A trip to the tourist and industrial island of Batam in the Riau Islands Province is not considered complete without visiting its most prominent icon: the Barelang Bridge.
Situated some 35km from the heart of Batam City, the bridge is an architectural marvel that connects Batam Island with several small islands to its south, namely Tonton, Nipah,Sekotok, Rempang, Galang and Galang Baru (which, together are also known as the Barelang Islands area). Therefore, the name Barelang itself is a short form derived from the three major islands of Batam, Rempang, and Galang.
Barelang Bridge itself is actually a system that consists of 6 bridges and connecting roads which together stretch across the total area of Barelang islands region of approximately 715 km square. The spans of all 6 bridges together cover 2 kilometers, while the actual distance covered from the first bridge to the last is about 50km. Reflecting the Riau-Malay Culture, the bridges are officially named after rulers of the Riau Sultanate from the fifteenth to the eighteenth-century rulers.
The Barelang Bridge project was initiated by B.J Habibie. Indonesia's 3rd President, who was Minister of Research and Technology and Chief Executive of Batam Authority at the time.
The concept designs for the 6 bridges were proposed by Bruce Ramsay of VSL (Vorspann System Losinger) on request of Habibie that the design should be based on variation of different structural bridge types, in order to introduce and develop new bridge designs and building technologies for Indonesia. Over time,the Barelang Bridge has actually grown into a tourist attraction, rather than simply a transport road..
The first and main Bridge is officially called the Tengku Fisabililah Bridge, but this bridge is more familiarly known simply as the Barelang Bridge or the Habibie Bridge (after B.J Habibie). The bridge connects the island of Batam with the small island of Tonton.
Similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransico, USA, this picturesque bridge is the longest and biggest among the entire system. Spanning 642 meters, this is a cable-stayed bridge, supported by and decorated with two towering 199m high pylons.
Overlooking the open seas dotted with several small islands, the bridge provides the perfect setting for some of the most outstanding pictures. Complemented with a platform offering the best angle of the bridge, taking a picture here for tourists is obligatory, since it will provide solid proof that one has indeed visited Batam.
The 2nd bridge connecting the islands of Tonton and Nipah is called Nara Singa Bridge and is a cantilever bridge with total length of 420m. The 3rd Bridge is a girder bridge that stretches about 270m, called Ali Haji Bridge which connects the island of Nipah with Sekotok. The 4th Bridge is the Sultan Zainal Abidin Bridge connecting the islands of Sekotok and Rempang, which is a 365m long cantilever bridge.
On Rempang Island, there is the Melayu Beach which offers panoramic sceneries and relaxing ambience and is frequently visited by both locals and tourists. The 5th Bridge is a 385m long Arch Bridge called Tuanku Tambusai Bridge. The bridge connects Rempang Island with Galang Island, site of the former Vietnamese Refugee Camp. The 6th and last bridge is also the smallest with a total length of 180m. Called the Raja Kecik Bridge, it connects Galang Island with Galang Baru Island.