Semarang- Colonial Buildings and Mega Malls

17 Jan

After a long week of studying, this weekend was an opportunity to finally get out of Salatiga to discover some of the nearby cities. As most of us have done the Prambanan-Borobudur double in the past it was decided that we would go down to Semarang, the capital of our province Jawa Tengah, and see what it had to offer. Previously having spent a few hours in Semarang and seeing some of the major attractions, we started with a plan to get lost within the Kota Tua (old city) and explore the new mega mall.

The bus to Semarang from Salatiga is pretty straight forward and not an overly exciting trip. What we weren’t prepared for however was the impending madness of the Semarang bus terminal where we had to argue with several taxi drivers before finally agreeing on a price and hoping that we had explained the area of town we needed to go to so someone would actually understand. After being dropped off in what appeared to be the old city we realised that we were in fact no more than 100 metres from a church and restaurant where we had lunch last IMG_0605time we were in Semarang. The morning was spent wandering through the old city before heading over for lunch and to meet up with another one of our friends and experience Paragon Mall. The city proved suprising with people everywhere wanting to say hello or find out why these 5 Australians were exploring their kampung and pasar (small villages and markets) and where the sight of my digital SLR lead to becak drivers and stall owners to stop pushing their wares and instead become models with many requests for their photos to be taken directed in my direction.

Paragon is your typical Asian mega mall. Huge, full of expensive shops and in no way a reflection of the lives of the ordinary people outside. We spent a few hours cruising around the shops, having a bite to eat (Indonesian food despite our plans to only eat Western food) and a few of us went and bought ridiculously cheap polos from the ralph boutique. After this we went to Gramedia where I spent far too much on books I will struggle to be able to read before seeing moreIMG_0592 of the old city, getting caught in the rain and having some delicious ayam bakar (grilled chicken) from Ikan Bakar Cianjur where the food and atmosphere is incredible.

The plan had been to see a movie so we went to see The Tourist with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie which despite completely lacking a plot was welcome mindless entertainment. We decided afterwards to walk to Semawis the Chinese night markets for dinner which turned out to be a longer walk than most Indonesians would bother with and left us fending off the offers of becak drivers. While Semawis was somewhat disappointing due to the seasonal rain compared to my previous experience there, the satay from the warung (food stall) was exactly what we needed after hours of walking.

All there was left to do then was to go to our hotel Candi Baru, a great find in the good old Lonely Planet which had massive rooms for about $20 a night and was just a few flights of stairs away from the best expat bar in town (apparently) named On On Pub where we spent the night talking and laughing until the early hours of the next morning.IMG_0593

Semarang is still not viewed as a major tourist destination like many more popular places in Java however when you wander through the masses of old Dutch colonial buildings and see everyday life continue among the remnants of Indonesia’s past, you gain a better understanding of the rich history of this island and this country. Semarang truly is a city which is not just a business city but a place where there is so much to discover.

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