Belakang Padang Island Myths and History

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Belakang Padang Island rises from the waters of the Singapore Strait. (JP/Fadli)

A myth says that those who travel to Belakang Padang Island will find their wishes fulfilled. Thus was born a romantic nickname: “Cure of desire“, the island that appeases longing hearts.

Riau province, close to Singapore, consists of 108 islands. Only 43 of them are inhabited. Located six nautical miles from Singapore, people of Belakang Padang Island can easily see the city-state’s skyscrapers, such as Marina Bay Sands. It takes 15 to 20 minutes by speedboat to go to Singapore from Belakang Padang. Charter boats are available for Rp 100,000 (US$7.09) one way.

Many residents of Belakang Padang work in Batam, located about 24 kilometers from the island. Most work as traders and clerks. Similarly, the majority of government officials working in the immigration office or district offices in Belakang Padang live in Batam.

Washono, head of the Belakang Padang immigration office, said he spends more time in Batam than in Belakang Padang, although he has an official residence on the island.

“My business is mainly concentrated in Batam. And going to Belakang Padang is no problem, I can go there easily,” she said.

He also said that the Belakang Padang immigration office was built before the Batam one. The building has been preserved for its history.

“The Belakang Padang office is in charge of issuing passports and monitoring foreign ships and boats passing by,” Wasono said.

The 70 square kilometer island is considered reluctant to develop, even though its natural potential is considered promising.

A “rickshaw” (three-wheeled pedicab) can transport travelers around Rear Padang Island.

Another myth of the island is “stop stone” (Stopping Stone), an area familiar to ship, tanker and boat captains alike.

People say there is an area in the middle of the sea that has invisible rocks. Passing ships and boats that break certain unwritten rules will be stranded. After a while, though, they usually clear up on their own.

Before Batam was a favorite destination for Singaporeans and Malaysians, Belakang Padang had a reputation as a red light district. Mat Belanda Island, part of Belakang Padang, was known for offering prostitutes in humble cabins.

The island is now considered a culinary paradise offering Melayunese dishes. Favorites are the spicy fish, calamari with black sauce and martabak (traditional pancake).

According to residents, dishes are best enjoyed while enjoying the gentle ocean breeze.

A tasty ‘Martabak’ (traditional pancake)

Edited by: FADLI

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