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Published: November 6th 2019
After Pagar Alam, I ended up city hopping a bit around Sumatra, three towns, each with its own tale and flavour. I had different reasons for visiting each one of them.
The first one up was Palembang. Now Palembang isn't really on anybody's bucket list, there isn't much to see or do there. It is a big city, clogged with the usual traffic and struggling with the resultant pollution. Just like any other big town in these regions. That said, I didn't find Palembang that bad. It has a nice river front scene, and a friendly population.
The reason for visiting Palembang was to see the city my father once worked and lived in. A long time ago, when I was still a student. I never visited, my mum did. And so I was curious to see what this town looked like. My father would have probably shaken his head and told me that it was a waste of my precious time to visit it. But as I said, I didn't dislike it.
Still after a couple of days, it was time to move on. To Jambi, another big town, another place that isn't on the tourist radar,
I'm guessing this is the mascot of Palembang
though there is a trickle of travellers coming this way. The reason being that Jambi is home to Muaro Jambi, which is the old capital of, what was once known as, the Melayu Kingdom, a Buddhist Kingdom. The ruins of its capital are situated in the jungles outside present day Jambi. Don't expect the likes of Borobudur, it isn't nearly as well preserved, and most of the site is still totally un-excavated, with the former temples and stupa's laying crumbling under the thick jungle. What you can see are a few rather plain brick temples and stupa's, that have been restored.
What's interesting about Muaro Jambi has more to do with its enigmatic nature, and the fact that it is the only site of this kind outside of Java. With enigmatic, I mean, not much is known about the Melayu Kingdom, and what is known, is known only because of the record keeping of the Chinese Empire of the time who sent scholars to Jambi that returned describing the city. Apparently it was rather wealthy and gold lotus flowers were offered to the temples by its citizens.
The Melayu Kingdom was in conflict with another big Empire on
Just in case you don't know which city you are in
Sumatra, the Sriwijaya Kingdom, which was based at present day Palembang. But apart from a few small finds, there is nothing to indicate where exactly the former capital of Sriwijaya is, there are no Muaro Jambi like ruins around Palembang. It's cities have long since disappeared and been lost in time. But it was huge and powerful in its day, spanning all the way from Vietnam down to Bali and trading and raiding as far away as Africa. It was a trading empire, and it swallowed up Melayu in its expansion, though in its decline Melayu broke away again.
These days Jambi is more known for the huge forest fires that are caused by the big palm oil plantations that surround it, hiring poor people to burn down protected swathes of jungle, which cause not only habitat destruction, but also a lot of health problems for the people in the wider region. I was a bit nervous going to Jambi, as I wasn't certain if the fires and the smoke were still raging, and when I arrived in Jambi I feared the worst as haze covered the main road into Jambi. But in the end it wasn't so bad,
Ampera Bridge, this is Palembang's number one sight!
and I was told most fires had been extinguished due to the rainy season starting.
From Jambi it was on to the last of the three cities this tale is about, Padang. I have been to Padang before. A long time ago, when I was a teenager, with my parents. I can't remember anything of Padang, and neither could my mother when I asked her. It could be that we just flew in, and left the same day to Bukittingi. Whatever the case, I did explore Padang this time, and the old town is rather charming in a decrepit sort of way. The river along which it lays is lined with old Dutch warehouses and other colonial buildings, in various states of decay, though same are being restored. And at the end of the river on one side is a little forest covered hill with a nice lookout point at the top. Padang is also known for the cuisine which it spread around Indonesia. Padang food is renowned in this country and there isn't a place that doesn't have a few Padang restaurants, at least I haven't discovered one yet, on my travels around Indonesia.
Padang food is
View from the bridge
a sort of Indonesian version of the Swedish smorgasbord, where you have a variety of dishes to choose from. You pay for what you eat. It is one of my favourites too, and I can understand its popularity in Indonesia. Funnily enough I didn't actually have any Padang food in Padang. I was at the sea, and when I am at the sea, I go for fish, grilled fish mostly, with some spicy sauce to accompany it! Or seafood, like prawns and squid.
I'm city'ed out for the moment. It's time to see some country side!
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