Heading to An-Nur Great Mosque from Chinatown

I took a moment to close my eyes after I finished check-in process at Sri Indrayani Hotel. An uneasy night on a middle bench of INTRA Bus, continued for four hours on foot to explore Senapelan area had made my calf muscles exhausted and my eyes felt heavy.

My smartphone which was still charging, shouted to wake me up, exactly one hour before Asr Prayer. Prayer times was indeed an option as a starting marker for continuation of my journey in Pekanbaru. That was because I chose to visit the grandest mosque in the whole of Riau Province or it could be said as one of the grandest in the country.

No longer postpone for late lunch, I went through Chinatown along Dr. Leimena Street which isn’t far from my hotel gate, until I found a small restaurant which exposed fragrant spices and looked very crowded. Its entire seat in downstairs was almost full and without long thinking, I immediately occupied one seat in between.

Noodles with bean sprouts mixed with lontong (Indonesian compressed rice), shrimps, eggs and fragrant with a sprinkling of fried onions….Hmmh, delicious.

Slowly drinking a sweet-sour of cold-orange juice made my body felt cool for a moment in the middle of city heat. And right at a last sip, an online motorcycle taxi came to pick me up.

Heading southeast for three kilometers and arrive at the gate exactly twenty minutes before Asr Prayer arrived. So many police officers in mosque courtyard, it seemed to be securing an important agenda that afternoon. Every vehicle which entered mosque area didn’t escape from strict inspection.

Where are you going, Sir?” a young policeman which armed with long barrel gun said at entrance gate. “Asr prayer, Sir“, a password was so effective for passing the inspection.

It’s like the Taj Mahal, right?
Domes like an upside down “spinning top” and that palm trees….Hmmmhh, nice.

I hadn’t entered yet the mosque room. Busy in courtyard to enjoy the beauty of architecture which was presented in front of my eyes. A greeny dominant mosque which is a half of century old with large area which I estimate to be more than ten hectares….Really, very vast.

Just look at how spacious a parking lot side is?

The Mughals are still be dominant architectural style in it, its distinctive arches resembling arches of Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb in Agra. While nuances around the mosque was slightly adopted Al-Masjidil Al-Haram atmosphere in Mecca and Al-Masjid An-Nabawi in Medina.

The Malay style is embedded to green color of main building, red color on tower ornaments and yellow gold color on interior ornament and calligraphy. Then the Malay custom is depicted on two levels of floor with veranda below. It adopts a concept of Malay’s houses on stilts.

Five pillars of Islam are symbolized by five domes and leadership of Prophet’s Caliph is represented on four towers.

Now I was preparing to Asr Prayer, purified myself on lower floor and then climbed stair by stair leading to main worship room on second floor. The atmosphere inside was so solemn, it made me feel grateful because I was still given an opportunity to visit this magnificent God house.

Six giant pillars with green color in base layer and white on top layer.

I made my sitting time so long in the back to enjoy this iconic religious tourism of Riau Province which is said able to accommodate almost five thousand worshipers.

Dome arch from inside.

This famous architectural creation in Pekanbaru can’t be separated from Kaharuddin Nasution cold hands, the second Riau Province Governor who moved Provincial Capital from Tanjung Pinang on Bintan Island to Pekanbaru in the 1960s. Certainly, this displacement had consequences for him to facilitate religious activities of residents majority who in fact embraced Islam. That is why the Governor felt it was important to present An-Nur Great Mosque.

Cool……

From Sri Indrayani Hotel….The Adventure was Began

I still didn’t budge with an offer of taxi drivers, while other INTRA Bus passengers preferred to use taxi services towards their final destination in Pekanbaru.

Several time later, from across the street, an online motorcycle taxi driver waved to me. Of course he knew, I was wearing a blue jacket with same color backpack. I had sent a description to him via message in application.

Are you originally from here, Sir?” I asked in back seat.

No, I’m from Padang, Sir. Are you from Java? your accent is typical“, he answered and asked.

I ever studied in a college at Yogyakarta, Sir. Which Java are you from?“, I didn’t have answered yet, He had asked again.

I’m originally from Solo, Sir. Are local residents nice, Sir?”, I began to wonder.

Most of Pekanbaru residents are from Padang, Sir. Calm down, Sir, anywhere is safe“, he soothingly said .

From an article I read afterwards, it’s true that 40% of Pekanbaru residents are Minang native migrants. Indeed, Minang people are great in odyssey

Not even 10 o’clock in the morning, I arrived.

The three-star hotel which I booked through Airy Rooms exactly on nine days before my arrival in Pekanbaru was only USD 6 per night. Cheap, right?

I deliberately chose to stay in Senapelan area just to tracing the glory of Siak Sri Indrapura Sultanate. Looking at economic activities of city residents, remembering that the name of Pekanbaru came from words of Pekan Baharu, a market which was pioneered by Young Sultan named Tengku Muhammad Ali, the 5th Siak Sultan. It can be said that Senapelan area was the forerunner to the formation of Pekanbaru City which was born as a positive impact from Sultanate economic development.

Hotel front yard is on an edge of Sam Ratulangi Street.

Coming too early, I tried my luck in front of reception desk. Maybe they could put me faster to rest in hotel room.

The room isn’t ready, Sir. Just wait in our lobby until 13 o’clock”, young staff on duty said in neat uniform.

Oh well, Sir. Can I put my backpack here. I better go around the city first, then come back when I can check-in“, I replied.

Oh sure, sir. Just put it here“, he asked my backpack to put behind the table.

Sir, is there a power outlet to recharge my handphone?“, I asked him

Oh, the plug is in hotel’s restaurant at right of the lobby. Just go in, Sir!“, His index finger pointed at a door.

Straightening my waist for a while in the lobby, I was still staring at the authentic reception room, golden yellow dominated. Three roofs with three selembayung at the end. praying hand shape symbolizes the close relationship between living things and God.

In addition to selembayung, motifs like a Malay songket is beautify the room.

After my camera and handphone was charged, to take advantage my time while waiting for check-in, I began to explore some traces of Siak Sultanate which were clearly represented along Siak River, Tuan Kadi’s Halfway House and Nur Alam Grand Mosque

Entering twin bed room at 2 pm.
Cheap but luxurious hotel room for me.

Sri Indrayani Hotel was originally a guesthouse which was rented by an airline for its air crew since 1971. Along with Pekanbaru development, this guesthouse perfected itself by transforming into a leading shariah hotel in Pekanbaru during the city’s development. Its location which opposite the Chinatown also made hotel development was quickly its time.

Finally, I found warm water after didn’t bathing for 38 hours.
The park behind hotel is bordered by Bangka Street.

From Sri Indrayani Hotel, my adventure to exploring Pekanbaru was began. It was time to got around the city and got to know about the capital of Riau Province.

7 Tourist Attractions in Pekanbaru

Entering Pekanbaru, all INTRA Bus passengers were unloaded in a non-permanent restaurant building which is made from green colour wood. Entering in back of restaurant, long row of simple bathrooms made me easy to washing my face and preparing myself to explore “Madani City“.

Entering city’s roads for the first time on an online motorcycle taxi seat, I began to save my curiosity about destinations which I could visit in the city. Until I finally arrived at Sri Indrayani Hotel lobby before check-in schedule. After charging my camera and smartphone to several cell bars in the hotel restaurant, I immediately swung my steps to nearest spots.

  1. Tunjuk Ajar Integritas Park

Not far away, half a kilometer to northwest of hotel, there is a fairly well-known park in Pekanbaru. It is Tunjuk Ajar Integritas Park which has became a favorite play ground for city residents whice its development is dedicated to corruption resistance program in local government.

Integrity Monument in the park.

Not yet midday, hot air began to feel. Forcing me to took a shelter on park edge. Visitors was still quiet, considering I didn’t visit on weekend.

2. Siak River

Continuing my steps, I went down to Wakaf Street before finally being led by a traffic policeman to turn right and passing Jembatan Siak I street then reached edge of Siak River.

Visiting Siak River and imagining the glory and prosperity of Siak Sri Indrapura Sultanate who once stood on this river edge was a thing that was interested me to made it as one of my destinations this time.

Panorama of Siak I Bridge.

3. Tuan Kadi’s Halfway House

Still wandering along the river, now I headed to Siak II Bridge. People call it as Bridge of Sultan Muhammad Ali Abdul Jalil Muazzam Syah, taken from name of the 5th Sultan of Siak Sultanate.

Stunned to stare at a building under the bridge, an original house since golden era of Siak Sultanate. This tourism site is known in the name Tuan Kadi’s Halfway House. Kadi or Qadhi itself is a famous title during the sultanate. The first owner of this house is Qadhi Haji Zakaria bin Haji Abdul Muthalib who had served as Chairperson of Siak Sultanate’s Shariah Deliberative Board.

It was once be a stopover for Sultan Syarif Kasim II, the 12th Sultan.

4. Nur Alam Grand Mosque

The sun began to slip from its highest position, meaning that I was able to entering Sri Indrayani Hotel’s room. Taking southeast direction, I intended to stop by and praying Dzuhur at Nur Alam Grand Mosque before arriving at hotel.

The oldest mosque in Pekanbaru.

The relic mosque of Siak Sri Indrapura Sultanate still firmly stands with its yellow dome as a symbol of Malay greatness. It feels, Pekanbaru residents worth give a thank to Sultan Abdul Jalil Alamuddin Syah, the fourth Sultan who had built this magnificent mosque.

5. An-Nur Great Mosque

The heat of city began to subside, especially after I finished to bathing in hotel. Finishing lunch then I continued my exploration. After visiting the oldest mosque, now I headed to the grandest mosque in Riau Province.

Exhausted after walking almost 4 km, I chose to use an online motorcycle taxi towards An-Nur Great Mosque, two kilometers to southeast.

Indonesia’s Taj Mahal.

An-Nur Great Mosque itself has been a religious icon of Riau Province since the first year it was built, in 1963. Make sure that you don’t miss to visiting it when you are in Pekanbaru.

6. Putri Kaca Mayang Park

Next, I hurried to downtown. My next choice was Putri Kaca Mayang Park. Located on a side of Pekanbaru’s protocol street, this park looked more presentable than the first park which I visited.

The park name is taken from a princess name in a legendary tale in society.

Time that had slipped towards afternoon, one by one residents were seen coming to the park to just releasing fatigue or bringing their children to spending time by playing around the park.

7. Jenderal Sudirman Street

Like the same street name in Jakarta, Jenderal Sudirman Street in Pekanbaru also plays a role as a protocol road in the city.

As a main road, of course there are many things which can be enjoyed along the way. Road width with busy passing of vehicles is decorated by classy buildings architecture on both sides made Jenderal Sudirman street as a photography spot which worth to visiting.

The Soeman HS Library, Lancang Kuning Tower, Riau Governor’s Office and Dang Merdu Tower are architectures which look striking and different from other buildings along Jenderal Sudirman Street.

The road is decorated with Asmaul Husna along its edge.

Come on, vacation to Pekanbaru!

Black Taxi from Toba Lake to Pematang Siantar

I entered Eloise’s room to pick up my backpack which I had entrusted since morning. I checked out in the morning and continued to exploring Samosir all day with her. I said good-bye to her and prepared to go to Pematang Siantar, while she was still overnight at Samosir.

Bagus Bay Homestay staff directed me to wait for a ferry at the nearest port. Turn left after exiting the hotel, a few tens of meters later, I entered a alley at left side of road. Keep stepping until I reached a stall, right on port edge.

Tigaraja, Sir? Wait for half an hour, okay?“, Said a timer to me. Half an hour which was more than enough to ate a bowl of instant noodles with egg topping for USD 1.1 in stall corner.

Ferry looked approaching and the timer was silently pointing my face, then his index finger was pointing toward the ferry. I understand what that means.

Not even perfectly leaning yet, I jumped into the ferry. All passengers on the left deck shouted. “Watch out, Sir!” I waved like an artist. It turned out that my ability to maneuver with motorboats in Jatiluhur Dam when I became a fish farm salesman was still good.

Zoe’s Paradise Hotel (white) and Dumasari Hotel (red) stared at me when leaving Samosir.
Heading to Tigaraja port in 50 minutes.

The man in a faded blue jeans was intently staring in the distance when I descended the ferry. There isn’t other way to avoid it. I looked like waiting for a thug who was ready to hit me.

Siantar, Sir. Forty thousand Rupiah (USD 3)?“, He said while shadowing my steps. “Oh, taxi service“, I said. Chasing INTRA Bus which would leave at seven o’clock in the evening, I said yes. And I was taken to Bagus Taxi’s office.

Dying for a pee but didn’t getting a toilet, someone took a shower too long….Huftt.
Driver and passenger were hostile through a wooden pawns fight.

Looked like I was the last filler in taxi manifest. So fast, I’ve just sat on right side of middle row seat.

Right on my left, an old man who liked smoking during journey.

Black Avanza (one of Toyota type in Indonesia) swirled to measure street and picked up passengers one by one. pickup was ended with one incident when a woman missed her wallet in the fifth kilometer of our trip. It was annoying but can make me a little bit laugh. There wasn’t choice, the taxi turned back to get her wallet.

Leaving Toba Lake, the taxi speed forced me to open my eyes. It invited me to snaking and enjoying beautiful natural scenery of Simalungun Regency. Oil palm plantations, fields, hills and valleys were passed one by one. Occasionally the driver created humors, one of it when he frantically installing a seat belt which he didn’t wear in unison with a passenger next to him, even failedly installing it, until we passed the police operation area….Luckily, he didn’t stopped by police.

Within an hour and 20 minutes, taxi started to entering city edge, then headed to downtown via Gereja Street and Merdeka Street with two monuments as city landmarks.

Adipura Monument. Siantar has won this environmental award for four times.
Wahana Tata Nugraha Monument in President Soeharto era, an award for the excellent of transportation management.

Brother, once you get to Parluasan area, just go to the bus office, be careful“, said Erwin (my backpacker friend who accidentally met on KL HoHo Bus on 2013). Maybe he was worried about me when entering Parluasan area who was famous for its thugs. But I casually responded because I knew that I would be dropped right in front of the INTRA bus office.

I arrived…..

Let’s waited for brother Erwin to pick me up for getting around Pematang Siantar for a moment.t

Bus INTRA from Pematang Siantar to Pekanbaru

I left Lake Toba by a taxi (in Jakarta, it may be called “omprengan”.…(using minibus to transport passengers) for USD 3 with 1 hour 50 minutes travel time. It finally led me to visit a new city … yes, Pematang Siantar. The city that I never think to visit it.

The taxi dropped me off in Parluasan area, an area which famous as hoodlums producer in Indonesia. Horrific, but for me this was an extraordinary mental experience.

The driver drove me right across INTRA bus office on Sisingamangaraja street. A INTRA bus parked to upload passengers makes it was easy for me to make sure that I didn’t get it wrong.

INTRA office

Hurrying up and heading to ticket sales counter then paid for my ticket which was ordered by phone call a day before. Fearing if my order didn’t recorded and I could miss Pekanbaru in next day.

Buy a ticket here !….You better order at least a day before departing

Thank to God, my name was in list and I gave USD 17,5 to exchange with a sheet of ticket to Pekanbaru … Yes, welcome Pekanbaru.

Sitting in a waiting room, my gaze was fixed on my watch and INTRA office yard … Never seen when He arrived, from right end of bus office yard He shouted for me. Happy, meet old friend.

His name is Andy Erwin, we met on Hop On Hop Off (HoHo) bus in Kuala Lumpur in 2013. Since it, we have been friend and I never thought that I could stop by to his home….an umpteenth surprise on my journey.

waiting room at INTRA bus office

Waiting for four hours wasn’t a pleasant thing, it would be nice to go around city. Incidentally, Erwin was ready to take me around by his motorbike. I won’t discuss what I got for 4 hours journey in the city, I’d better tell it in another article.

After returning from my exploration in city which famous for its “war veteran bentor” (bentor is public transportation in Pematang Siantar which using old Harley Davidson) , I went back to INTRA bus office and was ready for departing to Pekanbaru. Thanks Erwin for brought me to sightseeing Pematang Siantar.

Slowly I started to get in INTRA Bus. It is embedded in my mindset that I must ready to ride this land roller coaster all night. There is a lot of info which I have gotten in internet that this “running box” will run very fast through roads towards Riau. Indeed, drivers from Sumatra are very well known for their high adrenaline in driving cars or buses. I’ll also tell you later when I couldn’t sleep when riding ANNANTA travel from Pekanbaru to Bukittinggi which is just as crazy in its speed.

That soft seats that I will occupy for 14 hours to travel about 600 km towards Pekanbaru.

I said that this bus is very comfortable, as comfortable as Jakarta to Solo buses (Jakarta is capital city of Indonesia, Solo is my hometown in Central Java) that I often ride when going to my hometown.…Well, you just know my origin.

It will become perfect if a socket under my seat is functioning, so I can just write on laptop or just charge my camera which is low battery. Unfortunately, all socket on all seats didn’t work.

Of course, I can’t enjoy night views out there because condition was really dark. I can only enjoy speed of bus in preceding every vehicle in front of it. This driver is amazing.

On next day, I could see real views from suburb of Trans Sumatra Highway.

Gardens belonging to residents

Or economic growth was seen from appearance of these shop houses.

Only 1 or 2 traffic jams which I encountered along the way because there was a road renovation, so all vehicles had to queue with other side to get through half of road.

Entering Pekanbaru city, bus began to slow down because urban traffic would certainly be more dense.

It wasn’t a terminal like I imagined where I will be taken down. But it was only a non-permanent building which is the final destination of INTRA bus:


A restaurant with a row of clean toilets.

After cleaning my body then I was exiting the building, I was offered by motorbike and taxi drivers to head to downtown. But to avoided a high price, I prefered to use online transportation services to go to Hotel.

I put my backpack and started exploring “Madani City” (madani city is another name of Pekanbaru city)