Semarang, my hometown located in Central Java province, will have a huge event next 10-15 August 2007, that is called “Semarang Pesona Asia” (Semarang the beauty of Asia). In fact, as one dweller that was born and grew up here, I myself am not quite sure with this event, too bombastic, since I realize that Semarang does not really have many interesting “assets” to sell. It is different from Jogjakarta, the city where I pursued my study both for my bachelor and master’s degree. Jogjakarta, or Jogja for short, is well-known as one exotic city that has many cultural buildings. Besides, it is also popularly known as THE STUDENT CITY, where every year many students from all over Indonesia go there to pursue their dream in education.
However, when one mailing list friend asked me, “If I visit your hometown, where will you take me?” I started to think what places I can show to her? Or to my other online friends that show their interest to visit my hometown.
It reminded me of what I did during Idul Fitri (Eid el Fithr) last October 2006. My siblings, Angie and I visited Buddhagaya vihara (temple), Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah (Grand Mosque of Central Java), and Marina Beach. Besides those three places, there is one very popular place in Semarang that is called Gedung Batu (Stone Building) Sam Po Kong. Probably Semarang is not as exotic as Jogja that has Kraton (a palace, since Jogja used to be a kingdom many centuries ago before Indonesia “was born” on August 17, 1945), Malioboro (the longest street in Indonesia where there are abundant street vendors selling many kinds of cute things, and white sand beaches. However, Semarang does have some interesting places worth visiting.
Here are several reasons why Semarang has its own characteristics that will not be found in some other areas:
1. Semarang is located in an area where the surface of the land is divided into two: high land and low land. The high land is usually called “CANDI”. It is very beautiful to see the down area from CANDI, especially in the night. The high and low land is not far separated that makes Semarang really different from other cities in Indonesia.
2. Semarang has some buildings that show the peaceful religious plurality, such as
a. Masjid Agung Jawa Tengah (Grand Mosque of Central Java)
MAJT is not the only grand mosque in Semarang actually, but this is the newest grand mosque. To make it different from some other grand mosques, it has a high tower, around 99 meters, referring to Asmaul Husna , the 99 other names of Allah. During holidays, many people visit MAJT to go to the tower, to take a look of Semarang from a high place.
b. Gedung Batu Sam Po Kong (Stone Building Sam Po Kong)
This temple used to be a mosque built by Cheng Ho admiral from Tiongkok (China) that dropped by in Simongan (one area in Semarang) in his journey to go around the world in the fourteenth century. After being renovated now and again, GB SPK is the biggest temple in Indonesia, even some people say in South East Asia. GB SPK does not only have temple, but in the area, tourists will also find the replica of the ship Cheng Ho used to go around the world, and big trees where their roots are hanging around in their branches. Besides that, GB SPK is also unique since the visitors who want to do some ritual ceremony come from various religions, Confucianism, Catholic, Christian, until Islam. They believe by doing some ritual ceremony there, their business will thrive well because they are convinced that the place is sacred.
c. Gereja Blenduk (Blenduk Church)
This church was built during the colonization of Holland. That’s why the dome is similar to domes found in buildings in Europe. Since it belongs to assets of old buildings in Semarang, this church must be conserved well by the government and society. There are some other churches built during Dutch colonization but they are not as famous as Gereja Blenduk.
Below are the pictures of the church in the old time and the present time.
d. Vihara Buddhagaya (Buddhist temple Buddhagaya)
This temple is located in one street that relates Semarang and Ungaran, one region to the South of Semarang, quite far from the downtown. Besides used for Buddhists who do their ritual ceremony, many tourists visit it during holiday season.
3. Some historical places
a. Lawang Sewu
“Lawang” means door while “sewu” means a thousand. People can easily interpret that this building has many doors that probably reach a thousand number. This was also built during the Dutch colonization. People can find many narrow and dark rooms on the underground that in the past were used for prisons. So narrow and small are they that with only four people standing very close to each other, they cannot move or breath easily. Many people opine that this building is spooky because many prisoners were killed in the past.
“Tugu” means monument while “muda” means young. This monument was built to commemorate young heroes who were killed in the war against Dutch troops in 1945. Tugumuda was built very close to Lawang Sewu.
There are some museums in Semarang where people can visit to take a look at some historical events (in a form of diorama) or things from the past time.
Some school buildings were built during Dutch colonization, such as SMA N 1 and SMA N 3. They still conserve the parts of the buildings built more than a year ago, besides the new buildings to cover more students coming to study there.
4. Tourist resorts
Besides some places I mention above, tourists can also visit some other places, such as Puri Maerokoco where people can find the miniature of Central Java province. The idea was inspired by Taman Mini Indonesia Indah in Jakarta where tourists can find the miniature of Indonesia with its (used to be) 27 provinces.
Marina beach, although it doesn’t have white sand, also provides stunning view during the sunset or the sunrise.
Going to the South of Semarang, around 40 kms, people can visit Bandungan and Gedong Songo that have cool weather because they are located in the foot of Ungaran mountain. Gedong Songo means nine buildings/temples. Unfortunately because the nine temples (Hindu temples) were not conserved well, especially during the Dutch colonization, now people only can find five temples that are scattered in some areas. This place is good for people who want to do some hiking while enjoying the cool weather, they can hike from one temple to the following temple while enjoying the stunning view of greenery of valleys and mountain. If they don’t like hiking, they can rent horses and go around while riding horses. It is a good exercise too.
5. Shopping places
Although the shopping places Semarang has are not as big as shopping places in Jakarta or Surabaya, shopaholic can also enjoy shopping here. Simpang Lima is the center of modern shopping places with Ciputra Mall, and some other shops around there.
Going to the south area, people can find Java Mall. Besides those two malls, there are many other smaller shopping places around the city, such as Sri Ratu Department Store or ADA Supermarket.
Johar market is the biggest traditional market. It was built during the Dutch colonization. It is located around 5kms from Simpang Lima to the north. Not far from Johar market, people can find Kauman mosque, one mosque built many centuries ago, during the Dutch colonization too.
Below is the picture of Johar market in 1930
The condition of the inside part of Johar market nowadays
To buy food that has special characteristic of Semarang, people can go to Pandanaran street. Semarang is popular with three specialties, namely wingko babat, lumpia, and bandeng presto.
Semarang provides many kinds of hotels, from the small ones until the five star hotels with affordable prices. For business people, they can choose to stay in Ciputra hotel or Grand Santika hotel that are located not far from the downtown, Simpang Lima. For tourists who want quiet stay, they can choose to stay in Patrajasa hotel or Grand Candi hotel located around 5kms from Simpang Lima to the south.
If you are interested in knowing more about the huge event, Semarang Pesona Asia, you can click the official site at www.semarangpesonaasia.com
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