Located west of Singapore and Batam, the Karimun Islands stand guard south of the busy shipping lane that is the Straits of Malacca. Together with Batam and Bintan, Karimun forms part of the Batam-Bintan-Karimun Free Trade Zone, which is being developed into an industrial and tourism region.
Capital of the Karimun Islands district in the Riau Islands (Kepri), is Tanjung Balai, a busy medium town largely built on stilts, with a significant Chinese Peranakan population. Here are found a number of Chinese temples, oldest of which is the Vihara Cetiya Vidya Sagara at Jalan Jenderal A. Yani at Meral, built in 1926. Others along the same street are the Vihara Bodhi Maitreya.an the Vihara Sasana Diepa. Further away at Jalan Athena is the Klenteng Tua Pek Kong.
Tanjung Balai Karimun should not be confused with its namesake Tanjung Balai in Asahan on the main island of Sumatra. Similarly, Karimun in the Riau Islands province should also not be confused with the Karimunjawa Islands, located north of Semarang, capital of Central Java.
With trade and investments mounting fast in this region, it comes as no surprise, therefore, that this once sleepy town has become a hive of activities, although still retaining its coastal rural character.
But, to enjoy rural life on this tropical Indonesian island, you need to get away from Tanjung Balai and go to some local village or “kampung” at Meral or Pasir Panjang.
For holiday makers, the islands of Karimun offer long stretches of white beaches, snorkeling opportunities, and of course succulent seafood dishes of fish, crabs, prawns and oysters all freshly caught from the sea. The nearby Terkulai and Soreh are popular holiday islands, while Palawan Beach and Pongkar Beach offer white sandy beaches ideal for watersports and relaxation under the palm trees. The island of Telunas in Karimun has also been developed into a holiday resort, a favorite with Singapore expatriates and students. (for details click www.telunasbeach.com)
Frequent ferries connect Singapore, Johor in Malaysia, Batam and Bintan with Tanjung Balai Karimun. And with more people visiting the islands for trade, investment and tourism, Karimun now has also a number of good hotels.