Located on the eastern coast of Bangka Island, Pangkalpinang is the island’s largest city and capital of the Province of Bangka-Belitung Islands. Aside from its role as the center of the provincial government, economic, and commercial activities, Pangkalpinang serves as gateway for visitors who wish to explore the enchanting beauty of Bangka and Belitung Islands.
Long known as the center of the tin mining industry, in its heydays Bangka produced some of the best tin ore and tin handicrafts. The tin mining industry drew Chinese workers and their descendants to the island, who brought their culture to root-down on Bangka, thus decorating the city of Pangkalpinang with visible Chinese nuances in its architecture and rituals. But besides its rich cultural heritage, Pangkalpinang also boasts some pristine beaches.
As visitors step down at the Depati Amir Airport, a huge sign welcomes them saying “Welcome to the land of Serumpun Sebalai”. Serumpun Sebalai or Seiya Sekata in Bahasa Indonesia has deep meaning that unity only comes with actions that correspond to speech and promises. More than the Province’s slogan, however, Serumpun Sebalai underscores the spirit that unites the plural society of the islands into one big family. Pangkal or Pengkal in the Malay language means center or beginning. It refers to the city’s role as the center of the tin mining industry. This once small mining town subsequently grew into the island’s commercial center as well as connecting port among all the islands. Pinang on the other hand is the palm tree found abundantly on the island.
To trace the history of tin mining industry on Bangka and Belitung and in Indonesia in general, visit the Indonesia Tin Museum located at Jl. Jendral Achmad Yani no.17 in the heart of Pangkalpinang. Housing various collections on the subject of tin mining, the museum is the only museum of its kind in Asia. The building itself is a heritage of national history since it was once used as venue for a meeting between Indonesian leaders and Dutch representatives for Indonesia’s independence from Dutch colonial powers.
Pangkalpinang also boasts pristine beaches. Located some 7 km from downtown Pangkalpinang, the Pasir Padi Beach offers beautiful scenery of white sand and clear blue ocean waters. The beach is also a perfect site to watch the sun rise in the morning. At ebb tide, visitors can walk to the nearby Punan Island and bathe in its calm waters. Not too far from Pasir Padi Beach, about 2.5 km from here is the Tanjung Bunga Beach which offers beautiful scenery of a flat beach decorated with huge granite rock formations.
Culturally, Pangkalpinang is heavily influenced by Chinese culture.which began around 1770 when Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II of Palembang Darussalam Sultanate invited laborers from China to work at tin mining industries on Bangka and Belitung. Subsequently, Chinese laborers arrived from Siam, Malaka (in present day Malaysia) and the Southern part of China. Most are Hakka (Khek) ethnic descent from the province of Guang Xi in China, The migrants would soon marry locals, since Chinese authorities at the time forbade women from migrating with their men. Their intermarriage and their descendents call themselves: Peranakan Chinese. Therefore, today the Chinese and native Malay ethnic groups form the majority of the population in Pangkalpinang .
As part of the roots of Chinese culture, the Kwan Tie Miaw temple stands beautifully at the Mayor Syarif Rachman Street. Initially called Kwan Tie Bo temple, it is one of the oldest temples on the island and according to inscriptions on the temple’s bell, it is estimated to have been built in 1841. Along with the nearby Mambo market and Singapore Alley, the area is the Chinatown of Pangkalpinang where are often held Chinese traditional ceremonies such as the ritual to repel misfortune called Pot Ngin Bun.