With an estimated population of 9.2 million people, Surabaya, located on the eastern side of Java, is the second largest city in the country. It is in Surabaya that the country’s battle for independence began and because of this, it is known as the “birth nation” of Indonesia. Locals call it Kota Pahlawan (City of Heroes) and this city is filled with statues commemorating the fight for independence.
1. Suroboyo Monument
The name of the city, Surabaya, is believed to be derived from two ancient Sanskrit words: sura, which means shark, and baya, which means crocodile. Legend has it that the city was founded after a battle between a shark and a crocodile, which you will see represented in the form of sculptures at this monument (below). It is located near the entrance to Surabaya Zoo.
2. Bromo Midnight Tour
One of the most popular activities here is the Bromo Midnight Tour. Mount Bromo is an active volcano in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park and has exquisite landscapes that are a photographer’s dream. The midnight tour gives visitors the chance to view the sunrise at Mount Pananjakan. Most tour operators will suggest the option of staying overnight, but if you don’t have time, there are options for a full “day” tour. This generally includes you getting picked up at midnight and eventually returning at 1pm. Whatever you do, make sure that you add this to your list of activities: it’s spectacular. Note: Mount Pananjakan is closed to visitors till December 10 as renovations are being made to the facilities, so do check before you go.
3. Kartiko at Pasar Atum
It’s small, busy and it takes a long time until you get what ordered – but the food is worth the wait. Kartiko is located inside the Pasar Atum mall and is known for its vast array of traditional food. Locals come here to buy supplies for home, but many also get their meals. Klepon is a traditional boiled rice cake filled with liquid palm sugar and then rolled in grated coconut. Tahu isi is tofu filled with beans, carrots and sometimes meat, deep fried and eaten with cabai rawit (bird’s eye chilli). It’s also sold at street stalls across the city but Kartiko’s tahu isi are most popular. Take 30 minutes out of your schedule to grab a stool, try a new dish and people watch. You’ll leave more than fulfilled.
4. Suramadu National Bridge
This is one of the longest bridges in South-east Asia, spanning a distance of 5.4km. It connects Java with the island of Madura, and is historic as it was the first bridge to cross the Madura Strait. It’s especially magical to see at night as it is lit up with multi-coloured lights.
Built in 1910, this colonial-style building surrounded by magnificent gardens is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. Just going to take a picture won’t suffice – you have to make an appointment for high tea. Tea is served from 12pm until 6pm and comes with an assortment of delicious cakes, snacks and little treats that will make you feel very posh.
Visitors may be surprised that there’s a Russian war submarine in Surabaya. Used by the Indonesian navy until 1990, the submarine was later decommissioned and is now a museum, located in a landscaped park. You can climb aboard, literally, and tour the sub to get some great insights into the history of Indonesia’s navy. After that, grab a cuppa at one of the cafes dotted around the park.
7. Taman Bungkul
The bustling city can be overwhelming at times and taking time out at Taman Bungkul is a great way to chill out. One of the main parks in the city, you’ll find people relaxing or catching up with friends here. It’s also the perfect place for an evening stroll should you feel like working off some of the delicious snacks you had during the day.
This Chinatown is one of the biggest in Indonesia, which makes it a must-visit. The main road, Jalan Karet, is filled with crumbling colonial architecture. As expected, you’ll find all sorts of Chinese-themed shops and restaurants here, and will certainly not leave empty-handed. Be sure that your phone is fully charged as the picture opportunities are endless.
9. Masjid Muhammad Cheng Hoo
A large number of the population in Surabaya are Chinese Indonesians. The Masjid Muhammad Cheng Hoo, or Cheng Hoo Mosque, is seen as a sacred monument dedicated to the Chinese who originally came to the city as traders, and is testament to just how well they have integrated into the local culture. With its signature bright red, yellow and green, it’s a powerful structure that could leave you entranced for hours as you soak in the serenity it exudes.
– TEXT BY JESSICA FARAH
PHOTOS: 123RF.COM, INSTAGRAM, FLICKR USER KHLASUL AMAL (TAMAN BUNGKUL), FLICKR USER AXEL DRAINVILLE (CHINATOWN), HOTEL MAJAPAHIT SURABAYA FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.