08 June 2017
The Land of Sriwijaya
With a wealth of great history, the city of Palembang offers a variety of experiences from ancient to modern tourist attractions.
Palembang was the capital of the Sriwijaya Empire, the largest Buddhist kingdom in Southeast Asia which ruled over Sumatra, the Malaysian Peninsula, southern Thailand, and Cambodia. The second largest city on the island of Sumatra, Palembang is the oldest city in Indonesia but over the years has been transformed into one of the most developed cities in the country.
In preparation for hosting the South East Asian Games in 2011, Palembang improved its infrastructure and developed additional facilities. Now the city, along with Jakarta, is preparing to host the 18th Asian Games, a regional sporting event for Asian nations, in 2018. Palembang will also be the venue for a MotoGP event next year.
With an increase in the number of tourists visiting the city due to these events, the government has invested in renovating and developing many of the local attractions. The city may not boast the same tourist attractions - beaches, scenic lakes, and spectacular volcanos - that are found in other cities in the archipelago, but it offers alternative sights.
Dubbed “Venetië Van Andalas” or the Land of Sriwijaya, the attractions here are tied into the city's rich history and the heritage of Sriwijaya. Visitors shouldn’t miss the chance to see 1,000-year-old relics of Sriwijaya civilization in the city’s museums, the best of which is the Museum Sriwijaya. Inside, original and replica artifacts accompanied by English and Indonesian descriptions explain the history of the empire. At the Museum Balaputradewa Palembang, along with statues and rock carvings showcasing the history and culture of the area, there is also the famous traditional Limas house which features on the back of the 10,000 Rupiah banknote.
After learning about Palembang’s heritage, the riverfront beside Kuto Besak fort offers a pleasant area to enjoy the late afternoon breeze along with local families who often come here. For the more energetic, Jakabaring Sports City, with its impressive Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, which hosted the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, is an expansive area where visitors can jog, walk, or watch sports.
PLACES TO VISIT
Ampera Bridge & Musi River
The Ampera Bridge is an iconic landmark in Palembang. Built in 1962, the bridge crosses the Musi River to connect Seberang Ulu and Seberang Ilir, two regions of Palembang. At night the bridge is lit by colorful lights making it a popular attraction to see and photograph. The Musi River is the longest river in Sumatra, flowing a total of 750 km, and was once the main means of transportation in Palembang. There are several attractions, including a floating restaurant, Arab village, and Kuto Besak, on the banks of the Musi River.
Located in the middle of the Musi River is Kemaro Island. Laying about six kilometers from Ampera Bridge, the island is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Palembang. The island is home to a Chinese Vihara or Klenteng with nine stairs. This Hok Tjiang Rio temple, which was built in 2006, has become the signature attraction of the island. There is also a Buddhist temple on the island that is actively used by Buddhists, who come here to pray and visit family burial sites.
Kuto Besak Fort was built by the Palembang Darussalam sultanate which reigned from 1550-1823. Built in 1780, the fort was used to defend the city from Dutch colonial invaders. Nowadays, the fort, which sits on the bank of the River Musi is a popular attraction for tourists.
Cheng Ho Mosque
Cheng Ho Mosque was built in September 2005 and reflects Chinese culture in its design. The mosque was built in honor of a famous admiral from China, Cheng Ho, a Hui-Chinese mariner, explorer, and diplomat who sailed the region in 1426. Today, Cheng Ho attracts both worshippers and sightseers.
Punti Kayu Forest
Located approximately seven kilometers from downtown Palembang, Punti Kayu Forest is a conservation area covering 50 hectares. In addition to offering a nature tour, the forest also offers other tourist attractions, such as a crocodile farm and zoo, horseback riding, swimming area, and play boat.
Pempek is Palembang’s most famous food. Pempek is fried fishcake that nowadays comes in several varieties such as kappa selam, which is a large pempek filled with egg and served with noodles. All pempek varieties are served with spicy dips called cuko which are usually made from boiled sugar, chili, and dried shrimp.
Tekwan is a typical Palembang soup dish that contains fish and sago. The fish and sago are served in small sizes with shrimp broth that has a distinctive flavor. Tekwan is usually complemented by rice noodles, sliced bengkoang and mushrooms then sprinkled with chopped green onion, celery, and fried onions.
Mi Celor is a noodle dish made with coconut milk and dried shrimp broth. The noodles are mixed with sprouts and served with boiled egg slices, chopped celery, green onions, and fried onions. The noodles are a larger size, similar to Aceh noodles or Japanese Udon noodles.