"Riau Map" Riau Province by Mangunsong

Riau Province Travel Guide: 1,070 reviews and 3,075 photos

The 3,000 islands of the Riau province straddle the Straits of Malacca, one of the oldest and business trading routes in the world. For centuries the islands have provided a safe haven to traders and sailors from Europe, India and China and as a result they have strong foreign historical links. Riau, which includes a large part of East Sumatra, is the heartland of the Malays and the source of Indonesia's Malay-based national language. The first book of Malay grammar, called Bustanul Katibin, was written and published here in 1857 and Malay was also adapted by foreign seafarers and traders in the 14th and 15th centuries so that they could communicate and be successful, effectively creating a language of trade and power.

The Kingdom of Malacca played a leading role in the history of the area since its founding in 1402 by Parameswara. With the arrival of the Portuguese however, a period of wars for control of the Malay states around the Straits, began. The situation was aggravated with the arrival of the Dutch and British in the early l 7th century. A turbulent conflict followed which was partially resolved by the Treaty of London in 1824, which gave the Dutch control of all territories claimed by European countries south of Singapore. This area included Riau, and effectively severed its links with Johor and the mainland. The Dutch subjugated and dissolved the rebellious Riau Sultanate in 1911, but the province's influence remained strong.

Within the province of Riau are to be found perhaps the greatest contrasts anywhere in Indonesia. Spanning a large part of mainland eastern Sumatra and some 3,000 islands in the Straits of Melaka, the province boasts untouched jungle and sophisticated urban centers, tropical swamplands and gorgeous white sand beaches. Mainland Riau is home to several isolated groups of indigenous peoples, who live in the forest practicing their centuries old culture, and also to Batam Island, a vital, modern center of trade and tourism. The province has Indonesia’s richest oil fields, as well as some of its rarest wildlife, including Sumatran tigers, rhinos, elephants and bears.

Visitors to Riau can choose from beachfront resorts with world-class amenities, to treks through the rainforest to snorkeling around coral reefs, to dining on the sophisticated cuisine of Batam. With something for everyone, Riau is sure to prove a source of endless fascination and exploration.

  • Intro Updated Oct 13, 2004
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