Before the Americans struck oil, Pekanbaru was little more than a sleepy river port on Sungai Siak. Today it's Indonesia’s oil capital, with all the hustle and bustle of modern cities.
Pekanbaru’s primary purpose for tourists used to be as a transit point for ferry passengers from Singapore, but the increased affordability of air travel has curtailed the sea passage. If you've still got your heart set on an old-school journey by boat from Singapore to Sumatra, it is still possible – just – and if you do wash up in this oil boomtown, expect a warm welcome from the friendly locals.
The best place to base yourself is around the intersection of Jl Sudirman and Jl Teuku Umar with ATMs, good food and accommodation options.