Sunday, November 6, 2011

INDO DIARIES 2010 - July 23rd - SURABAYA

Who needs to go to Surabaya indeed??????

We learnt the very hard way that, travellers need not really put any effort into stopping at this big dusty, unwelcoming city, not even to pick up an extra bag to carry all those glocks in!

The morning was civilised enough. we ate well at the breakfast bar and spent a few hours by the pool.

I think it was me, in particular and my curiosity that led us into Surabaya city centre. It sounded historic and picturesque. We needed a holdall, so off we went.

The city seemed to have a lot of history; it's known as 'The city of Heroes' as the battle for independence began on a little red bridge, Jembatan Mereh, so we decided to start there and maybe stroll through the centre, provided there were actually pavements and head on to the south.

We left the firm in a blubird taxi, a reputable firm known across Indonesia. The hotel staff seemed rather surprised that we didn't want a chauffeur for the day and a tour of the town (why the preferential treatment? And exclamations that we were room 608...?) They seemed quite bewildered that we were happy and willing to just take a taxi one way.

Luckily, the taxi driver was friendly and spoke a little English as he pointed out some landmarks.

The hotel was just south of the zoo, which we reached in 10 minutes. There was a formidable statue (Suraboyo) of a crocodile (Boyo) fighting a shark (Sura). These animals became the symbol of the city after an untraceable story from long ago. Maybe we would venture back later, at least for a photo.

The only monument I could capture on camera
We drove past a remarkable white building, Empire Palace. apparently,the venue for parties. What kind of partied, I am not sure. The building was at least 5 stories high with balconies on each floor, so they must have been for the aristocracy of yesteryear.

We continued through the crowded, dirty streets. Like Malang, there were few pavements and the few that existed were cracked, thanks to old trees uprooting themselves.

Suddenly, the journey ended. "This is the red bridge," The driver informed us.

All I could muster was a disappointed "Oh..."

All the history, the grandeur of the past was this rust old bridge before us?

We saw many taxis outside the shopping centre nearby, so we decided to let the driver go and get out and explore a little. We needed the bag, then maybe just head back home. From what we had seen, Surabaya was not very welcoming and we didn't want to prolong our visit more than necessary.

I managed to take a couple of picture of the so-called bridge, but the smell of piss was too off putting for me to try and gaze at the history. All I could wonder was why such a memorable part of Surabaya, or even Indonesia's history had been left to ruin - no respect at all. What a shame.

And the river was filthy disgusting too, a small garbage dump for the locals. Ugh.
The dusty building site before the plaza

We headed into the shopping centre. It turned out to be huge, spreading back much further. We found a few bag stalls but we thought we would wait and have a look around first.

The more we walked around, the more we got stared at. The stares became really intense, to the point where people were actively pointing at us, then they were not only laughing, but getting their friends to come and join the spectacle.

If was shocking and annoying. If Surabaya was the second city of Java, then why were people so shut off to visitors. Ironically, as we were going in, we had seen a 'white' family leave, so we thought it would be OK.

The next taxi experience was another shock for us both. Once outside, the guys crowded around us very quickly. We tried to negotiate a ride to the zoo. I just kept saying ''Suro-boyo'' to refer to the statue.He kept saying Surabaya Plaza. In the end we agreed. It was to cost 30 000IDR. I hadn't realised that the taxi earlier from the hotel was 50 000IDR, so we were being nicely ripped off.

When we arrived at the shopping plaza, I tried to show on the map where we had actually wanted to go, but all in vain. This was where he wanted to drop us. At least it was a department store. We could have another look around.

There were a lot more stores inside; it seemed somewhat classier. However, there were a lot more stares too.

At first we could ignore them and tuck into our lovely frozen

People going up the escalators were pointing and staring too. It was shocking. Up in the music store, I got so freaked out by the stares that I chucked a hissy fit and demanded we left right away.

To me, the city stares in Java are not the same as the jungle stares in Borneo. Inquisitiveness is one thing, but at least out in the jungle, people are smiling and genuinely want to know more about you. I found the stares in both Jakarta and Surabaya awfully intrusive and quite frightening.

Once again, we had to negotiate a taxi. We eventually bargained him down to 30 000IDR, although he had wanted so much more! Everyone seemed to be out for a quick buck. It was tiring.

Arriving at the hotel was a homecoming. We sat by the pool. We enjoyed the Mongolian BBQ too and had just another morning by the pool to think about before our plane to BALI!!!

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