By Dian Hasan | July 16, 2010
As a travel destination, Indonesia has long held captive the imaginations of many. Arresting sights for the world’s culture- and nature- hungry travelers. Stunning natural environment, an intriguing culture, and beguiling flora & fauna to match. And of course a myriad of idyllic tropical isles to spoil your choice. The world’s largest archipelago is home to over 17,000 islands.
Here’s just one lesser-known island: Belitung (English: Billiton), Indonesia’s tin island renowned for its white sand beaches and giant boulders, similar to those found on Seychelles Island in the Indian Ocean. The small group of tropical islands surrounding Belitung are blessed with clear blue sea, lush tropical forest, and sterling white quartz-like sandy beaches with diverse shapes of stones, fenced by coconut trees. Surrounded by straits and bays, the sea around the islands is calm and shallow and has beautiful underwater scenery.
Located on the east coast of Sumatra between the South China and the Java Sea, Belitung is historically known for its tin mines and pepper. The island was in the hands of the Biritish from 1812 until they lost control and handed it over to the Dutch through the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824.
Belitung shot into prominence thanks to the popularity “Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Troops)“, a movie based on a novel by the same name from Indonesian author Andrea Hirata. Both the book and movie shattered new records for Indonesia, and the much-acclaimed movie garnered several awards at International Film Festivals. The movie single-handedly put Belitung on the travel map and renewed people’s interest in it. Belitung’s magnificant beaches with their giant boulders were featured generously prominently in the movie. The book was translated into English by Angie Kilbane.
The movie has attracted a new crop of visitors, intrigued by the film’s setting in Belitung. Travel agents and hotels now offer “Laskar Pelangi” sightseeing tours based on the many filming locations across the island. Accommodation choices in Belitung are fairly limited, but this is changing as more hotels come being built. Here’s a look at some of them.
Belitung’s newest hotel, Hotel and Klub Billiton, is a modern take on a tropical resort. Incorporating an old Dutch colonial office building that today serves as hotel ballroom, Hotel and Klub Billiton is managed by the same team behind The Dharmawangsa luxury boutique hotel in Jakarta.
The hotel has a unique historical atmosphere of the Chinese, the Dutch and the early era of the Republic of Indonesia. It is located in the city of Tanjung Pandan, the capital of Belitung Islands.
Hotel & Klub Billiton can make arrangement for island and sunset tours, barbecue lunches on a private island beach, swimming in the natural lagoon. Fishing, snorkeling, and diving are also available. And for those who are less inclined for water-based activities, have a choice of trekking to Gunung Tajam to see a beautiful waterfall, explore the many tine mine sights, as well as Belitung’s other historical sites.
The small but smartly-furnished hotel features 24 rooms, a pool verandah coffee shop, swimming pool, meeting rooms, and a Grand Ballroom in a Dutch heritage building.
Villa Lor In Resort, is a boutique beachfront property with 14 stand-alone cottages and 6 executive suites. An oversized pool and restaurant serving all-day-dining completes the picture. Villa Lor In is considered to the best run on Belitung, and is located a short stroll from Belitung’s famous Tanjung Tinggi beach.
The rustic Kelayang Beach Cottages on Tanjung Kelayang Beach, sits on what the Dutch considered to be the prettiest beach in then Dutch Indies. The beachfront property affords views of white sand beaches, turquoise seas, small deserted islands, abstract natural granite sculptures and colorful local fishing boats. The tranquil calming waters and beautiful beaches create the perfect place to swim, snorkel and explore.