Bangka Island: The Underrated Island with A Rather Sad Story Behind Its Beauty

I think it is not strange at all when asked about the beautiful island in Indonesia, people would answer Bali for the question.

However, as someone who’s never been to Bali before and claimed as a beach lover, I have to say that whenever I go to any beach area in Indonesia, the excitement is pretty much alike. It doesn’t matter in which part of Indonesia the place is.

Those who might have read my post about Yogyakarta could see how beautiful the beaches are in the central part of Java. I am still yet to visit Bali, but then allow me to introduce the beauty of another island in Indonesia: Bangka Island.

Bangka Island is rarely chosen as a holiday destination even for local Indonesian tourists. When we, especially those who live in Java, heard about Bangka, we would correlate it with a local dish called martabak instead of it being a place to go for vacation.

Bangka lies in the eastern part of Sumatra, in which it is a part of Bangka-Belitung Island province. From the capital city of Jakarta, it takes only around 45 minutes to get there by flight. Quite close, yet it seems that Bangka doesn’t have enough reason to attract Jakartans to go there for holiday. So in this post, I’ll give you some.

Let’s start with the economy background of Bangka as according to Wikipedia, Bangka has been one of the world’s principal tin-producing centers since 1710. Yes, 1710!

So the tin production is an Indonesian government monopoly under a state-owned enterprise named PT. Timah (Persero) Tbk. Headquartered in Bangka, the company had become the biggest tin producer in the world by 2008. So yes, tin-producing activity has been a big deal in the region!

My main reason to visit Bangka at that time was quite simple. Diandra, my ex-roommate when I was flying, is originally from Bangka so when we planned out a vacation together to Belitung, we thought it would be great to hop into Bangka right after. Not to mention that I’ve read so many articles about the infamous kaolin lake in Bangka-Belitung that I wanted to visit.

We planned out a 2-day and one night stay in Bangka, but then we’ve caught all the beauties in the region. Best decision ever!

The picture above was taken in the kaolin lake located in Air Bara, the central part of Bangka. So, what is kaolin lake exactly, and why is it called that way?

Kaolin is a mineral material used to produce stuff like cosmetics, toothpaste, paper, etc. And the lake is called kaolin lake because it was formed from the former site of the abandoned mining site. It is rather ironic, actually. Because the natural beauty has been enhanced due to the exploitation of the sites.

You can find a lot of kaolin lakes in both Bangka and Belitung islands, and the scenery is unbelievable!

The one in Belitung actually reminded me a bit about Kawah Putih in Bandung. However, there is no smell of sulfur because unlike Kawah Putih, the lake wasn’t derived from the crater and the water can even be used for bathing. I could see there were some fishes swimming around the lake as well when I went there.

However, the view I have encountered in Bangka was not only amazing but also breathtaking!

You see the picture above? The thing you see in the picture, it was 10 times better when I was there. The water is as blue, and it was so big and as we went there in the morning, there was literally no one there except for me and my friends who drove there for 1.5 hours from the city center of Pangkal Pinang.

There are two kaolin lakes in the site, whereby one is the lake with the blue water and the other is more like greenish but as beautiful. When I spoke to Diandra, she told me that the reason why it looks much prettier than the one in Belitung, her answer was rather sad.

Yes, because the natural resources in Bangka were exploited way worse than in Belitung. According to her, back in the day, people in Belitung were actually marching to protest the exploitation in their region. It didn’t happen in Bangka.

As the lake was formed from the abandoned exploitation sites, the more exploited the site was, the better it enhances its beauty. The blessing in disguise, I suppose?

From Air Bara, we drove for another 2-hour to get to Sungailiat. 2-hour driving sounds pretty much like boring, but not so boring if the scenery provides you with some long, beautiful winding road like this.

And this time, the beach area! 😀

The first place we visited was a pagoda around Pantai Tikus (as disgusting as it sounds, it literally means the Rat Beach lol). Pagoda Vihara Puri Tri Agung is the name, although it is also known by the local as “pagoda kuil saolin“. You could find the scenery of Pantai Tikus from this pagoda, and it was incredibly hot!

You know, hot as in sexy and as in the weather as well. Seriously though, it was so hot, it burned my skin fairly well. Haha.

There was nothing much to do around pagoda except to take some pictures and for me, playing with some stray dogs. Haha.

Like seriously though, I bought this corn cheese and I shared one cup with these two silly dogs. Does that make it a corndog? *laughing cornily*

And the last place we visited was a beach called Rambak, 15 minutes driving from the pagoda. And to be honest, I love Bangka for being so underrated as a tourist destination because when I went there, I felt like being on a private beach!

The beach was so beautiful, and there was literally nobody except for us three and a kiosk owner who let us rent a gazebo for IDR 50,000 (around USD 3.5) only. We enjoyed coconut water and played randomly around the beach, although unfortunately none of us brought our swimsuit. 🙁

But honestly though, the beach is a perfect place to relax as it was so quiet. I would imagine it could feel like heaven if I went there with a swimsuit and a book. *introvert mode: on*

When we played around, I told Diandra that she was so lucky that she could enjoy this whenever she’s home. And she told me another story about how the local government is currently trying to find another way for the local economy development as they’re running out of tin resources nowadays.

On the way back to the city center, we also listened to the local radio and they even called nowadays a ‘post-tin period’ since the local government is trying to develop more economy through other resources, including tourism industry.

Bangka has potential, for sure. If I could enjoy my stay so much to get around the island, I’m sure a lot of people would too. But then, maybe for exactly the same reason, next time everything could be different. Like, who knows if they would make a resort out of Rambak beach one day and let us pay to enjoy the time there and play next time we get there? Anything could happen.

But then again, something needs to be sacrificed. After all, that’s why we are trying to develop and innovate some sustainability strategy, right? If that’s the way, then let it be! 🙂

-Marya The BeauTraveler-

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22 thoughts on “Bangka Island: The Underrated Island with A Rather Sad Story Behind Its Beauty”

    1. for public transportation, this one is not.

      if you’re interested to visit bangka, i’d recommend you to rent a car instead and get on the road with the help of gps. that’s what i did with my friends when i went there. 🙂

      things were relatively cheap, to rent a car, it only costs us around idr 350.000 (around usd 30) and you can even get a decent hotel room with the rate of usd 30 per night. 😀

      1. Hi Marya! Thanks for posting this — my grandmother was born in Bangka, and I’m wanting to visit from Singapore!
        For the car rental, did you just get one at the airport? Thanks! -Meli

        1. hi meli, thank you for reading! 🙂

          for the car rental, my friend from bangka arranged it for us when we came for visit.

          however, nowadays i think you could find some reliable car rental through traveloka. i just checked on my app, and there are some options with various budget in pangkalpinang. have a good time in bangka! 😀

  1. I had not heard of Banka Island before but it does look really nice. It is really unusual (but good) that the abandoned mines have turned into something lovely.

    1. hey there, thank you for dropping by and yesss.. you should come to this island, it’s rather a small island so you can actually spend just 2 or 3 days to explore the whole island in bangka.

      ps. great football shirt, but not so great in luck i suppose? things have been stagnant since forever for us gooners! 😛

  2. The moment I read the title one word captivated me it’s “Bangka” which means in my language (native canoe) I thought you were writing a story somewhere in the Phlippines, but when I saw those photos, those are magnificent. hope I could visit here someday.

    1. Hi Lexi, thank you for dropping by! 😀

      What does Bangka mean in your language? But hey, I’m Indonesian, I’m not too familiar with native canoe, but I know some words that are similar in both Indonesian and Tagalog so I’m not quite surprised. 😉

      Beside, Philippines and Indonesia are not that far, so maybe you’ll be able to visit it somewhere? I know AirAsia will open the route Jakarta-Manila starting in January, yeay! 😀

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