Exploring Scintillating Semarang

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Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world.  This idyllic group of islands can be found straddling the equator; between the continents of Asia and Australia.  Semarang lies in the northern part of Central Java, Indonesia.  It boasts a variety of cultural and historical attractions.  Semarang was once a city of spice trade and is now one of Indonesia’s busiest regional port cities.

DELICIOUS INDONESIAN CUISINE

Semarang

Having attended the inaugural SilkAir flight from Singapore to Semarang, the tour guide brought us to Ikan Bakar Cianjur (IBC) chain for lunch.  IBC is an Indonesian restaurant chain serving authentic Indonesia cuisine. The food was excellent especially the Gado Gado (Indonesian salad with peanut sauce), Ikan Bakar (Barbeque Fish) and Ikan Gurame (Dry Fried Tilapia).  The Ikan Gurame was seasoned with IBC’s special blend of spices before frying.

A HISTORIC LANDMARK

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After lunch, we walked across to the Immanuel Protestant Church of Western Indonesia in Kota Lama (old city), better known as the “Blenduk” or Dome Church.  The Dome Church was build by the Dutch community in 1753 and is the oldest church in Central Java.  The church had been renovated once in 1984 but the interiors of the church are original and have yet to be restored.  Entering through the hallowed doors, one is immediately filled with a sense of peace.  The quiet historic setting also evokes a feeling of nostalgia.

CHENG HO’S LEGACY 

Semarang on Sony2

Semarang on Sony3

Leaving the old city, we visited Sam Poo Kong temple located in Simongan Village.  We toured the temple and the Stone House, which is believed to be where Admiral Cheng Ho- also known as Sam Poo Tay Djien- anchored and set up his headquarters when he visited Java Islands with his soldiers and crew. Admiral Cheng Ho was China’s key ambassador and diplomat to Asia and Africa with a fleet of 200 ships and 2, 700-strong crews. The temple is called Gedung Batu (Stone House) because there is a big stone cave.  The stone cave is where the Admiral Cheng Ho meditated and prayed while he waited for the crew to prepare for the next journey.  While he was residing in the village, he taught the villagers the agriculture and moral knowledge.  When Admiral Cheng Ho left the village, the villagers glorified and worshipped him for the goodness he had showed them.

MORE CULTURE & SITE

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Semarang on Sony5

After visiting the temple, we went back to the hotel to prepare for the Inaugural SilkAir Flight dinner celebrations.  The next morning, we set off early and went on a road trip Gedong Songo.  The temple is located in a Hindu cultural site located in Mount Ungaran, Bandungan district.  While the name suggests nine temples, only five are still standing today.  The other four are in ruins.  The site was originally built during the Sanjaya dynasty which controlled Central Java in the 8th and 9th centuries.  The temple was first discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1804 and is located 1,200 meters above sea level.  It predates the Borobudur and Prambanan temple monuments, and is the oldest Hindu structure in Java.  Surrounded by the natural outdoor, it has an intriguing architecture.  Hiking up-hill to the five temples on the highlands requires a lot of physical effort; charter horse rides are available at the start of the trail for comfortable sightseeing.

HOW TO GET TO SEMARANG

Semarang is accessible via SilkAir and Air Asia at the Achmad Yani International Airport.  International tourists visiting Semarang can transit via Singapore Changi Airport.

*The article was published in Weekender Singapore on 13th September 2013*

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