This is a Muslim country with a small Hindu population on Bali, so it's interesting to see these Buddhist statues occupying the Indonesian territory that is closest to the South China Sea.
This area of the Riau archipelago has had a significant Chinese presence since the latter part of the 18th century and most current residents are descendants of those Chinese Buddhist immigrants.
Nearby you can also see statues of characters from the classic Chinese novel "Journey to the West" ("Xi You Ji") including the Monkey King, Sun Wu Kong. Somehow they also made a strange detour to this small Indonesian island.
So you're walking around the village and you see this huge tree and think to yourself, "Aw, it's just another big old banyan ; so what?"
If you stroll past this tree, then you will regret not seeing the number one tourist site in the village. There is a Chinese temple built inside the hollow trunk, and it's still being used by the local Chinese villagers.
Surprise! Holy Banyan Buddha, Batman!
It's a Chinese temple built inside the hollow trunk of a big banyan tree! What will they think of next?
You can easily hire a boat from Tanjung Pinang's Pejantan dock to go across the harbor to Senggarang and see this impressive structure as well as the rest of the small sleepy village.
Life hasn't changed much for these people over the years. The wooden houses on the shoreline are built up on stilts so that the tide comes up beneath them to wash away the night's soil. That is the sewage plan.
Just across the bay, is Senggarang Island. The village was originally settled by Bugis people from Sulawesi, with traditional stilted houses over the water.
You can take a public ferry across the Riau River from the Pasar Baru market area in Tanjung Pinang. We went by a small long boat which was a little to close to the water for my liking.
"Xie er po,... mao er po...
shen shang de jiasha po...
ni xiao wo,...ta xiao wo...yi ba shan er po...
nan wu a mi tuo fo, nan wu a mi tuo fo..."
Hey! That's Mandarin Chinese I'm singing!
Hey! That's Ji Gong, the legendary Chinese monk with his Buddhist Mardi Gras beads and wine drinking gourd! What is he doing on this remote Indonesian island?
Senggarang is a small Chinese settlement that features Buddhist temples with a distinct Chinese theme. The sign in front says "No Climb" in Indonesian (Dilarang Manjat), English, and Chinese (Bu Ke Pa Shang)
I memorized the Indonesian phrase and told little kids all over Bintan not to climb even if they weren't climbing anything. "Hey kid! Dilarang Manjat, DILARANG MANJAT!"
Further down the road was a more modern Chinese temple and inside was a pool of small turtles. There were statues and waterfalls. A large gaudy Buddha was perched on a wall of boulders with a pond of fat carp at his feet.
Once on land and walking a little further along you pass by betel palms. The seed of these palms are chewed with betel leaves and lime as a digestive stimulant and narcotic. Nestled in a grove of banyan trees is a 200 year old clan house. There was a small shrine inside that was still in use by the locals.
From the end of the Senggarang jetty, you can walk through the stilted village until you reach actual land. This in itself was fascinating walking past these wooden homes with their little fenced frontages. The doors were open and women were sitting around talking. Little children were running around playing simple games and obviously not phased by tourists. The rubbish was a bit much, it was just thrown under the houses.
The temple sits in the grip of a giant banyan tree whose suspended roots have a stranglehold on the little building.