This annual festival is so unique that it is a pity to miss. In addition to the main event burning replica barges, there are a number of other interesting attractions. This is a tradition or ritual performed by ethnic Chinese in Bagansiapiapi as a tribute to their ancestors, as well as to preserve the tradition that has lasted hundreds of years.
For this year, Bakar Tongkang Festival – once the name of the event – will take place on 28-30 June 2018 in Bagansiapiapi, capital of Rokan Hilir District, Riau Province. This festival, in addition to being very popular among domestic tourists, is already internationally known. At least every year he was able to suck the tourists from abroad like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan to mainland China.
In Hokkien, the festival is dubbed the Go Gek Cap Lak, which points to the numbers “5” and “16”. The number is related to the timing of the festival, that every year the festival is held on the 16th day of the fifth month in the traditional Chinese calendar.
According to some information, the event behind this barbecue tradition began when a group of Hokkien Chinese from Fujian Province, China, wandered and crossed the ocean with a simple wooden boat, of course in order to find a better life.
In a long voyage filled with a sense of indecision and anxiety, the people on board prayed to Kie Ong Ya to be led safely to the land. Then, one night covered with darkness and silence, they dimly saw the light in the distance. In their minds, the presence of light indicates the presence of land. The barge sailed toward the light, and upon arriving on the land later known as Bagansiapiapi, the barge was burned. Some records mention that it was in 1826. And, that’s what became the forerunner of barge ritual in Bagansiapiapi.
The series of events usually begin with prayers and rituals, followed by a cultural procession. Barongsai attraction can be witnessed in the procession. In addition, there is a stage entertainment that one of the show presents Hokkian songs, presented by participants from within the country and abroad.
Burning a barge replica topped the three-day festival. Before paraded to the kiln, a fairly large replica of a ship (about 8 m long, 2 m wide) is prayed and blessed in Hok Hok Eng Temple. There is a belief among the Chinese, when the main barge that burns down leads to the sea, the luck will be sourced from the sea. Conversely, if it leads to land, fortune will be more than land.
Towards Bagansiapiapi, Rokan Hilir, is relatively easy. From the capital of Riau province, Pekanbaru, Bagansiapiapi is 350 km away and can be reached by road for about 6-7 hours. Travel overland can also be done from Medan, North Sumatra, with a travel time of about 10-12 hours. No need to worry about accommodation because in Rokan Hilir available a number of hotels and inns.