Here I sit in the hotel restuarant feeling sightly embarrassed because of the attention I’ve been given from the head waiter after requesting that the music be changed from the hideous rap song that was on repeat. The next music style was again western and when asked if it was ok, my hesitation was taken as a negative, so now we are listening to kroncong style music (Javanese) which is far more enjoyable at this hour of the morning!
What a change of pace I am experiencing with my friend, Lenny, and her family as she accompanies me on my exploration of Surabaya. After my lazy days in Waru, our days are now full on enjoying the food, the malls and meeting a few of Lenny’s Surabaya based family. Lenny has travelled here with her mum and 2 children and while in Surabaya has also been joined by an elderly aunt, who while 86, has impressed me with her stamina. For my first 24 hours with Lenny, we were also joined by her friend Julia and her daughter Valerie, who are in Indonesia visiting friends and family while holidaying from Saudi (Julia) & England (Valerie).
In true Indonesian style, our visit there began at a restuarant! We ended up inside a restuarant which by chance was the very one that Penny from WA had just recommended! Julia & Lenny ordered a feast of various Chinese food which looked much better on the table than it had in the menu!
Julia & Valerie headed off to Semarang the next day and after dropping them off at the airport, we headed to North Surabaya with a cousin of Lenny’s. His first task was to take us somewhere to enjoy gudeg. To Lenny & my disappointment, he parked at restaurant undergoing renovations when we both had hoped to eat at a local warung. We ate our nasi gudeg with the sounds of hammering and smashing concrete in the background and the occasional electrical zing of a mosquito being zapped. The gudeg (traditional Jogjakarta dish of jackfruit) was tasty
After lunch we dropped briefly in to his family’s house where he plied us with the most amazing jackfruit from a tree in the back yard. This variety of jackfruit is much smaller than the variety more commonly seen in Indonesia and the flesh is a brilliant orange and so sweet. We then headed towards TP (tay-pay) – Tunjungan Plaza and Lenny’s cousin dropped us off at the Garuda office before heading off to an appointment. At Garuda, I discovered that if I travelled on Lenny’s flight to Bali it would only cost me Rp550,000 whereas the earlier flight that I’d tried to book online was Rp100,000 more!! Thankfully the online transaction had been declined!
Down the street a few meters from the Garuda officeis the Hotel Majapahit, formerly known as the Hotel Oranje.
This is a beautiful hotel and is one of those places where once you set foot in the door, it feels like you have stepped back in time to 1911 when it first opened. The history here is palpable and is a living monument to Dutch colonialism. The front door was opened by a staff member and waiting just inside was a formidable gentleman, looking every inch a butler who worked for a wealthy family. He looked down his nose at Lenny and her family yet once he set eyes on me, his demeanor changed and we were welcomed inside. The benefits of traveling with a bule (white fella)!! Just inside, parked permanently in the foyer, was a beautifully restored car in absolutely mint condition.
Beyond the foyer is an area where guests can relax and order drinks. The only reference in the entire foyer to the role the hotel played in the lead up to the Battle of Surabaya is a painting above the piano.
The toy section, as always, is disappointing. It contains shelves and shelves of boring toys of dubious quality. The range of stuffed toys does not even include orangutans or kancil (mouse deer) instead is just mainly teddy bears. When ever I ask if they have orangutan, the staff look at me oddly but I keep hoping that if I ask often enough, I may start a trend!! There is defintiely a gap in the market here for toys and games that challenge and encourage creativity and that go beyond dolls, teddies, trucks and cars.
Our trip home was equally memorable. Lenny was determined to catch a bemo home, to ensure I experienced this form of transport in Surabaya. To catch the bemo should’ve been reasonably easy yet right where we needed to go was a huge demonstration complete with loud speakers and what looked like smoke bombs.
It appeared very serious because of the hundreds of police that were being trucked in and the various road bloacks which pedestrians and for some reason, motor cyclists, could pass through unchallenged. We passed several parked trucks full of soliders disembarking and many more in the streets with sirens blaring. To get around the demo, we had to walk a very long way to the kantor Gubenor (Governors office) from where we caught our bemo. Lenny’s 86 year old aunt put me to shame with her stamina negotiating uneven footpaths. She walked along holding my arm yet I was in no doubt who was supporting who!
As we got down from the bemo, it began to rain so we took shelter in the warung where we enjoyed a warm comforting bowl of mie pangsit ayam (noodles with chicken)
These ice cream sellers make their ice cream using natural ingredients with a coconut milk base. The ice cream itself is frozen using a salt bath and many hours of stirring by hand. It is absolutely delicious and is served with sago balls, bread cubes and topped with a drizzle of chocolate condensed milk. I usually pass on the bread and condensed milk!