Riau , which includes a large part of East Sumatra, is homeland to Malays and the source of Indonesians Malay-based national language. The first book of Malay grammar, called Bustanul Katibin, was written and published here in 1857.
Pekanbaru became the provincial capital in 1959, taking over from the former capital of Tanjungpinang on the Island of Bintan. About 160 kms upstream on the Siak River you can find a number of buildings in the traditional style. Among them are Balai Dang Merdu, Balai Adat and Taman Budaya Riau , or Riau Cultural Park.
Riau Islands were ruled by Malay kingdoms in the 16th century. The kings found it difficult to maintain their power because aside from fighting sea pirates, they also had to fend off attacks from Portuguese, Dutch and English who were keen in controlling this southern entrance of the Strait of Malacca--a strategic place for trade with China and India back then.
Oil was found near Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau , before World War 2. The first oil well was drilled in Minas, about 10-15 kms away from Pekanbaru. To this day, oil has become one of major sources of wealth in Riau Province.
Simpang Tiga Airport is a busy visa free entry point. Pelangi flies to Kuala Lumpur and Silk Air flies to Singapore. Domestic airlines direct flights are available from Jakarta as well as from Medan and Batam. There are frequent departures from the bus station. Agencies all around town sell tickets for the boats to Batam.
People & Culture
The people inhabited Riau provinces are mostly Malays. They are known for their geniality, warmth and affection, also diverse styles of language. There are several protected tribes too in Riau province, most famous perhaps Sakai tribe, that still lives and thrives on the woods.
Traditional Malay cuisine is normally spicy, however you can always find other types of food here. Most famous perhaps for its kare--some kind of curry--based dishes, Malay dishes offer fabulous recipes made of sea food ingredients. Due to its proximity to neighboring provinces, Riau also boasts collection of Western Sumatra and North Sumatra dishes. Western food and fast food are available virtually everywhere so tourists without strong stomachs will be able to get their fills here.