Pangkalpinang: Capital of once thriving Tin-Mining Industry, steeped in Chinese Peranakan Tradition
Located on the eastern coast of Bangka Island, Pangkalpinang is the island’s largest city and capital of the Province of Bangka-Belitung Islands. Aside from its role as the center of the provincial government, economic, and commercial activities, Pangkalpinang serves as gateway for visitors who wish to explore the enchanting beauty of Bangka and Belitung Islands.
Long known as the center of the tin mining industry, in its heydays Bangka produced some of the best tin ore and tin handicrafts. The tin mining industry drew Chinese workers and their descendants to the island, who brought their culture to root-down on Bangka, thus decorating the city of Pangkalpinang with visible Chinese nuances in its architecture and rituals. But besides its rich cultural heritage, Pangkalpinang also boasts some pristine beaches.
As visitors step down at the Depati Amir Airport, a huge sign welcomes them saying “Welcome to the land of Serumpun Sebalai”. Serumpun Sebalai or Seiya Sekata in Bahasa Indonesia has deep meaning that unity only comes with actions that correspond to speech and promises. More than the Province’s slogan, however, Serumpun Sebalai underscores the spirit that unites the plural society of the islands into one big family.
Pangkal or Pengkal in the Malay language means center or beginning. It refers to the city’s role as the center of the tin mining industry. This once small mining town subsequently grew into the island’s commercial center as well as connecting port among all the islands. Pinang on the other hand is the palm tree found abundantly on the island.
To trace the history of tin mining industry on Bangka and Belitung and in Indonesia in general, visit the Indonesia Tin Museum located at Jl. Jendral Achmad Yani no.17 in the heart of Pangkalpinang. Housing various collections on the subject of tin mining, the museum is the only museum of its kind in Asia. The building is a heritage of national history since it was once used as venue for a meeting between Indonesian leaders and Dutch representatives for Indonesia’s independence from Dutch colonial powers.
Pangkalpinang also boasts pristine beaches. Located some 7 km from downtown Pangkalpinang, the Pasir Padi Beach offers beautiful scenery of white sand and clear blue ocean waters. The beach is also a perfect site to watch the sun rise in the morning. At ebb tide, visitors can walk to the nearby Punan Island and bathe in its calm waters. Not too far from Pasir Padi Beach, about 2.5 km from here is the Tanjung Bunga Beach which offers beautiful scenery of a flat beach decorated with huge granite rock formations.
Culturally, Pangkalpinang is heavily influenced by Chinese culture which began around 1770 when Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of Palembang Darussalam Sultanate invited laborers from China to work at tin mining industries on Bangka and Belitung. Subsequently, Chinese laborers arrived from Siam, Malaka (in present day Malaysia) and the Southern part of China. Most are Hakka (Khek) ethnic descent from the province of Guang Xi in China, The migrants would soon marry locals, since Chinese authorities at the time forbade women from migrating with their men. Their intermarriage and their descendents call themselves: Peranakan Chinese. Therefore, today the Chinese and native Malay ethnic groups form the majority of the population in Pangkalpinang .
As part of the roots of Chinese culture, the Kwan Tie Miaw temple stands beautifully at the Mayor Syarif Rachman Street. Initially called Kwan Tie Bo temple, it is one of the oldest temples on the island and according to inscriptions on the temple’s bell, it is estimated to have been built in 1841. Along with the nearby Mambo market and Singapore Alley, the area is the Chinatown of Pangkalpinang where are often held Chinese traditional ceremonies such as the ritual to repel misfortune called Pot Ngin Bun.
The city of Pangkalpinang offers attractions in its pristine beaches and other natural splendors. Legacies of cultural encounter between the native and Chinese migrants also carved heritage traces in some of its well-preserved buildings and daily traditions. As a center of tin mining since the age of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate, Pangkalpinang also presents the history of tin mining from ancient to modern times in the Indonesia Tin Museum and other related locations.
From Jakarta, there are daily flights from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to Depati Amir Airport in Pangkalpinang, served by Sriwijaya Air, Batavia Air, Lion Air, and Garuda Indonesia. The city is also accessible from Palembang via daily flights served by Sriwijaya Air.
Pangkalpinang is also known as one of the major ports off the coast of Sumatra; tins, peppers, fish, and copra are exported from here. The Pangkalbalam seaport also acts as a passenger ports serving ferries to and from Jakarta and fast boats or Jetfoils to and from Tanjung Pandan in Belitung Island. The ships schedules from Tanjung Priok to Pangkalpinang or to Belinyu in Bangka as well as from Tanjung Priok to Tanjung Pandan or Tanjung Ru in Belitung are nevertheless irregular. It will be best to confirm beforehand with the port administrators.
Alternately, from Palembang you can also reach this city by sea via Muntok Seaport, in West Bangka. It takes about 3 hours by jetfoil from Bom Baru Palembang to Tanjung Kalian in Mentok, West Bangka, and 3-hour drive by public bus from Mentok to Pangkalpinang.
The only airline that serves direct flights from Pangkalpinang in Bangka Island to Tanjungpandan on Belitung Island, and vice versa, is the Sky Aviation. Flights are only available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The 35 minutes flight departs from Pangkalpinang Thursdays at 10:15 Western Indonesia Time, and Tuesdays and Sundays at 10:45 Western Indonesia Time. From Tanjungpandan on Belitung, flights depart the same days,Thursdays at 11:20 Western Indonesia Time, andTuesdays and Sundays at 11:50 Western Indonesia Time.
Alternatively, you can also use the daily Bahari speed boat that will take 4 hours. This is by far the most convenient means of Sea transportation and comes complete with air conditioning. It costs around USD 17 per one way trip. Bahari Express leaves daily at 14.00 from Pangkalpinang, Bangka, to Belitung, and leaves at 07.00 from Tanjungpandan Belitung to Pangkalpinang.
Pangkalpinang has 4 inter-city terminals that connect all districts on Bangka Island. If you wish to get around using public transport, keep in mind that they only operate from 06.00 to 18.00 Western Indonesia Time. Public transportat or locally known as Angkutan Kota (Angkot) come in 5 routes: Pangkalpinang- Air Itam (Black painted), Pangkalpinang-Mentok(Green painted), Pangkalpinang-Pangkalbalam(Red painted), Pangkalpinang-Depati Amir Airport(Yellow painted) and Pangkalpinang-Selindung (Blue painted). The charge of this public transportation is around IDR2.000 to IDR3.000 per person.
Source: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic Indonesia