One of Indonesia’s largest and most important seaports, Surabaya serves as a gateway to tourist spots like the magnificent Mt Bromo.
Surabaya has long been one of Indonesia’s largest and most important seaports, and is known as a city of heroes because of the momentous first battle of the revolution against colonial rulers in November 1945. Although the local rebels were driven out by the better-equipped British troops, they inflicted heavy casualties and proved that independence could be fought for.Dutch descriptions of the city in 1620 paint it as a formidable adversary surrounded by a canal, with heavily-fortified bastions measuring some 40km (25 miles) in circumference. Its army is said to have numbered 30,000 warriors. In the end, Surabaya succumbed to the powerful Mataram rulers of Central Java in 1625, but only after Sultan Agung’s armies had devastated its rice lands and diverted its mighty river.
In the mid-18th century, Surabaya was ceded to the Dutch and developed into the greatest commercial city of the Indies – the chief sugar port and rail head on Java. Immortalised in many of Joseph Conrad’s novels, this era was characterised by square-riggers in full sail, wealthy Chinese and Arab traders, eccentric German hoteliers, and lusty seamen brawling over the likes of Surabaya Sue, a foreigner who fought alongside Indonesians for freedom.
Today Surabaya is East Java’s provincial capital and Indonesia’s second-largest city, with 3.2 million people. Travellers passing through its gates are largely there on business, but others transit through Surabaya en route to tourist destinations such as the magnificent Mt. Bromo.
Surabaya is a year-round destination.
Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival for US$25.
Indonesian rupiah, IDR, locally denoted as Rp.
Take a taxi from the airport to your first destination. Taxis are plentiful, and Blue Bird taxis are highly recommended. Full-sized buses and minivans (bemo) are good budget options, but they are usually crowded. Ask a fellow passenger about routes and fares before boarding.
As with any major city, watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, thieves in cheap hotels, and the occasional scam artist. As everywhere in Indonesia, don't drink the tap water. While there is very little danger of contracting malaria in Surabaya there is a potential risk of dengue fever, particularly towards the end of the rainy season, so do your best to avoid mosquito bites.
|How are you?||Apa kabar?|
|Fine, thanks||Baik, terima kasih|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Permisi!|
|Thank you||Terima kasih|
|What's your name?||Siapa nama anda?|
|My name is…||Nama saya…|
|Nice to know you||Senang berkenalan dengan anda|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Warnet [warung internet] di mana?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?|
|When's check out?||Kapan waktu check-out?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?|
|A table for two, please||Tolong meja untuk dua orang|
|A menu, please||Tolong minta menunya|
|The bill, please||Tolong minta bonnya|
|Where's the toilet?||Kamar kecil di mana?|
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Suramadu National Bridge
Reminiscent of San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, the Suramadu National Bridge spans the Madura Strait connecting mainland Java and Madura island. It took six years to build as work was halted and restarted several times due to lack of financing. It is Indonesia’s longest span and its only toll bridge. It looks particularly spectacular at night with its lights reflecting off the water.
Housed in a Dutch heritage building, the Balai Pemuda arts centre has excellent tourist information, including details of reog performance schedules. Often called the 'lion peacock dance', reog is a traditional dance from East Java. Performers sport enormous headdresses weighing up to 55kg (121lbs) supported by the strength of their teeth and arms. Made from tiger or leopard fur adorned with peacock feathers, they represent a magical lion-like creature.
House of Sampoerna
House of Sampoerna is one of Indonesia’s largest clove cigarette (kretek) manufacturers. Visitors may watch the hand-rolling, cutting, packing and wrapping process in a restored Dutch building that also houses a museum, gift shop and a café. The museum also offers free Heritage Bus tours of the city’s historic sights. See website for schedules.
Navy enthusiasts rave about the educational value of the Submarine Monument (Monumen Kapel Selam or Monkasel), a decommissioned SS-type, whiskey-class Russian-built submarine sat incongruously on the Kalimas River in the centre of the city. At 76.6 metres (251ft) long and 6.3 metres (21ft) wide, it served the Indonesian navy until 1995. Visitors may tour the torpedo room, combat information centre, engine room and other areas.
The most interesting areas of Surabaya are the old Arab and Chinese quarters at the northern end of the city, not far from the harbour. Visit the Tomb of Sunan Ampel, one of the nine legendary wali saints who propagated Islam on the island. There is a bazaar that leads up to the mosque, with scores of stalls selling perfumes and handmade textiles from throughout Java. Surabaya’s oldest Chinese shrine, the 18th-century Hok An Kiong temple, was built entirely of wood by native Chinese craftsmen. From the Chinese quarter, the famous Red Bridge (Jembatan Merah) is to the west, straddling Kali Mas canal.
The Heroes Monument commemorates those who fell in the struggle for independence in 1945, and on Jl. Tunjungan is the old-world Majapahit Hotel, built in 1910 and wonderfully refurbished. From Jl. Tunjungan, a large street with several shopping centres, turn left down Jl. Pemuda to the former Dutch Governor’s Mansion. Constructed after the turn of the 20th century, this stood at what was then the new centre of colonial Surabaya, and which now is a major hotel district. Joko Dolog, a centuries-old statue of King Kertanegara, the last king of the Singasari dynasty (who died in 1292), is enshrined in a small, hidden park directly opposite.
Tomb of Sunan Ampel, Hok An Kiong temple, Red Bridge, The Heroes Monument, Majapahit Hotel, Dutch Governor’s Mansion, Joko Dolog.
South of Surabaya is one of Java’s most visited volcanoes. Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo) lies within an ancient caldera 10km (6 miles) across, with four smaller peaks rising in the centre that range in height from 300 to 400 metres (1,000 to 1,300ft). Surrounding these peaks on the crater floor is sand and lush vegetation, and every few years cinder and ash pour forth in eruptions to carpet the countryside with nutrient-rich deposits, making it some of Java’s most fertile farmland.
To reach the summit before sunrise for spectacular views, visitors rise in the pre-dawn hours to cross the dark, eerie sand-sea floor on foot or by pony in silent, sleepy processions. At the base of the crater are 250 steps leading up, and at the top is a narrow lip from where thrill-seekers huddle together for warmth waiting for the first glimpses of the sun. When it appears, you find yourself precariously perched on a narrow lip from where you can you can look into the belly of the belching sulphurous centre of the crater. When brave enough to look up, there is a magnificent 360-degree panorama of the ancient caldera and majestic Mt. Semeru (Gunung Semeru), Java’s highest peak at 3,676 metres (12,060ft).
Temperatures can drop to freezing before dawn, so be sure to dress warmly and bring a flashlight. Once every year the local Tenggerese people, descendants of the last Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit kingdom, pay their respects to the gods by throwing offerings into Mt. Bromo’s crater.