The beautiful Belitung Island, off the eastern coast of Sumatra was once known only as Billiton, the top producer of tin and tin mining in the world. But with the decline of this commodity, interest in the island gradually waned.
However, one fascinating book, which was later made into a movie threw back the spotlight on this island with all its beauty. The book was “Laskar Pelangi” or “The Rainbow Troop” and its author, Andrea Hirata, a writer born and raised on Belitung. Today, a museum named the Andrea Hirata’s Museum of Words stands as an inspirational window for all, that it is possible to achieve our dreams despite many drawbacks, just as the novel has taught us.
Located on Jalan Laskar Pelangi No 7, in the town of Gantung, East Belitung, in the Bangka Belitung Province, the Museum is in fact the first and only Museum on Literature in Indonesia. Initiated and established by Andrea Hirata the author himself, the Museum was first built in 2010 and was officially opened to the public in 2012.
The Novel “Laskar Pelangi” was published in September 2005 and became an instant success. The novel even managed to cross geographical and language barriers as it was translated into English, Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. “Laskar Pelangi” tells about how a boy grew up in a small and relatively remote island amidst all its limitations and drawbacks yet managed to hold firm to his dream to one day be able to travel to other parts of the world, which he eventually achieved. In 2008, the novel was made into a movie, and the enchanting sceneries of Belitung Island were introduced to the rest of the world. The name ”Laskar Pelangi” even became the name of the island’s seaport following the movie’s fantastic success.
The museum took the concept as a replica of the Muhammadiyah Gantung Elementary School which was the central setting of the story that Andrea attended as a child. Today The Museum is located not far from the original Muhammadiyah Gantung Elementary School which was the location of the movie. The construction of the museum is to fulfil a promise that Andrea made when he received profits from the novel. He once stated that he would allocate part of the profits from the novel to build something that would have lasting educational value for Belitung.
The inspiration to establish the Museum of Words came when Andrea visited The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal Missouri, USA, where he attended the University of Iowa on a scholarship to study literature for seven months.
The distance between the main city of Tanjung Pandan to Gantung Sub-district is about 11 km and can be reached in about 2 hours drive. From the airport at Tanjung Pandan, you can take a rental car.
If you wish to take public transportation, there are buses and mini buses that serve the route of Tanjung Pandan-Gantung. However they are infrequent and then operate only from morning to 12:00 PM.