Palembang Travel Guide
Palembang is located on Sumatra Island. The Musi River, which is also known as the Palembang River, passes through it by making two parts of it. As the stream forms the heart of the city, so a lot of transportation takes place through water.
The houses along the banks are built of piles and are facing the water. The banks of Musi are covered with water at regular intervals. Palembang is also called ‘Venice of the East’ and from ancient times it is an important trade city between India and China.
When one decides to visit this city, a thought of the origin of the name may flash in the mind! The name of the city is perhaps derived from the word ‘Limbang’, which means ‘panning for alluvial gold’.
People still dive in Musi for gold. There is another myth that says the following: When emissaries were sent from the great kingdom of Majapahit to develop a colony on the East Coast of Sumatra, the ship sank near the mouth of the Musi. All that remained, which was a cargo of coconut, had to be used to reach the goal, so the coconut was cleft into two halves.
These two halves were used as vessels, and the four people saved, who were brothers, took their places in them two by two. So they sailed up the river, lurching (limbang-limbang) through the rippling of the water, and finally they reached a place, which they dubbed Palimbang, and with the passage of time people corrupted it to Palembang.
This city was traditionally a trade center, and, for around 500 years up to the 13th Century, Palembang was one of the principal ports of the world, meaning a central point for the bulk of the Indonesian islands’ trade. Mahayana Buddhism came here around in the 7th century.
A Chinese-Buddhist pilgrim, I Tsing, who was going to India, arrived at Sriwijaya University in 671 A.D., and spent 6 months studying Sanskrit. And when he was returning home in 68E A.D., he stayed here for 4 years, writing his memoirs and giving a valuable description of the city.
Palembang was believed to be the predatory power, and was once the capital of the Sriwijaya Empire. There were regular ships that laid their anchor here and it sent its mercenaries as far as Mesopotamia. There were many scholars and monks, and perhaps thousands of them, who learned Buddhist teachings and translated Sanskrit texts here.
When the 13th century was approaching its end, Sriwijaya had splintered into 8 smaller kingdoms, the largest of which, Malayu, was centered on Jambi and became a strong power. But finally, with the rise of Melaka in the 14th Century, Sriwiajaya became a remote backwater. The region around Palembang still produces fine woven fabrics and performs unique Hindu-like dances.
It can be seen that this city had a long association with many countries of world and it had a great past and great history to beckon. Tourists enjoy seeing this place, which has seen so much of variation in its fortune and destiny!
Places of Interest
With its glorious past and present, Palembang has attracted trouists from all over the world and it offers a great opportunity for the people to see the places that are rich with history, culture, beauty, tradition! Here are some of these interesting places:
The Musi River
This river is broad as well as long, and is comparable to those found on the big island of Kalimantan, which is formerly knows as Borneo. The river flows right through the city, cutting it in two halves and these banks are called the Ulu bank and the Ilir bank.
A bridge of considerable size now links these banks, and is called the Ampera Bridge. If being a visitor, you do not care to make an interesting or unique boat trip down the river; you can take a walk halfway over the bridge to see the vast scenic beauty surrounding them, which is perhaps the rarest at any other place in Indonesia.
There is a big traffic of boats down the bridge, big and small, crisscrossing water-lanes without accidents as if steered by the most able and knowledgeable navigators of their times. You can watch both the halves of the city from the same spot itself. And if you are a lover of nature and know what beauty lies there in seeing the sunset and sunrise, then you would like to plan your visit on this river according to the time, for, you will miss it forever if you miss it!
There is an annual event, which is held around the Independence Day, each 17th of August, and is known as Bidar Race in which boats measuring 24.5 m long and only 0,75 m wide compete. Each boat carries as many as 50 oarsmen.
Limas-the traditional house
It is very interesting item to see and these houses are scattered over the province, most of them built on riversides; however, not facing the waterfront unlike the traditional houses of the province!
These Limas houses are built on stilts and have rather sizable measurements: from 15 to 20 m in width and from 30 to 60 m in length. A good part of these houses has hand carved columns, door and window frames and cross ventilation between the rooms by placing wooden panels.
These houses are very beautiful to see and more beautiful to live in! if you have a good eye about the architecture and the intricacies that it holds in its art, then you would like to visit these places for sure!
The State Museum
This is relatively new building and was erected in 1977 only; however, its collection of around 2000 relics and antiquities originating from the province would make a real treat for the visitors who would come here. You can see ancient household articles, utensils, looms, hunting tools, a bridal room and some preserved animals of the region.
Ki Gede Ing Suro Ancient Cemetery
This cemetery dates back to the 16th century where as many as 38 ancient tombs are found of which one of them belongs to Ki Gede Ing Suro, one of the prominent forefathers of South Sumatra’s present society. It is very interesting to note that all these 38 tombs are found under one roof of one building!
Bangka Island’s Matras Beach
This island lies right at the mouth of the Musi River in the South China Sea and is one of world’s major producers of tin. Direct flights from Jakarta or boats from Plamebang can be hired to reach this island.
This island presents a beach of exceptional measurements, 300-400 m wide and 6.5 km long, and is called the Matras Beach. This is located 44 km north of Pangkal Pinang, which is the capital of the island.
On the other side of the island at Muntok, you can find the Ranggam House, which was built in 1921 on the hill overlooking the sea. This is a very big lodging house in which the first close Indonesian president was held captive along with some of his close followers during the nation’s physical revolution.
The car used by the Presidents at the time has still been kept in tact and can be seen by the public at the House’s opening hours.
Adjacent to Bangka island
Adjacent to Bangka island is Belitung island, which is another tin producer, with its capital city called Tanjung Pandan. If you are interested in visiting both islands, you should make a airway from from Jakarta to either island first, and then cross over to the other one by boat and onward to Palembang to visit the rest of South Sumatra. This would be more comfortable and you would be able to enjoy the trip better!
However, if you are interested in saving time, energy and money, which you would of course like to; it would be recommended that all these destinations of Bangka or Belitung out of Palembang, should be made in a single line of direction, not making a special trip to one of them!
Punti Kayu-Natural Pine Forest
This recreational complex is recently built and it covers an area of 50 hectares, consisting of four parts: an amusement park, a recreation park, a natural forest, and a man- made lake. There are many things for the children to enjoy here and international tourists may also enjoy a relaxing day here!
Rivers of Palembang also provides a rich array of waterfalls and this is one the best of them. This is the biggest waterfall and the water smashes down from a height of 90 meters into a deep pool and further downstream in a strong current. You can reach this spot public transportation and it takes 2 hours from Palembang.
Festivals of Palembang There are many festivals that are celebrated here and some of them are of Hindu origin. Sriwijaya Festival and Musi Festival are one of them!