Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 11 July 2012 • Itinerary
I can’t say I was uber excited when we had to transit in Semarang in our quest to reach the land in the sky, Dieng. I’ve been there before and didn’t plan to visit it anytime soon. But that quickly changed with the help of our new set of road-tripping friends that had a healthy dose of the travel bug and a great sense of humor. On this visit I was convinced Semarang still has much to offer. It was less than 24 hours but the old city, the food, the tobacco, and my friends, were enough to convince me, Semarang should be back on the map for those inquisitive travelers.
Strolling Down The Old City
The ant building , colonial buildings and old trucks were enough to keep one afternoon filled with photography fun.
Mukti Tobacco Store
Smoking is bad for you but hey, piping tobacco once in my life can’t really hurt, especially when I pipe like a boss!
The Grand Mosque
The grand mosque was the quietest and the grandest so far. It was ours!
Semawis night market with the endless choices to choose from.
Lunpia Gang Lombok, where the signature lunpia Semarang is said to begin.
Muria Hotel which is strategic to book your next bus to the next destination. Located on Jl. Cipto No. 73, Phone:
How to get there and getting around
We happened to borrow the car of Boyo so we were riding in style. Thank you Boyo!
After work, while rush hour was still buzzing on the streets, I arrived at the Japanese fast food joint which was our meeting point. Some of the gang were already there, including Vira. While some were arriving, others went out to pick up the car. It was about 10 pm before we were finally complete along with the car. Ah, meeting up in Jakarta is never easy! Putting aside the complaints of living in this big city that will never end, the euphoria of a road trip finally kicked in. We were happy and excited! We were leaving Jakarta for somewhere all of us have never been to. But first stop, Semarang.
Of course, Vira and I sat in the back since we were the smallest (well Ito is small but he offered to be the first driver) and I didn’t want to invade the macho roles of the guys as drivers on this trip. Boy did we enjoy it! So, in between the ‘zzz’s and the snacks, we suddenly found ourselves having breakfast in the first city we found at daylight, that is Pemalang, Central Java. Yes, sometimes life is that good.
We arrived in a local public space with various stalls scattered around the area. Most of us chose the stall closest to the car, ‘lontong sayur’ or compact rice with veggies. The breakfast was alright, but the ambience was super: there was a park where kids were playing soccer, people were passing by in becaks or bikes, and more people were munching with us.
And what is a morning without exercise? With the little spirit I had not as a morning person and without coffee, I went out and borrowed a bike from a local kid. It was a small circle around the park but it was nice to be on the streets without a lot of pollution and people at a slower pace than Jakarta.
There’s a lot of good in using a GPS but there are some danger in solely trusting it, as we did running around Semarang. We trusted Irene, the voice the guys chose for the GPS system. It had to be a girl. We were rooting for Budi, but we were outnumbered of course.
Good ol’ Irene ended us diving through a market which you would think was not passable by car. The alley was really small and people were shopping on the side of our car. While we though we were the misfits of the market and felt paranoid that people were looking at us because we’re not suppose to be there, turns out it that street was appropirate for cars. Wow, what a wierd market!
We came back to the old city of Semarang because most of our travel mates haven’t been there and because I was super curious to see the “ant building” that Vira and Diyan loved so much. Without elaborating more about it cos Vira will blog about it soon, all I can say is that I was really impressed on how eclectic the decorations were. It takes true madness to create such a building.
The old city of Semarang is filled with old buildings left from the colonial days. Some are abandoned, most of them now function as storage for, what I think is, various businesses. But we’ll never know what happens behind closed doors. Whatever it functions for, we love the old look of it all. That afternoon, we still managed enjoying ourselves in new found corners.
Interestingly, none of us smokes, but we were all eager to visit the tobacco shop located at the gate of Semawis night market. Vira had visited it before, so she was our tour guide per se.
Arriving at the shop, the smell of tobacco was the first thing we recognized. Naturally. Jars of tobacco were lined neatly on the counter, ready to be smoked out with the right pipe or paper. Our grubby and curious fingers couldn’t stop the urge to open up each jar and smell the aroma of the different types of tobacco. Some had a sweet smell, some were richer, some spicy, and some kinda stank. The jar far on one side was filled with black tobacco shaped into a box. The store keeper kindly told us that the price of one box is equivalent to a car. Whoaaa….
As interesting as it was to stick our nose in different jars, it wasn’t enough to say that we’ve been to a tobacco shop. So we poked Pak Satrio, the resident pipe master, to teach us about ‘looking like bosses’ and smoke the pipe. With this, we announced that most of us officially have tried to smoke tobacco in our lives. We know it’s not healthy but man, we did look like bosses. Even us girls!
The Grand Mosque
Since we had all night to kill, a car, and we liked big and grand things, we decided to stop by the grand mosque of Semarang which is said to be the biggest mosque in South East Asia.
Once arriving at the mosque, it was closed. But because we said we drove all the way from Jakarta to see the mosque, and most part of it was true, the security guys let us in. Grand is one way to describe it, empty was another which made the mosque even grander. Never in my life had I seen a mosque that big with no one in it. Traditionally, mosques are always open and there are always someone in it, at least to sleep in :p This must be a special mosque since the doors were locked.
It was filled with symbols of the Islamic teaching, but the most impressive were the 6 giant electric umbrellas, which is said to open on Friday noon during prayer or on special occasions. These umbrellas are inspired by the Medinah umbrellas, which are spectacular. I’d like to see these babies bloom one day.
That night, we admired, took pictures, ran around, and lay on the floor of the mosque. The Grand Mosque was all ours!! Muhaha! Muahahaha! *ackward silent.
Finally! Lunpia Gang Lombok
Eating this specific Lunpia was the one thing I couldn’t do the last time I was in Semarang. So, once we drove into the city, munching this was the first thing to do on our list. It is said that the distinct dish of Semarang, which is lunpia, started from this venue. Lunpia located on Lombok alley (or “gang Lombok” as you would say it in Indonesian; with gang translates to “alley” and pronounced as “gung”) is probably the oldest lunpia around.
There are 2 kinds of lunpia, the ‘wet’ and the fried. The wet lunpia is wrapped in the uncooked (kinda) rice paper, while the fried one is … fried. With it, you’ll be offered the starch, pickled veggies, and a bowl of baby onions.
Let’s cut to the chase. How did it taste? I honestly thought it would taste a lot richer than it did. It had a mild taste of starch and veggies. Having that said, it was still really good for a mild taste dish especially having the veggies freshly cooked and the lunpia freshly served. But you really need to munch it with the pickled baby onions which gave the lunpia that extra umph.
One lunpia cost IDR 10,000. Money well spent for your stomach. You can also find a nice batch of cold Teh Liang or Liang tea not far from the stall for about IDR 5,000 / glass.
And finally, I can cross this out of my ‘things that got away list’.
Our eats aren’t much different to previous post. Not only because of circumstances, but venues like the Semawis night market offers so much that returning numerous times still left us with stalls that we haven’t tasted.
This night, our gang tried a few menus.
– Dreadlock tofu or tahu gimbal
This dish consists of cut up tofu, lettuce, bean sprout, crackers and a few herbs, bathed in peanut sauce. So what’s so dreadlock about it? It’s dreadlockin’ good, I guess.
– Babat fried rice
It’s a basic fried rice dish with the extra ‘babat’ or cow stomach. Don’t gross out just yet! The cow stomach, after marinated, can taste really good. Vira had this dish with a verdict: she wasn’t too happy about it because she couldn’t taste the ‘babat’. See, even Vira wanted more stomach!
– Bakso Malang
This dish consists of meat balls, fried wontons, tofu filled with fish dough, and other goodies, in a clear rich-tasting broth. Add to it a few herbs and sauces according to your likings.
– Mie Cool
It’s a fresh cold drink with jelly, sarang burung (the little black spots), lychee and syrup. It’s a dessert that can freshen your night at the market.
We were there because we girls had to wait somewhere for the guys that were praying on Friday. But who could resist a bowl of ice cream and the protection for the hot sun? Not us.
This is a standard hotel, which will get you through the night and offers a decent breakfast. Rooms include AC, en-suite bathroom, and TV for you dose of local TV stations. The hotel also has a parking space, which was perfect for road-trippers with a car.
The best thing about this hotel is its location, which is on Cipto street. It’s where a lot of major bus services to other cities start. Buses go to and from near cities like Solo and Yogyakarta, or further cities such as Surabaya, Jakarta, and Bandung, and perhaps more cities.
Our room was a double bed room with an extra bed for our special friend which we dare you to guess who he is. 😛
A room costed IDR 350,000 / night, including breakfast. This price is also for the extra bed and extra breakfast.
Jl. Cipto No. 73. Semarang
Phone: +62 – 024 – 3513622
How to get to Semarang
Mr. Boyo, who was supposed to be with us during this road trip turned out not being able to make it. But kindly enough, he lent his car to us. So we did the traditional road trip from Jakarta to Dieng, via Semarang.
When you have a car, then there’s only one way to get yourself around the city. By car. But then again you can walk 😀