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FORUM : Tentang Bagansiapiapi & Sekitarnya Diskusi Seputar Bagansiapiapi & Sekitarnya

 Topic umum : Tips to visit Bagansiapiapi during the Barge Burning Festival

Moderator : MonMon,

Topic Created : 03.May.2014 22:42    View : 3048    


Total post : 1105

Probably some people would like to know such information in English therefore I made an english version here. This article can also be found in my personal blog at

Barge Burning Festival or in Indonesian called Festival Bakar Tongkang or locally known as Go Gwee Cap Lak is an annual event to commemorate the first arrival of Chinese to Bagansiapiapi. The history is believed to be traced back to almost two hundred years ago but too bad I have no idea when was the exact year.

Anyway upon arrival in Bagansiapiapi these 18 Chinese burned the two barges they took all the way from southern Siam as a determination to permanently live in Bagansiapiapi. Ever since the date of arrival is celebrated as a grateful day and a smaller-size paper barge is burnt as a token of appreciation to the deity believed to have guided them. The arrival date is 16 on the 5th month on lunar calendar and the barge burning is on the 17 of the same month.

In 2014 this event will be celebrated on 13-14 June 2014 (friday and saturday) and the main event the barge parade and the burning will be held on 14 June which is saturday.

On the 16th people will be busy with praying and offering prayers to all the deities and on the 17th there will be a parade to bring the barge to the burning point which is believed to be the point when the Chinese first arrived in Bagansiapiapi.

For first timers to this event there are some points that you may want to take into consideration:

1. Book your transportation and accomodation early. Remember that this is the biggest event in Riau Province. During the two days thousands or maybe even more than ten thousands of people will flock in this small town and it will be quite a hectic to secure a place to stay or to manage a seat to reach this town. There is no scheduled public transport to this town so you will have to book or charter a car on your own. Bagan can be reached from Pekanbaru (6 hours) Dumai (3 hours) or Medan (12 hours). There is no flight to Bagan yet as there is no airport. For accomodation some of the popular ones are Lion Hotel My Hometown Hotel Hotel Bagan etc. But do not expect to have an international class service or facilities here. And these hotels are usually fully booked one week before the event. To make things more complicated some hotels sold the event in package. You can’t book 2-3 nights but you have to book for one week even though you might end up only spending two nights. This is their strategy to fully benefit as the crowd only flock in during this event or during Cheng Beng (visit ancestor) or during Chinese New Year.

2. Prepare mosquito repellent. Bagansiapiapi used to be a swamp area. Part of it is still a conserved mangrove area. Therefore when night approaches a lot of mosquitoes will be flying around and you will have to get yourself prepared. Some of my friends said they will never go to Bagan again for its mosquitoes. But some have no problem with it.

3. Prepare yourself mentally. Water supply in Bagan comes from rain. Still quite a lot of people use rain water to drink or cook. The wealthier families buy bottled mineral water for drink or cooking. However bathing and simple needs will still use under ground water. The water is a bit yellowish or brownish but it is ok. To protect your health I suggest you to only consume bottled water. You don’t want to ruin your holiday in Bagan by keeping yourself inside the toilet. Remember to consume more water as the weather is quite humid.

4. Try the local food. They are superb! Try the curry rice (there is one decent store in Jalan Aman owned by my friend’s father. It is a bit pricey but the taste is above the average. Beware that curry rice is not HALAL in Bagan). Or try the hamkwe (something like fried oyster cake but the oyster here is a bit different.) Or he ci (something like shrimp tempura but it is a local style of deep-fried shrimp). Or try mieso (soup noodle) best consumed in hot and spicy. Very yummy (for me at least)

5. Bagan has a lot of temples. Almost every street has a few temples. Some temples are dedicated to certain deities but some are dedicated for each ancestor. For example the surname of Hung (the largest in Bagan) Wang Xu Huang etc will have their own surname temple and that makes Bagan a town with a thousand temples. Feel free to check if you can go in freely and enjoy. Remember that taking pictures might annoy people who come for pray so please respect them.

6. Some location are great for photography. The event itself offers countless opportunities for great shots. The oldest temple like Ing Hok Kiong and the Grand Mosque also offer two best photography spots.

7. Bring google! Yes you didn’t see it wrong. It was because of all the incense burning you will easily irritated by the smoke created by them. For certain people this can be very annoying so don’t feel weird to put on your google. Be yourself enjoy the crowd.

8. Hangout at kopitiam (coffee shop/coffee stall). There are plenty of coffee shops in Bagansiapiapi. Some open whole day some open only in evening. No matter which one you choose to visit you can always enjoy an aromatic hot black coffee in Bagan. The way the people in Bagan roasted the coffee bean is a bit different therefore you will see that the smell is slightly different from other cities.

Apart of Bagan you can always explore its neighboring places. Places like Sinaboi and Sungai Nyamuk is reachable within 1-2 hours by motorcycle. These two villages offer fresh and affordable seafood to quench your appetite. Other possible day trip is to Pulau Halang (Halang Island). This fishing village can only be reached via boat and there is scheduled departure between Bagansiapiapi and Pulau Halang. Remember to check the details. And the pick up and drop off points might be different. Other option is to Panipahan. Panipahan is a unique fishing village with plenty of fresh seafood. The village itself is very photogenic. (I have never been to Panipahan but I did saw some of the pics shown by my friend. They were great!)

Anyway I hope this article will be helpful for English-speaking society to understand more about Bagansiapiapi and to visit this place.

Should you want to ask something else please feel free to drop me a message and I will try my best to feedback.

Halaman : total 1 hal.

# 1 - Reply : 26.May.2014 13:21

Benny Tan

Total post : 3

Thank you,very helpful as a guide for foreign tourists.

# 2 - Reply : 06.Apr.2015 12:10


Total post : 24


# 3 - Reply : 30.Aug.2015 02:42


Total post : 629

Alamak tak ngerti aku bro

Halaman : total 1 hal.


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