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Traveling in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia.
It's holiday time. Indonesian kids will back to school about July 12, 2010. So, there is still time to enjoy vacation. This time let's travel to Semarang, Central Java Capital city.
Semarang, just 50 minutes flight from Jakarta, Indonesian Capital. An old port city that still keep its beauty and heritage. It's the fifth largest city in Indonesia.
Semarang got its name from Chinese word Sam Po Lung means a city of Sam Po, or from the Javanese word asam (tamarind) and arang (rare). The weather is hot and humid. With its harbor known since the Dutch era, Semarang is an ideal city as a gateway to other cities in Central Java. Various activities occur at the Tanjung Emas port like loading and unloading, and then transported to other cities. Not surprisingly, then known as the City of transit more than city of tourism.
But actually, Semarang has many interesting places to visit and explore. Fist, try to visit Kota Lama or Old City.
Kota Lama or Old City
This is an old walled city where there are many Dutch buildings around. This is a must visit location if you travel to Semarang. The streets in this 30 hectare area are lined with old buildings with triangular roofs, which were built around 16th centuries.
Just like walking in some old European city. Too bad many old buildings are in bad conditions and sometime in certain months, Kota Lama will suffer flood by the rising of tide. Semarang people call it "rob".
For people who appreciate history and architectural art, Kota Lama is really inspiring site. A potential tourism site but needs to restore and maintain well.
Gereja Blenduk or Blenduk Church
Still in Kota Lama area, there is a church called Gereja Blenduk. It's the oldest Christian Church in Central Java, not only in Semarang. Built in 1750 and renovated in 1787 by two Dutch architects who placed a neoclassical art, the metal-plated dome which inspired Semarang people to call it : Gereja Blenduk. Blenduk is a dome-shaped in Javanese language.
The Blenduk Church is like Dutch Churches and you will find a very old Baroq Organ (an old pump-operated organ) and an impressive stained-glass windows. The shape of this building is also unique, it has a hexagonal shaped. The inside architecture is based on a Greek Cross.
This church is still used for Sunday Service and the congregation's name is GPIB Immanuel or Immanuel Pentecost West Indonesia Church.
Gedung Lawang Sewu or Thousand Doors Building
Lawang Sewu is a beautiful art deco building but once again it's too bad because it's not properly maintain. Lawang Sewu building is situated opposite the Tugu Muda Monument in Simpang Lima Semarang. Actually, this building is indeed beautiful. I love art deco buildings, there are many in Bandung, West Java. But Lawang Sewu Building is special because it has many many doors, they claimed to have 1000 doors.
Some people who already visit Lawang Sewu told that there is mysterious feeling around this building, but I think it's just because its so many similar doors that will make visitors feel disoriented. If you'd like to visit this building, you have to ask the "Kuncen" or Guide to take you around.
Lawang Sewu was built in 1863 by C. Citroen, a Dutch architect. It has twin towers at the entrance gate and there is a wide garden in the back. The building was originally the offices of the Netherlands Indies railroad company, the Japanese used it as interrogation headquarter when they jailed and also tortured many Indonesian men, and maybe killed them. (Sound scary isn't it?) Then it's used by the Diponegoro Military Region, then of the Indonesian state railroad company. Most recently the provincial office of the Department of Transport.
Inside, you may enjoy several stained-glass windows ages more than a century.
Sam Po Kong
Sam Po Kong is a Chinese temple dedicated to Cheng Ho. Who is Cheng Ho? He is a Moslem Chinese from Yunnan-China, a real traveler, great admiral from Ming dynasty. He visited Central Java and taught many things to the local people such as agriculture, carpentry, and fishing. Cheng Ho also introduced Islam to the local people. People in Java used to be Hindu at those time.
People in Semarang built a huge temple to honor Cheng Ho. Located in Simongan area. It is easy to find this location, as there are many sign boards showing direction to this temple. It also called Gedong Batu or Stone Building, because there is a big stone cave in it. Local people believe that it's the place where Admiral Cheng Ho anchored and build his headquarter there when he visited Central Java.
I think this is a unique temple, it assimilated many cultures and beliefs. Cheng Ho is a Moslem, but many visitors that used to pray in that temple are Buddhist or Confucian, this temple atrracts many local tourists from different kind of background. It's a good thing.
You may visit the temple from 8.00 am, 11.00 am, and 03.00 pm at all just 30 minutes. Yes, the schedules are tight. If you don't visit at those time, you just allowed at the front of the temple and can not go inside.
The entrance fee is cheap. But the bathroom condition is not so good.
Sam Po Kong or Tay Kak Sie (Great Awareness Temple) Temple was built in 1746. At the beginning it just to worship the Kwan Sie Im Po Sat, but now visitors may worship many Gods and Goddess. Like :
- Sam Koan Tay Te (Nature Sovereign God)
- Kwan Im Po Sat (Kwan Im Goddess)
- Sam Po Hud (The Three Buddha)
- Thian Siang Seng Boo (Sea Goddess)
- Sam Po Tay Jin (Sam Po Kong )
- Cap Pwee Lo Han (18 Buddha)
- Kwan Kong (Kwan Kong was a great general in the Sam Kok legend or the legend of Chinese Three Countries) and many more
Semarang Food Tour
After hanging around and satisfy our eyes, it's time to tame our gastronomic system. Most of tourist are really enjoy the Bandeng Presto or pressure cooked milk fish, Semarang spring roll called Lunpia Semarang with bamboo shoots filling, chicken, prawn, and egg and also Wingko Babad or sticky rice and coconut cake in a variety flavors.
If you want to try this you may find many Bandeng presto sellers in along Pandanaran street in Semarang, but the most famous one is Juwana Shop.
Like Bandeng Presto, Lunpia sellers are many, but there are at least two Lunpia sellers that is worth trying.
First, in Gang Lombok or Lombok aile and second is in Pemuda Steet. Local people call it Lunpia Mbak Lien or Miss Lien Lunpia. And they are still one family. All the lunpia makers originally from the late Mr. Tjoa Thay Yoe, the first lunpia maker in Semarang.
This snack is really delicious and sticky. The most famous one is with Express Train brand. The first Wingko maker is Mr. Loe Soe Siang, in 14 Cendrawasih Street, Semarang. (Years ago it called 14 Osterwal Straat)
He used to sell it in a train station, so he gave his cake express train brand.
But beside those places above, there are still many interesting places to visit. I think I have to make a sequel about it.