looks of the rooms or the prospect of bedbugs. (But a friend stayed there afterwards and she said it was fine).
Bukit Berahu Cottages are simply beautiful. It’s secluded. (A sort of romantic
path leading there reminded me of the private bed and breakfast in Victoria that I stayed in last year. The very Indonesian architecture blends in with the landscape, and the rooms are nice. Plus its really fairly priced at around Rp 200k. You get a hot shower, aircon, and a television, but there weren’t really many channels to choose from. The food’s not bad and reasonably priced as well.Oh and there’s a swimming pool to make up for the beach I guess.
To get to the cottages you have to go down a long, steep flight of steps, this means a long climb back up as well if you want to go to the restaurant.
Time to talk about the beaches. Tanjung Kelayang’s beach is pretty in itself, but to really enjoy what it has to offer, rent a boat and snorkelling equipment to explore the nearby underwater scene near Lengkuas island. There is also an old lighthouse that is still functioning and you can climb up to see the amazing view from the top.
The boat driver told me that sometimes travelling groups also spend a night on one of the islands near Tanjung Kelayang. There are a few islands to choose from, including the Pasir island, a tiny piece of land housing starfishes that disappears during high tide.
A strange thing happened to me during snorkeling though. I felt sick all of a sudden despite the water being really calm. I wonder if it was because I haven’t eaten enough before.
On the next day, we went to Tanjung Tinggi beach. This is the one famous for its unique granite structures. And it was breathtaking indeed. The water was calm, the beach was clean, there were few tourists, and despite a couple of hours of rain during midday, the sun became delicious when the afternoon came and we ended up just lying with half our bodies in the water for hours, soaking up the loveliness of it all.
And I was just amazed at how some tourists came, climbed on the rocks, took pictures and leave without dipping into that wonderful water!I guess that might be because they’re on a package tour. I’m glad I decided not to go on one. I mean, it might be some people’s cup of tea but I prefer to laze around during my holiday 🙂
The next day, bruised and tanned, we went back to the city, returned the motorbike, and head back to the airport using the same driver who took us to the first hotel. My friend told me that there are actually more in the island-especially towards the inland part-to explore, such as the coffee houses in Manggar, but I am pretty satisfied with my four-day, accident-marred, getaway.