SOUTHERN SUMATRA

SOUTH SUMATRA PROVINCE

South Sumatra Province is relatively flat and often marshy, yet very fertile. It is situated on the eastern side of the Bukit Barisan mountain range which spans the entire length of Sumatra. Rivers, including the great Musi River, crisscross and meander through this region. Bangka and Belitung are two large islands off the east coast in the South China Sea. Coffee and tea plantations are scattered across the province, but South Sumatra’s enormous wealth comes from oil, natural gas, coal, tin and quartz reserves. The province covers 91,592.43 square kilometers (35,364 square mile) and is home to about 11 million people.

Because of its location on the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest sea lanes, it has a rich and colorful history filled with a lot interaction with other cultures. This region can be reached by plane at Palembang, Pankal Pinang on Bangka is land and Tanjung Pandan on Belitung island. Regular ferry service links Merak on Java to Panjang and Bakauhemi on Sumatra. People from Palembang and South Sumatra are known for their frankness and gregarious manner. They can create works of art, beautiful and exquisite with their patience and strength.

One of the greatest kingdoms in Indonesian history, the Buddhist Empire of Sriwijaya prospered along the banks of Musi River in South Sumatra over a thousand years ago. Located on the southern-most rim of the South China Sea, Sriwijaya kingdom practiced a bustling and productive trade with ancient China during its golden years. In A.D. 672, the Chinese scholar, I Tsing, recorded that a thousand monks and scholars could be seen translating and studying Sanskrit in Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra. This shows that more than a thousand years ago, Palembang under the reign of Sriwijaya kingdom was prosperous and rich in culture. Many relics and remnants of this mighty kingdom can still be found in this area. Tourism Office: Jl. Demang Lebar Daun Kav. IX, Palembang, Phone. (62-711) 356661, 311345, 357348 Fax. (62-711) 311544, Website: sumsel.go.id e-mail : info@diparss.go.id

South Sumatran Food

Palembang is famous for fruits such as pineapple and duku (Lansium domisticum). The taste of Palembang pineapple is fresh and rather tangy, while duku tastes sweet and sometimes bland. Many South Sumatran main dishes are made with of fish. Pempek Palembang is one of the most famous dishes from Palembang and can be found throughout Indonesia. Made of ground fish, flour, and other spices, pempek is formed into several shapes, steamed then fried. It is served with a sour, rather spicy black sauce and sometimes sliced cucumber.

Variants of pempek: Pempek Lenjer, Kapal Selam (literally means submarine, with chicken egg filling), Pempek Kulit (fish skin), Pempek Adaan and Pempek Lenggang (mixed Lenjer with egg), Pempek Keriting, Pempek Panggang (baked). Bekasem is salted, cured fish. Tekwan is soup made from fish ball, shrimp paste/essen, rice noodle and mushroom, juicy tuber. Best served hot. When in Palembang do not forget to try the spicy steamed river fish wrapped in banana leaves, called pindang, or Palembang’s specialty, the favourite dish called pempek dipped in aromatic sweet vinegar sauce.

Pempek or empek-empek is one of the most famous specialities of Palembang. You have to have a strong stomach to sample it. Most pempek is made of tengiri or Spanish mackerel fried fish cake, and put into a sweet vinegar soup with noodle inside or diced cucumber. It’s actually a fresh delicacy but becomes very hot when chili paste is added.. One of the unique dishes in the Mount Dempo area is Ikan Sema masak bambu meaning Sema Fish cooked in bamboo. Instead of using pot or frying pan, the fish is placed inside a bamboo and then cooked over an open fire.

One of the famous snacks from Palembang, this kerupuk or chips are made from mixed flour with certain fish. Usually they are made from tenggiri fish (also known as Spanish Mackerel), Gabus (also known as Snakehead Fish) and Belida (Clown knife fish). Made from eggs mixed with certain spices and sometimes meat, and then coated with flour dough mixture then fried. Martabak Har is usually served with delicious sauce made from potatoes, water and spices. Best place to have this martabak is Martabak Haji Abdul Rosak at Jl. Jendral Sudirman Lempok Duren is made from Durian and sugar, very sweet and chewy.

Palembang

Palembang (18 hours by bus from Bukittinggi) is the second largest city in Sumatra after Medan, the ninth largest in Indonesia and is home to around 1.5 million people. Spread out over a large area, it is polluted and home to large oil refining, fertilizer-making and cement industries. Worth a visit are the floating restaurants on both sides of the river; the Ki Kede Ing Suro Ancient Cemetery where 38 tombs are found under the roof of one building; and the State Museum which contains stuffed animals, statuary, sculptures, weapons, crafts, hunting tools and other things of that sort. Two hour by public transportation is the 90-meter Tenang waterfall can be reached.

The Musi River splits the city of Palembang in two. It is wide and long and is navigable by ocean going vessels 40 miles upstream. Boat trips in this area are interesting. Ocean going vessels vie for space with sampans. With all the river traffic it is amazing that there aren't any collisions.

Limas are traditional houses found in Palembang and other locations in South Sumatra. They are very ornate wooden houses built on stilts. The houses are up to 180 feet long and 60 feet wide. Many parts of the houses are elaborately hand carved: the columns, the door and window frames and the flow through ventilation panels. These panels are an interesting story in themselves. They are placed strategically around the inside of the house, angling air coming through a door for example, to keep these large houses surprising cool in a very hot and humid climate. In Palembang most of these houses are built on the sides of small rivers, not the main waterfront. Some are open to public.

Palembang is situated about 500 kilometers northwest of Jakarta as the crow flies. Large oil refineries and a petro-chemical complex employ many people. Other industries are shipbuilding and iron and rubber production. Long a trade center, Palembang’s location on the Musi River provides it with links it other major Asian ports. Landmarks here include the Great Mosque, built in 1740; the provincial parliament building; and the Rumah Bari Museum. A university was founded in Palembang in 1960.

Palembang and the Srivijaya Kingdom

Palembang the celebrated seat of the rich and powerful Srivijaya kingdom for more than three centuries. The city was then known as the wealthy trade hub as well as the center for Buddhist learnings. Monks from China, India and Java used to congregate here to learn and teach the lessons of Buddha. In AD 671 the famous Chinese Buddhist monk, Yojing wrote that there were more than 1.000 Buddhist monks in the city and advised Chinese monks to study Sanskrit in Palembang before proceeding to India.

While the Srivijaya kings lived inland on shore, his subjects lived along the wide Musi river, manning the powerful fleet and busily trading in gold, spices, silks, ivories and ceramics with foreign merchants who sailed in from China, India and Java. In 1025, however, the king of Chola in South India sent a fleet to Sumatra, destroying the kingdom, marking the end of its golden era. Later, Chinese admiral Cheng Ho, emissary of the Chinese emperor visited Palembang in the 15th century.

Palembang is also known in history as the origin of the Malays whose kings are believed to have descended to earth at Gunung Siguntang, north of Palembang.Today, not much can be seen from Srivijaya’s golden age, except for evidence of the area’s fine gold and silver songket weaving that persists until today, the fine lacquerware it produces for which Palembang is renowned, and its regal dances and opulent costumes.

On Kemaro Island in the middle of the Musi river there is a large Buddhist temple and the grave of a Chinese princess, who was destined to wed a Srivijaya king. The island is today the center of the Cap Go Meh celebrations. During Cap Go Meh, Chinese communities from around the city squeeze into this small piece of land, together with those coming from Hongkong, Singapore and China. Ever since the 9th century Srivijaya was a thriving trading power and an epicenter for Buddhist learnings, Chinese merchants came to trade in Palembang and monks stayed here to study Sanskrit before proceeding to India. Over the centuries many Chinese settled in the area.

But Palembang is not only about history. On New Year’s Eve, tens of disc jockeys gather downtown to deliver brand new energy, while the traditional songket weavers and wood carvers shy away from the loud trendy exposure. Palembang together with Jakarta are the venues for the 2011 SEA Games.

Musi River and Ampera Bridge

Musi River is the longest in Sumatra at 750 kilometers long. It has its source deep in the Bukit Barisan mountains, tumbling down to reach the plains where, fed by the converging Ogam and Komering rivers, it then widens into a large river as it reaches Palembang. Its many tributaries and streams that cut through Palembang. Taking a tour of the Musi River is a popular activity in Palembang. For centuries the native population in Palembang has lived along this river. Some even built their homes along the river banks. Local people rely on this river for their transportation. You can see many motor boats (taxis) taking passengers to the other side of the river.

The Ampera Bridge spans the wide Musi river, connecting both sides of Palembang for the first time the city when it opened in 1965. A symbol of modern Palembang, it is 1,177 meters long and 22 meters wide. Parts of this 944 tons bridge can lift up and down about 10 meters per minute. It has two lifting towers of 63 meters tall. Distance between these two towers is 75 meters. They have two pendulums, weighing about 500 tons each. When the middle shares of the bridge is lifted, ships up 60 meters wide and 44½ meters tall can pass under it. When the middle shares of this bridge is not lifted, maximum height of ships that can pass under the bridge is only nine meters above the water level. Unfortunately, at present, the bridge cannot be lifted for safety reasons.

The view from the Musi river from the bridge is stunning. You can watch boats of various motor by. The floating market near Ampera Bridge is most active in the morning and peaks around 10:00am.. Many houseboats and houses on stilts are visible along both sides of the Musi. North of the Ampera bridge, is the Mesjid Agung or Royal Mosque, built in 1740 by Sultan Badaruddin I, and recently restored to its former glory. This area was once the capital of a Malay Islamic kingdom which came to an end in 1825, when the last Sultan, Ahmad Najamuddin surrendered to the Dutch and was exiled to Banda Neira.

It is possible to take a Musi River tour or get around in a water taxi. Motor boat can be rented under the Ampera bridge, in front of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum, or in front of Fort Kuto Besak. There are several types of motor boats such as speed boats, Ketek, and small vessels. Their rates range between Rp20,000 to Rp100,000 (or 2 to 10 US Dollars). Don't pay if it is more than these rates.

Shopping in Palembang

Songkets are the most well-known souvenir to buy. It’s a beautifully hand-woven sarong that you can use anywhere, anytime, especially when it is required to wear one like entering a mosque or a temple. The gold and silver songkets are more expensive and are usually worn for weddings or other ceremonial occasions. Palembang Square is a huge mall selling a variety of items.

Prefer a more traditional market? Go to the Palembang Grand Mosque, Here you will find two markets seeling various types of food and souvenirs including fruits and Songket (woven fabrics). These markets are called Pasar 16 Ilir and Pasar 35 Ilir. About two kilometers from there, you could find a Songket center and 50 meters from there, you could find a Lekeur (carving) center.

The Wood Carving Center in Palembang is (on Faqih Jalaluddin Street, near the Palembang Grand Mosque . Dozens of showrooms, which are also used to give finishing touches to wood carvings, are available in this city center. Palembang wood carvings, which are identified by dark red and golden colors, are displayed along this street.

You can also find unfinished products, those which have not been softened or painted. Workers in each shop usually give their final touch before sale. Gold is the most dominant color in Palembang carvings. It distinguishes Palembang carvings from carving products from other parts of Indonesia, such as Jepara in Central Java. Cupboards bodies, doors, or glass, as well as picture frames are usually painted in gold color. Other parts are covered by dark red and black colors. Pictures of flowers in black make these carvings more beautiful.

Restaurants in Palembang

Pempek or empek-empek is one of the most famous specialities of Palembang. You have to have a strong stomach to sample it. Most pempek is made of tengiri or Spanish mackerel fried fish cake, and put into a sweet vinegar soup with noodle inside or diced cucumber. It’s actually a fresh delicacy but becomes very hot when chili paste is added..

Try to mingle with the locals, where pempek is best served. Pempek Wak Ayah Lemak at Kebon Sirih is a local recommendation. Pempek Sekojo is also locally recommended, found at the cross road of Palembang Trade Center. Pempek is also found at the Pasar Kuto close to the traffic lights. If you are close to Kol. Atmo Street, go to Tamrin to find grilled pempek, which is also available at Merdeka street, called SAGA grilled pempek . Pempek Pak Raden is at Radial. Pempek Dempo and Pempek EK are around Dempo. These are the places worth hunting as you cruise the town on a multi-route becak.

Pempek Candy Palembang at Jl. R.Sukamto no. 53 is a favorite restaurant to eat Pempek. But it is mostly known for take-away, which can be bought fried or still uncooked. These are packed in neat parcels, which, if wanted, you donot need to carry along with you, but can be sent by delivery to any city in Indonesia. Telephone no. is +62 711 375903 or 735891

Martabak India or Martabak HAR is one of the local munchies you may want to try. It is available at the Pasar Kuto. Almost all Indian food involves curry and this is no different. However, its taste will take you back to the time when Indian merchants began to inhabit the city. Close to Kebon Sirih, there is also seller of Martabak India.

Model Gandum and Burgo are probably the other munchies to sample. Model can be found at Simpang Empat, near Jembatan Karang, or Model Dowa at Simpang Lima or Bukit Baru. Kwe Tiau is available on Kebon Sirih Street. Pangsit is at the Kavaleri. Bakso Gepeng is close to Pasar Kuto right before Telkomsel.

Pindang can be bought at Pindang Meranjat or Pindang Pegagan at Demang Lebar. Pindang can also be found in Sudirman Street close to IGM. It is also found at Kol. Burlian Street close to Sukarno-Hatta. Some of the known places to eat are:

Riverside Restaurant at Benteng Kuto Besak Complex is known for its grilled shrimp with boombaru chili sauce. Also worth a try are: 1) Rumah Omma Family Restaurant selling lamb chops and other national and international food. Merpati Street, no. 8, Palembang +62 711 702 9898, umahomma.webs.com; 2) Emilee Iga Bakar on MP Mangkunegara Street no. 71-73 selling anything beef and also a bit variety of sea food; 3) Sri Melayu on Demang Lebar Daun Street, selling pindang patin; 4) Warung Mang Cik Din on Veteran Street, selling delicious pempek.

Sights and Activities in Palembang

During your Musi river cruise. visit the Kemaro Island in the middle of the Musi river, where there is a large Buddhist temple and the grave of a Chinese princess, who was destined to wed a Srivijaya king. The island is today the center of the Cap Go Meh celebrations. During Cap Go Meh, Chinese communities from around the city squeeze into this small piece of land, together with those coming from Hongkong, Singapore and China. They arrive here on local transport called ketek, - which are small boats with noisy engines -, on ferries, speed boats, and decorated dragon boats alighting from the Intirub factory or from Kuto Besak Fort.

The Museum Sultan Machmud Badaruddin II faces the Musi river and was built by the Dutch in 1823 on what was formerly the Sultan’s palace. The Museum has an open-air theater offering traditional dances. No remains are left of the original palace. The Dutch attacked it and burned it down in 1821 AD. Behind the Museum is the Art Market, where you can see artisans work on the delicate gold and silver songket sarongs, and the red-and-balck lacquer ware for which Palembang is famous. Here are also sea-shells souvenirs, woven mats and more.

A distance from the Museum is the Kuta Besak Fort. Built in 1780 by Sultan Muhammad Badaruddin (father of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II), the fort is the only one in Indonesia with an Indonesian name, with no Dutch or British name attached. This is because its entire construction was done by locals. Today this is used by the army, and is closed to the public.

The New Museum of South Sumatra is located 5 kilometers. north of Palembang and has a collection of megalithic statues found at Pasemah, on the western plains of South Sumatra. Here is also a beautifully carved 150 years old limas house - traditional Palembang-style house of the aristocracy, displaying rich ceremonial costumes, farming and fishing implements and traditional coffee preparations.

The Chinese population has a significant share in the development and growth of Palembang. One of the Chinese cultural heritage is the Cheng Ho Mosque. Cheng Ho was a Chinese Muslim admiral sent by the Emperor, who in the 15th century traveled to South East Asia with his fleet of 62 ships and 27,800 seafarers. In Palembang, he sojourned and visited his Muslim acquaintances. Today we can visit the mosque built in memory of Admiral Cheng Ho, which is located at Jakabaring Palembang.

Palembang Grand Mosque

Palembang Grand Mosque is one of the inheritances of the Palembang Sultanate. This mosque is known as the center of Palembang city. It was built from 1738 to 1748 by Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin I, also known as Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin Jaya Wikramo. Some say it was the largest mosque in Indonesia at that time. When it was first built, it covered a land area of 1,080 square meters (about 0.26 acres) with a capacity of 1,200 persons. It was then expanded by Sayid Umar bin Muhammad Assegaf Altoha and Sayid Achmad bin Syech Sahab under the leadership of Prince Nataagama Karta Mangala Mustafa Ibnu Raden Kamaluddin.

From 1819 to 1821, a renovation was made by the Dutch colonial government. After that, further expansions were made in 1893, 1916, 1950s, 1970s, and lastly in 1990s. During an expansion in 1966-1969 by the Grand Mosque Foundation, its second floor was built covering a land area of 5,520 square meters with a capacity of 7,750 persons. During renovation and development in 1970s by Pertamina, towers were constructed. The original Chinese style tower was maintained as it is now. This mosque is very typical of Palembang tradition. Most of its timbers have Palembang typical carvings called Lekeur.

At present, the original building of this mosque is located in the middle of a new building, officially inaugurated by Indonesia's fifth president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. Since it is surrounded by the Musi River and its streams, this mosque is located as if it is in the center of the city.

Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum

Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum (SMB II, on the Musi River) allows you take a trip back in time and explore the history of Palembang by stepping into the. Not only is the museum rich in its collections, but the building itself is a historical legacy, as it is a monument of the golden age of the Palembang Sultanate.

Located on the riverbank of the Musi, the museum exhibits various collections ranging from archeology, ethnography, biology, arts and especially numismatics, the study or collection of currencies. Here, you can find many historical remnants from photo collections of the Kedukan Bukit inscriptions, ancient statues of Buddha and the Ganesha Amarawati, as well as various other remnants including those from the Sriwijaya era.

Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II was the ruler of Palembang from 1803 to 1821. This museum that bears his name was once the palace of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate. Originally called the Keraton Kuto Kecik or Keraton Kuto Lamo, this building along with the Palembang Grand Mosque was built during the era of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin Jayo Wikramo or SMB I. Distinct from other buildings of the same era that mainly uses woods, the palace was built with bricks.

With the arrival of the Dutch in the 17th century, the palace was occupied by the colonial army. During the 1st Palembang war in 1819, the Dutch landed 200 troops here who were placed at the Keraton Kuto Lamo. After Sultan Mahmud Badadruddin II was captured and exiled, the Dutch plundered and wrecked buildings in Palembang, including the Keraton Kuto Lamo. In 1823, the Dutch began to reconstruct buildings upon the ruins. At the former Keraton Kuto Lamo, a residence was built for the Kingdom of Netherland’s commissary in Palembang, Yohan Isaac van Sevenhoven. On 1842 the building was completed and was locally popular as the snail house (Rumah Siput).

History still held a grip on this building when the Japanese arrived in the 1940s. With the 2nd World War raging in the Pacific, the Japanese utilized this historical building as their military base. After Indonesia’s Proclamation of Independence in 1945, the building became a military base for Indonesia’s IV regiment: the Sriwijaya .

South Sumatra Museum

The New Museum of South Sumatra (5 kilometers. north of Palembang) and has a collection of megalithic statues found at Pasemah, on the western plains of South Sumatra. Here is also a beautifully carved 150 years old limas house - traditional Palembang-style house of the aristocracy, displaying rich ceremonial costumes, farming and fishing implements and traditional coffee preparations.

South Sumatra Museum consists of two smaller museums, Balaputera Dewa and Sriwijaya. This museum is more popularly known as Balaputera Dewa Museum. Balaputera Dewa Museum is a public museum which stores and maintains historical and cultural objects. Balaputra Dewa is the name of a Sriwijaya king. This 23,565 square meter (5.8 acres) museum has 3,715 collections consisting 16 geological, 26 biological, 2,073 ethnographical, 87 archaeological, 37 historical, 456 numismatic, 29 philological, and 221 ceramologic collections; and 55 art objects, and 15 modern technological collections.

The Balaputera Dewa Museum also has collections of Limas and Ulu traditional houses, and statue wards. The Sriwijaya Museum is a special museum for historical objects of the Sriwijaya kingdom which lasted from the 7th to 13th centuries. It has 191 collections.

Both museums are only closed on Mondays and national public holidays. They are open from 08:00 to 15:30, except for Saturdays and Fridays, which are half days. The entrance fee to Balaputera Dewa Museum is Rp 500 (5 cents US) per child and Rp 1,500 (15 cents US) per adult. The entrance fee to the Sriwijaya Museum is only Rp 250 (2.5 cents US) per child and Rp 500 (5 cents US) per adult.

Kuto Besak Fortress

Kuto Besak Fortress (overlooking the Musi River) sits atop the 10 meters high and 288.75 meters long thick walls. Built during the 17th century, Kuto Besak Fort is a legacy of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate, that ruled from 1550-1823. Acting as a defense post, the location of the Fortress is both politically and geographically strategic as it forms and island on its own, bordered by on its south by the Musi River, the Sekanak River on its west, the Kapuran River on its north, and the Tengkuruk River on its east.

The construction of the Kuto Besak Fortress was initiated by Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin I, who reigned from 1724 to 1758. The construction started in 1780 during the era of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin. The fort was meant as a palace, which was built to replace the old Keraton Kuto Lamo or Benteng Kuto Lamo which did not look sufficiently grand. Today, the Benteng Kuto Lamo is used as the Museum Sultan Mahmud Badarudin II It took 17 years before Kuto Besak Fortress was finally used officially as the Sultanate’s governmental center from February 21st 1797.

Kuto Besak Fortress is a reflection of the multi- ethnic society of the era of the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate. Supervision of its construction was entrusted to a Chinese supervisor, while laborers were both native Palembang and Chinese who worked hand in hand in harmony. This is also one of the legacies that is passed down to this day as illustrated in many of the city’s special events such as at the Cap Go Meh and Imlek (Chinese New Year) Celebrations.

Each corner of the fort is strengthened with bastions. The Bastion in the west corner is larger and similar to other forts in Indonesia while the other three bastions are achitecturally unique, and are unlikely found elsewhere. The main gate, called lawang kuto, is located in the south facing the Musi River, while the other gates, called lawang borotan are located in the west and the east, although the west gate is today the only one that is still standing.

In 1821 the fort was invaded by the Dutch army. The Kuto Besak Fortress was taken and the reigning Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II exiled to Maluku. This marks the end of the Palembang Sultanate era. The Dutch occupation left its marks on the fort as it carved its colonial style on Kuto Besak Fortress. Today, the Kuto Besak Fortress is, unfortunately, closed to the public since it is used as a military base. However, the Fortress remains an attraction . As the sun sets in the afternoon, lights glow around the fort, creating sparkles that highlight the walls of the fort. As one of the historical landmarks, a trip to Palembang will not be complete without a visit to Kuto Besak Fortress. To get there take a taxi or find public transportation, an angkot, which passes by the fort. Buses also pass this historic complex, and so does the blue Trans Musi.

Getting Around Palembang

You can get around Palembang by bus, taxi and minibuses. On the Musi River there are water taxis. The City bus in Palembang is one of the most convenient in the country. The name of the bus is TRANS MUSI. There are two types of buses — the green and the blue one - with different routes. If you prefer to take a more airy local transport, take becak (bicycle rickshaw) or ojek (motorcycle taxi) instead. The fare is quite reasonable and worth the excitement.

The green TRANS MUSI’s route goes: Terminal Sako Perumnas — Jl. Celentang — Jl. Residen Abdul Rozak — Simpang Empat Patal — Jl. Basuki Rahmat — Jl. Demang Lebar Daun — Simpang Taman Bukit — UNSRI Bukit Besar — Jl. Jaksa Suprapto — Simpang Kedaung — Jl. Letkol Iskandar — Simpang Hero — PIM, and backtrack all the bus stops.

The blue TRANS MUSI’s route goes: Terminal Alang-alang lebar — Jl. Kol. H. Burlian — Jl. Jenderal Sudirman — Pasar 16 Ilir (Jl. Tengkuruk Permai) — Underpass Ampera Bridge — Jl. Masjid Agung — Jl. Jenderal Sudirman — backtrack to Alang-alang lebar.

Getting to Palembang

The airport of Palembang is called the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport. There are several airlines serving the Capital City of South Sumatra, Palembang. They are: Garuda Indonesia, Batavia Air, Sriwijaya Air and Lion Air. These airlines connect Palembang with Pangkal Pinang, Bandung, Jakarta, and Batam. International flights connect Palembang with Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Malacca, China, and Thailand.

Air Conditioned busses from Java and Sumatra are also available. In Sumatra, you can go to the main bus terminal in the city of Padang, Bukittinggi, Jambi, Pekanbaru, Dumai, or Bengkulu to and from Palembang and ask for Terminal Karya Jaya or Terminal Alang-alang Lebar. Terminal Karya Jaya serves buses going to the northern cities from Palembang, and Terminal Alang-alang Lebar serves the southern routes.

Mount Dempo

Mount Dempo (310 kilometers from Palembang) is the highest mountain in South Sumatra at 3,195 meters above sea level,. Along with Mount Marapi on Sumatra (not to be confused with Mt. Merapi in Central Java), Mt. Dempo is the highest peak in the Bukit Barisan mountain range that stretches along the entire island of Sumatra, forming tis backbone.

Located right on the border between the provinces of South Sumatra and Bengkulu on Sumatra’s west coast, Mount Dempo lies in the district called Pagar Alam. And, as the name implies, Pagar Alam, meaning nature’s fence, is entirely surrounded by hills and mountain ridges. It takes some seven hours of driving to reach Pagar Alam from Palembang, and then another 15 kilometers from the center of Pagar Alam to Mount Dempo itself. Along the way you will be see scenery of cliffs and green valleys.

The hike begins in a wide tea plantation. As you ascend the tea fields are replaced by wild bushes. Further up are trees with occasional streams as well as chirping birds Among hikers and mountaineers, Mount Dempo is regarded as a challenging hike, with rugged rocky paths, steeo climbs and other obstacles. There are two posts, and several places where you can get water. Some spots require a little bit of climbing skills.. After the gruelling hike, the reward for reaching the summit of Mount Dempo is a breathtaking view. Mt. Dempo’s crater is still steaming as the volcano is still very much active.

Aside from this challenging mountain, prehistoric cultural remnants are also found in the area. Carved stones in the shape of humans, animals and others are scattered along the first slope of Mount Dempo. Within Pagar Alam there is also a traditional market that sells various local goods such as tea, coffee, fruits and others worth visiting. There are numerous restaurants and food stalls that you can find within the vicinity of Pagar Alam.One of the unique dishes is the Ikan Sema masak bambu meaning Sema Fish cooked in bamboo. Instead of using pot or frying pan, the fish is placed inside a bamboo and then barbequed over an open fire.

There are several accommodations available around Mount Dempo and within the vicinity of Pagar Alam. From hotels, modest inns and villas they are available at fairly reasonable prices. Here are some accommodation references you can try: 1) Dharma Karya Hotel, Jl. Kapt. Sanap Pagar Alam, Tel. 0730-621247; 2) Villa Basemah Gunung Gare, Gunung Gare - Pagar Alam, Tel. 08127342851; 3) Hotel Mirasa, Jl. Mayor Rusland, Pagar Alam, Tel. 0730-621484; 4) Hotel Telaga, Jl. Serma Wanar, Pagar Alam, Tel. 0730-6211081; 5) Bukit Shofa Hotel, Jl. Mesjid Jamik 43, Pagar Alam, Tel. 421-062; and 5) Sabrina Hotel, Jl. Diponegoro 73, Tel. 422-424

Mount Dempo is located in the Pagar Alam district, 310 kilometers, West of Palembang. To get to this site, you can use a rented car or a bus, as the trip will last for about 7 hours. The starting point for hiking is at the PTPN III tea processing factory. You can ask the locals around the facility to take you to the nearest village on the foot of Mount Dempo,which is called Kampung Empat. The Lematang Indah Waterfall is located not too far from Mount Dempo. The river that runs bellow it is used for whitewater rafting.

Goa Putri Cave

Goa Putri (230 kilometers from Palembang, 35 kilometers from Baturaja) is a cave and popular tourist destination in South Sumatra province. Located about one kilometer sooth of Sumatra trans road connecting Baturaja and Muara Enim, the cave is full of stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites are deposits of calcium carbonate which hang from the ceiling and can be found in limestone caves. Stalagmites are icicle shaped rocks facing upward which can be found on cave floors. In Goa Putri, stalactites and stalagmites meet to form pillars.

This cave contains a pond fed from the caves waters which originate from the Semuhun River, which empties itself into the Ogan River. The pond makes this 20 meter wide and 160 meter long cave more beautiful. Don’t forget to wash your face at the pond of Prince Dayang Merindu. Local inhabitants believe that those who wash their faces in the pond while praying, will have their prayers come true. In some parts of the cave are wide stones where you can sit or sleep. The cave is dark although some lamps have been installed in various locations. Visitors must pay Rp 5,000 (50 cents US) per person and Rp 10,000 (1 US Dollar) for parking.

Tourists can stay in a number of cheap hotels available in Baturaja. If you wish to continue your journey to Lake Ranau, it is best if you stay in Muara Dua. There is only one hotel and one inn in this small town, located near Tengah Batu Bawah market in Muara Dua. If you wish to take public transportation, you can take a bus going to Baturaja from Palembang bus station. From Baturaja to Goa Putri, several forms of public transportation plying the Baturaja “ Muara Enim route are available. Public transportation in South Sumatra usually operates based on when the markets in the city are crowded.

Sembilang National Park

Sembilang National Park is a natural coastal wet land area with various forest ecosystems of peat moss swamps, fresh water swamps, mangrove forests and mud flats. Administratively, it is part of Banyuasin district and has been a national park since 2003, when it was separated from the Berbak National Park in Jambi. This area is called Sembilang because it has many Sembilang fish (Plotosus canius).

The Banyuasin Peninsula, located on the east coast of South Sumatra, is a haven for water birds. Its muddy lands and sands border mangroves resulting in ideal habits for various types of invertebrates such as worms, mollusks, and crustaceans. The actual peninsula sticks out into the sea for 1.5 kilometers which makes this land an ideal stop for migrant birds from Asia and Europe from October to December.

Kuntul Cina (Egretta Eulophotes), Trinil-Lumpur Asia (Limnodromus Semipalmatus), and Pedendang Topeng (Heliopais Personata), are among 30 species of migrant birds visiting the Banyuasin Peninsula. These birds seek a temporary home to avoid cold seasons in their primary habitats in Siberia, the Korean peninsula, and Japan. Their final destinations are sub-tropical areas of Australia. The swamps in the far north of Betet Island are known for snakes, crocodiles and rare orchids.

Since it is still very natural, you can only stay and take a rest at the guard houses of Sembilang National Park on Sembilang and Betet Island. Bring along a rain coat, big plastic bags, food and fuel. Avoid night journeys, unless you like to see crocodiles. To explore this area, you can take a speed boat or barge except when you wish to explore swampy areas. It will be more fun if you use a canoe. To visit the transit area of the migrant birds, you have to walk 500 meters to the sea through mud because the water level is only as high as an adult's chest.

Getting There: You can take a speed boat of 40 (PK) capacity to reach Sembilang National Park. There are two routes to this area; from Sungsang, the capital city of Banyuasin II sub-district which will take you about two hours, or from Palembang which will take you about four hours.To travel around the national park, you must first obtain a permit from the office of Sembilang National Park at AMD street, Kelurahan Talang Jambe, Sukarami subdistrict, Palembang; phone (0711) 7839200. This offices purpose is to provide you with guards to take rivers, bays and seas. It is best if you contact the management office at least one week in advance, so as to enable them to prepare your needs. The waves in this area are very dangerous and if your boats crew is not experienced, your speed boat may turn upside down.

After buying or catching fish, you can pay local residents to cook them because it is not possible to make a fire in the settlement area. This is because all homes are above rivers. No visit is complete unless you try the Sembilang fish. In the swampy areas along the rivers and sea. You can ask officials to take you to crocodile, snake, and bird nests. You can also fish at spots where local say you can catch five kilograms of fish within one hour.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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