HOW could a city with a population of about 2.7 million people and different religions live harmoniously?
I was told that 725-year-old Surabaya City has never had a religious feud in its history. Surabaya is the capital of East Java province in Indonesia. It is also the second largest city in the country.
For a city as progressive and business-centered as Surabaya, it is quite amazing how the people remain to love and acknowledge their history and the legends that make up what Surabaya is now. Surabaya came from the words “Sura” which means shark and “Baya” which means crocodile. A famous legend among locals tell the story of a powerful shark and a crocodile which, long time ago, fought each other to prove who is the most powerful among them. In the end, both the creatures died from the fight. There is a monument of the shark and the crocodile fighting for the locals to remind each other and to introduce to the tourists as well the story of Surabaya.
The hotels we stayed and visited while we were in Surabaya have significant stories to tell. Behind the beautiful façade and state-of-the-art architectural designs, these actually have a huge part in the history and art and culture of Surabaya. This only proves that though the city is known to be a business district, it has a lot of stories and experiences to offer the tourists.
Aside from the iconic shark and crocodile monument, here are the other places in Surabaya that I found very memorable during my visit there. For me, among other places, these are the places that a tourist should visit to immerse with the history and the culture of the city:
1. Hotel Majapahit
Formerly known as Orange Hotel, this two-story hotel actually has a lot of stories and surprises for anyone who visits. Outside it looks like an average establishment, not hinting that it has actually been around since 1910. In this very hotel was where the Hotel Yamato Incident happened. On September 19, 1945, young Indonesian revolutionaries tore away the blue portion of the Dutch flag and thus changing it to the now Indonesian flag. Indonesia then was under the Dutch colonization. This gesture by the revolutionaries sparked the Battle of Surabaya.
What is very remarkable about this hotel is that even when it stands as one of the oldest and historically significant infrastructure in the city, it remains to be architecturally relevant. Inside, one can see how much time and effort had been put by the current management into beautifying every corner of the hotel without compromising the hotel’s importance in the Surabayan history.
One should also check out their very posh presidential suite, the terrace of which opens to a beautiful garden. The walls of the rooms are so thick, you can barely hear a noise outside which guarantees very good rest. As what have been said, the façade of Hotel Majapahit is more than what it can really offer inside.
2. Arab Quarter and Mosque
Aboard a padyak, a local mode of transportation made of a bicycle with something that resembles a carriage for the passengers in front, we headed to the Arab Quarter in Surabaya. The place is a long line of products sold by the Muslims such as dates, almonds, pistachios, Muslim garments, and Quran and other Muslim books and reading materials among others.
At the end of the long tunnel of these products is the mosque where thousands of Muslims go and pray.
The harmony and the beauty of history and culture of which the people of Surabaya had managed to jive together are indeed remarkable. A trip to Surabaya will not only grant the tourists a great leisure experience but as well as a deeper understanding of the significance of history in a city’s progress.