Pulau Penyengat: Remnants of the Malay Empire

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Pulau Penyengat or Penyengat Island was used as headquarters in the reign of Malay Riau-Lingga sultanate. The island was also the fortress forefront in confronting the Dutch attack. Penyengat Island is home to Malay descendants and Buginese who mostly work as fishermen. They are native speakers of the Riau Malay language. The island is just 1.5 km from Tanjung Pinang, Indonesia.

Getting to Tanjung Pinang

From Singapore, take the ferry at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.
From Batam, take the ferry at Telaga Punggur Ferry Terminal.

Penyengat Indera Sakti

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Known as Penyengat Indera Sakti, the name Penyengat derive from a wasp species nested in some parts of the island.

Getting to Pulau Penyengat

The jetty is located near Sri Bintan Pura Ferry Terminal. Look out for the “Dermaga Penyengat” gate to take the boat or known as ‘pompong‘ to the island. It will cost you IDR 8,000 per person or IDR 100,000 for private crossing. The boats are quite frequent and they will usually wait till there are about 15 pax before setting off.

Take a Ride on the Pompong

15 minutes ride to Pulau Penyengat.

Pulau Penyengat

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Pulau Penyengat Jetty

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When you leave the jetty, there are rows of stalls offering local and kampung food.

Motorised Beca Tour

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The best way to get around is by Motorised Beca tour for IDR 30,000 per hour for 2 pax. You may wish to walk but I would not recommend since there are no proper directional signage.

Masjid Raya Sultan Riau Penyengat

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The first stop is the majestic Masjid Raya Sultan Riau that was built in the 18th century. Yellow dominates most of the buildings in Penyengat as the colour represents purity for the Malay-Riau people. The construction of the mosque was started by Raja Abdul Rahman in 1832.

Use of Egg Whites as Mortar Ingredients

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I was told that a large part of the mosque was made of eggs, gifts from the Sultan’s loyal subjects on the occasion of his wedding.

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Located inside the mosque, you can find beautifully preserved handwritten and illustrated Quran.

Engku Putri Raja Hamidah Tomb Complex

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This is where Raja Ali Haji [1808- 1873], hailed as Malay-Riau’s greatest scholar and poet, was laid to rest along with other Malay-Riau royal families. This tomb complex is regarded as a sacred place on the island.

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You can purchase flowers near the tomb complex for IDR 10,000.

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Inside the main tomb building is where Engku Putri Raja Hamidah, the wife of Sultan Mahmudsyah III was laid to rest. The tomb caretaker explained that the whole Penyengat Island was once given as a dowry from Sultan Mahmudsyah III to his wife Engku Putri Raja Hamidah. On the inner wall is engraved the verses of Gurindam Dua Belas (verses of moral guidance), a literary masterpiece of Raja Ali Haji.

Raja Haji Fisabilillah Tomb Complex

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Raja Haji Fisabilillah was a Bugis warrior, and also the Yang Dipertuan Muda (Crown Prince) of the Johor-Riau Sultanate from 1777 to 1784.

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Makam Raja Haji Fisabilillah

Raja Ja’far and Raja Ali Tomb Complex

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This is one of the finest tomb complex inspired by a mosque. Interesting to find a kolam or water pool for performing ablutions outside the complex.

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Raja Ja’far is the son of Raja Haji Fisabilillah. He was the Sixth Yang Dipertuan Muda Riau.

Raja Abdul Rahman Tomb Complex

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Son of Raja Ja’far, Raja Abdul Rahman’s tomb is located on a hill several hundred meters behind the mosque which he built.

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Raja Abdul Rahman is remembered for his contribution to the construction of the Sultan Riau Mosque.

Balai Adat Melayu Riau

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The last stop is the Balai Adat Melayu Riau, a replica of a Malay-Riau traditional house or known as a stilt house that is constructed from wood with yellow accents. Inside the Balai Adat is a typical Malay wedding dais and other Malay- Riau cultural objects. Visitors are welcome to try on the malay traditional outfits for IDR 25,000.

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The entire island tour took about 2 hours. The best time to visit the island is in the early morning or late afternoon. All of the villagers are devout Muslims, so as a form of respect please dress modestly.

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