Sunday, July 6, 2014

Surabaya 2013

In November 2013, we went on a short trip to Surabaya, the second-biggest city in Indonesia (which means it has a population of over 5 million) for three reasons: 1. it is close to Trowulan, the capital of the ancient Mahapajit Empire (1300-1500); 2. it has a hotel (owned by the Sarkies brothers and thus part of the Raffles Hotel chain at one time) that I particularly wanted to stay at; and 3. airfares were incredibly cheap (like $50/person).
Plus the food is great: here's a typical dinner of Indonesian deliciousness, including satay, gado gado and so much more
Though the McDonald's is pretty fancy if that's more your thing...
While probably not worth a visit if you don't live nearby, for me it was well worth the trip (from Singapore the flight is around 2 hours). The ruins were fascinating, the hotel was fantastic, and the city itself is surprisingly diverse and has a number of interesting places to visit. Surabaya itself is quite unattractive, full of grimy buildings and concrete, but I enjoyed the obvious energy and bustle of the city.
Typical street scene: but it doesn't fully capture the noise/chaos/movement
My favorite section of Surabaya is also the place I didn't take any pictures of: the very traditional Muslim quarter, which reminded me a bit of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul but much less touristy. It was full of small, winding alleyways lined with shops selling everything from embroidered slippers to spices to Korans: all paths eventually led to the Al-Akbar Mosque, the largest in east Java (which as non-Muslims we were not allowed to enter: I had to gawk from the porch area). There is also a Chinatown (now rather defunct, probably thanks to the 1998 riots): the temple remains, however, and was hosting a traditional puppet show during our visit.
Puppet stage
Xuanzang from Journey to the West
Surabaya also houses the House of Sampoerna (recently bought by Philip Morris for $5 billion), a clove cigarette factory where women still hand-roll the cigarettes. The complex includes a museum and quite a nice restaurant, where B and I enjoyed drinks and R indulged in some strawberry ice cream.
Entryway to the complex
Surabaya is not a major tourist destination, especially for international tourists, so a visit here is a great way to experience a bit of "real" Indonesian life. I really enjoyed our trip.
Not very touristy: note the funny mistake in the subtitle (the actual magazine was all in Bahasa, I don't know exactly why they felt the need to have an English name)
One of the many malls: it's a major shopping destination for Indonesians. So cheap compared to Singapore.
R loved the pink pirate boat ride (featuring Ninja turtles as well!)
She loved this probably extremely unsafe one with pink elephants too (the ride nearly touched the ceiling at each pass)

No comments:

Post a Comment