Tanjung Balai is a bustling port town with a lot of commerce, boosted by tourists from Singapore and Malaysia, however, it must not be confused with Tanjung Balai in North Sumatra province, a much larger city also known as Tanjung Balai Asahan and an international port. However, like Batam and Bintan, Karimun is also listed as a Free Trade Zone area.
Stroll around Tanjung Balai, which is the main town on Karimun Island, and one of the busiest towns in the Riau Islands. You can walk around and explore on your own or you can take a mikrolet (small public bus) for Rp. 2.000.
To enjoy the rural lifestyle on a tropical Indonesian island, you need to get away from Tanjung Balai and go to some local kampung areas in Meral or Pasir Panjang.
Vist the Chinese temples of Klenteng TUA PEK KONG, Vihara Cetiya, Vidya Sagara and Vihara Sasana Diepa in Meral. Take your time to look at the temple drawings such as "General Xue and Lady Fan" and "Lady Warriors of the Yang Family".
Visit the "Air Terjun" (waterfall in Indonesian) which is not far away from Pantai Palawan. You can bath in the man-made pools built to capture the water flowing from the mountain. It's definitely refreshing.
Bakso, a meatball made from low quality meat is just as popular as nasi goreng. Both are sold from street side stalls, or push carts that make their rounds through the neighborhoods.
Several chinese restaurants can be found along Jalan Trikora Laut (opposite Holiday Karimun Hotel). This is probably the central area for Teochew-style Bak Kut Teh. Noodles are also available.
The long stretch of open-air food and drink vendors that convenes outside the ferry terminal after 5pm is a great place to try out authentic, cheap Indonesian food.