Bintan Island is part of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, and because of its strategic location on the India-China trade route, it has been subject to foreign domination for centuries. The Chinese, Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch and British have all coveted or controlled the islands, which were governed by the Dutch as part of their Dutch East Indies colony until Indonesia became independent in 1945.
The most impressive sight is the 500 Lohan and Guan Yin Chinese Temple, with its life-size handcarved stone statues of arhats (a Sanskrit word that means “one who is worthy”), or Buddhist saints. Tanjung Pinang, Bintan’s capital, is located on the southwestern coast of the island. A lively town where many of the houses have been built over the sea, it is a great place to shop for Javanese batik textiles.