Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia and the capital of East Java province, like many Southeast Asian cities, enjoys warm weather all year round. But unlike, say, Singapore where I come from, the city is not nearly so stiflingly humid. So, if you are looking for a tropical trip, Surabaya gives you the best of sunshine without the sticky heat. As a bonus, the city has plenty of parks, tree-lined streets and wide pavements that help to soften the hard urban edge. That is perhaps why it won the Adipura Kencana Award in June 2011 for being the top of 20 Indonesian cities.
If You Can’t Beat the Heat …
If you cannot beat the heat, then revel in it. Indonesia’s geography is dominated by volcanoes that are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. With Surabaya a gateway city for Mount Bromo, you cannot come here without visiting this active volcano. At just 2,329 metres, it may not be the tallest of Javanese volcanoes. But Mount Bromo’s attraction really lies in its setting in the midst of the vast plain of ashen and volcanic sand that is the Sea of Sands. Desolate and surreal, Mount Bromo has a lunar-like quality to its landscape. There are several tours you can join that will take you right to the summit where, from the edge of the steaming cone, you can see the peak of Mount Semeru nearby. It is a three-hour trek but the view is well worth it. I particularly enjoyed being able to look right into the mouth of the volcano.
Since Surabaya enjoys fine weather, I would recommend fitting in more outdoor activities. Try a visit to Taman Safari II Prigen, a wildlife reserve on the slope of Mount Arjuno at Jatiarjo village in the Prigen district. A little over an hour away from Somerset Surabaya Hotel and Serviced Residence, it is 340 hectares of animal attractions. There is an open area where lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, wild buffalos, komodo dragons, rhinoceroses, bison, and several species of primates roam free. An aviary and a reptile house complete the animal experience. There are two other zones to explore: a baby zoo where you can learn more about the animals and have your picture taken with them, and amusement park with fun rides games.
When you have soaked up all the sun you can and want to cool off, you can always go to Ciputra Waterpark, one of the largest waterparks in Southeast Asia that is a 20-minute drive from my serviced residence. From water slides to a wave pool, wet playground and an artificial river, this is where you go for a splashing good time.
Hide from the Sun
If the heat gets too much to bear, duck indoors. The House of Sampoerna, a 15-minute drive from the serviced residence, is a cigarette museum that is also the factory of Sampoerna cigarettes. Situated in Old Surabaya, this top attraction of Surabaya is housed in a beautifully preserved Dutch colonial-style building built in 1862 that reflects the country’s history. Apart from being able to watch the 3,500 female employees hand-roll Indonesia’s most prestigious cigarette, Dji Sam Soe, you can also try your hand at beating their amazing speed of 325 sticks an hour. The adjoining art gallery hosts visiting exhibitions, providing something new every time you visit.
While you are at it, you should add Ampel Mosque to your itinerary. Sitting in the Arab Quarter of Ampel 20-minutes from the serviced residence, this mosque dates back to 1421 and is the oldest identifiable point of Surabaya. From that knot of civilisation, the rest of the city grew. Now, you can visit the shops around the mosque that sell spices, sandalwood and sarong and savour history.
In the Still of the Night
Even when sun sets, Surabaya is still nice and warm. So, take advantage of the balmy nights and visit the city’s many night markets and food stalls like G-Walk, Loop and Kya Kya Kembang Jepun, all less than half an hour away from Somerset Surabaya Hotel and Serviced Residence. You can pick up some souvenirs at the bazaars and, very importantly, try Surabaya’s street foods.
I recommend bakso (Indonesian meatballs in broth), soto ayam (spicy chicken soup) and my personal favourite, and bebek goreng (crisp fried duck).
Other traditional Surabaya dishes to sample include rujak cingur , a salad of sliced fruits, vegetable, rice cake, tofu, and tempe (fermented soy patty) in a sauce of shrimp paste, brown sugar, chili, fried peanuts topped with fried onions, and thinly sliced green beans and young bananas; semanggi , a paste of boiled clover leaves and bean sprouts eaten with prawn crackers; and pecel (vegetables cooked in a chilli, peanut, tamarind and coconut sugar sauce).
To beat the heat, you can have cold desserts like es campur (a cocktail of different types of jellies topped with shaved iced flavoured with syrup), es dawet (a Javanese variant of the cendol with coconut milk, palm sugar, red beans and green jelly noodles); and es teller (jackfruit, avocado, and other fruits with grass jelly in a coconut milk syrup sweetened with condensed milk).
Before you leave, do not forget to pack back Surabaya treats like kueh lapis Surabaya (a layered cake much like kueh lapis but with only three layers), and emping (belingo nut chips) and shrimp crackers.
The next time you are looking for a hot spot to hot foot to, remember sunny Surabaya and come visit me.
Stay with us:Somerset Surabaya Hotel and Serviced Residence