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Published: March 22nd 2018
WELCOME TO SURABAYA!
Our welcome committee made us feel at home.
After spending time in Bali, it is a cultural jolt to visit Java. Even though they are in the same country it is a different world. The difference is because of the two dominant religions....Islam and Hindu. Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia with a very busy port and big industry more geared to business than to tourism. There is a large Arab quarter in Surabaya along with a bustling Chinatown. Since this was our first visit here, we decided to hire a local guide to show us around. There are still many traces of the former colonial powers who ruled Java for many years. Dutch style buildings dot the cityscape. The British became caretakers of the Dutch colony after the Japanese occupation ended and they left their mark as well on the city. We took a walk through the Arab quarter and were greeted by mobs of smiling school children who wanted their picture taken with us. The souk was a beehive of activity but it was nice to walk around the pedestrianized streets without worrying about close encounters with mopeds and trucks. In Surabaya there are many tree lined boulevards and canals even in the most rundown
One of the best preserved antiquities in the world.
The stylistic centerpiece of Surabaya is the Majapahit Hotel. In the late 1800s two Armenian brothers saw that with all the Asian trade heading to Europe via the newly opened Suez Canal, there was a need for luxury hotel accommodation in the port cities along the shipping routes. Thus the Sarkies brothers built a number of storied hotels which attracted Western notables including royalty, literary giants, merchants, traders and celebrities. The other Sarkies hotels are Raffles in Singapore, Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, Strand in Rangoon, Metropole in Hanoi, Eastern & Oriental Hotel in Penang and Manila Hotel in the Philippines. All of the hotels have so much history. The Majapahit served as the headquarters of the Japanese forces and was renamed the Hotel Yamato during the war. The Manila hotel housed General MacArthur until the Japanese took it over and it later provided accommodations for the Beatles and a number of U.S. presidents. The Strand hosted Kipling and George Orwell. Jane Fonda stayed at the Metropole as did Stephen Hawking and Mick Jagger. The Bangkok Oriental was an officers club for the Japanese. While Elizabeth Taylor, Ian Fleming and James Michener also enjoyed the luxuries of the Oriental.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
The climb up is fun but usually HOT!
Raffles is famous for concocting the Singapore Sling and also that Ava Gardner and Charlie Chaplin slept there but at different times. The E&O saw the likes of Noel Coward and Douglas Fairbanks and Somerset Maugham. Since we have visited all but the Majapahit, we had to add the final jewel in the crown of classic hotels. Thus we headed to the Majapahit. Common features of all the hotels are impressive lobbies and beautifully landscaped courtyards and several classic restaurants. The Majapahit met all these requirements and we enjoyed a tour of the property and a fine lunch in the Chinese restaurant.
Semarang is close to Surabaya and is the gateway to the World Heritage Site of Borobudur. It is a bumpy three hour bus ride each way to reach the fabled site. Generally there is a police escort for the buses in order to get to Borobudur and back to the ship in time for departure. Several years ago some passengers decided to hire a car to take them to the temple. But without the police escort they managed to miss the ship's sailing. They ended up flying to Singapore and waiting several days for the ship and
INDONESIAN SCHOOL GIRLS
They loved hanging with Susan.
their luggage to catch up with them. The moral of the story is that in some ports you are better off with a ship's tour than striking out on your own.
Semerang is more of a business port than a tourist destination. One striking feature we have noticed in all of the cities of Asia is the recent addition of modern mega-malls. They are usually quite glitzy and very noisy and filled with electronic stores. We always try to seek out the local markets as they seem to better portray a country and its people. We also noticed that fewer women wear the head cover that is required in many Muslim countries. As a matter of law, the face veil is forbidden in most of Indonesia as they see themselves as a secular nation which seeks to balance the differing religions and ethnic groups throughout this large nation.
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