Friday, February 19, 2016

Solar Eclipse in Palembang Indonesia

This 9th of March, a Solar Eclipse in Palembang Indonesia will take place and this will be one of ten places in Indonesia that will witness this spectacular event which is attracting thousands of visitors to this part of South Sumatra. This solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, resulting in the moon fully or partially blocking the sun and creating darkness in the day. 

Known as a rare and spectacular event that can only be experienced along a relatively narrow strip on the earth's surface, Palembang is one of the best spots to to see the solar eclipse and the two top spots to see this is at the Ampera bridge and SKI Air Jakabaring River.

Ampera Bridge in Palembang
The Ampera bride, which is also the main icon for Palembang, will be closed for the solar eclipse, allowing visitors to find the best spot where it will also be a culinary hub with various local food stalls being set up for visitors to experience the unique Palembang food. 

According to a website, a total of 500 Malaysians will be heading over to Palembang to witness the solar eclipse, said Acting Chief of South Sumatra Tourism and Culture Service Irene Camelyn Sinaga.

She also mentioned that based on weather forecast information, there will be no rain, and the sky over the city of Palembang will be bright when the total solar eclipse occurs on the 9th March, 2016. Prior to that, I was informed by my tour guide that another huge tourist group from Belgium will also be in Palembang to see this natural phenomena before heading on to Bali.
The traditional Limas House in Palembang which is featured on the 10,000 Rupiah Note
Best times to see the solar eclipse in Palembang
• Eclipse Start Time - 06:20:31
• Total Eclipse Start Time - 07:20:47
• Maximum Eclipse Time - 07:21:46
• Total Eclipse End Time - 07:22:46
• Eclipse End Time - 08:31:28

I was in Palembang from the 10th to the 13th February in 2016 for a familiarization trip under South Sumatra Tourism and Culture and we were taken to various places of interest in Palembang therefore I am able to share some of these places to those planning to visit here.
Pasar 16 Ilir, a local market which is one of the most busiest places in Palembang
Palembang History

The Sriwijaya Museum
Palembang is generally known as a historical city as it one of the oldest cities in Indonesia dating back to the Sriwijaya times of the 7th century.

Most Malaysians would know of Parameswara or Iskandar Shah, who was the first Sultan of Malacca as he fled Palembang during the Majapahit era in the 14th century to then Singapura (Singapore) and then to Malacca (Melaka).

Therefore, Palembang holds very rich history about the Majapahit empire, especially for those who want to know more about this. 

You can visit the three main museums in Palembang which are;
• Museum Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II
• Museum Balaputradewa Palembang
• Museum Sriwijaya

Various local Palembang food
Palembang Food

In general, Palembang is well known for their local South Sumatra cuisine which is totally different from the Javanese side. When people ask what is there to do in Palembang, the most common answer you will get is 'eat'. During my tour of Palembang, I was brought to many unique and interesting places to sample the authentic local food here which is found around the main city areas.

Some of them at restaurants while others may be in more localised 'warungs' or stalls that are in the popular areas. Based on just this trip and also talking to many locals, my recommendations are these top three foods to eat in Palembang which are;

Pindang Udang or Prawn Pindang
1. Pindang - This is the number one dish that can be found all over Palembang and Pindang is actually the soup based sauce used to compliment the type of fish you choose. Popular ones are Pindang Patin, Pindang Udang and Pindang Gurame.

At most restaurants, you can find a huge variety of fishes and fish head for Pindang. This dish is also served with a plat of white rice, that's all. The sauce is a little similar to Tom Yum but more fragrant and a different kind of spicy.

My Nasi Pindang experience was done at two places, one at Rumah Pindang Musi Dari and another at a floating boat restaurant next to the Ampera river called Mbok War.

Pempek, variety of Fishcakes
2. Pempek - Another hugely popular dish is called Pempek, which is actually savory fishcakes that is served plain, with noodles or even grilled. Dating back to the 16th century, most people will visit Palembang for this unique dish that is easily found almost anywhere in Palembang.

Locals will visit the home industries to take away raw Pempek by the hundreds and it is told that the best Pempek fishcakes are made from the 'Belida' fish or the Knife Fish.

The interesting thing about this dish is the way you eat it with the special sauce called Kuah Cuka or Vinegar Sauce which is dark, sweet and spicy. A great place to try this is at Mangdin, a local home industry that sells them.

Mee Celor
3. Mee Celor - Noodle lovers will enjoy this dish as Mee Celor is served with a rich broth made from shrimp and coconut santan or milk. Extra large yellow noodles are mixed in and served with some sprinkled savoury condiments and topped with a sliced egg. The special sambal is served as a side and for Malaysians or Singaporeans, this is closely related to the Mee Jawa or Mee Rebus in Malaysia. For me, after trying the Mee Celor, our local variety is far from comparison and I am not joking.

There are other very local foods than can be found around the city which includes Mee Tek Tek, a very unique way of selling local fried noodles by the roadside and also Martabak HAR or Martabak Haji Abdul Razak who has been selling these folded stuffed pancakes for almost a century now with multiple branches spread across the city. Nasi Minyak or Oily rice is also popular here.

At the local Arab village along Jalan Dr. Misa, you can find a restaurant called Warung Aba which serves some authentic and traditional Burgo, Ragit, Celimpungan, Laksan, Lontong and Lakso, all which have strong ties to similar dishes found in Malaysia.

Bukit Seguntang, probably the most important archaeological site in Palembang
Palembang Attractions

Apart from the food and museums, Palembang does have some places of interest, which are located within the city limits. There is quit a strong influence of Chinese and Arab influence dating back centuries therefore, there are pure Arab villages or Kampung Arab and Kampung Cina in Palembang. There are also some beautiful temples, pagodas and centuries old Arab houses to see here. I would recommend visiting;

Toa Pekong Temple on Kemaro Island (River Cruise to Pulau Kemaro)
• Masjid Muhammad Cheng Hoo Mosque (Chinese inspired Muslim mosque)
• Kampung Al Munawar (Traditional Arab Village, 250 years old)
• Bukit Seguntang (The original place where the Sriwijaya empire started)
Al Quran Al Akbar (Largest wooden carvings of every page of the Quran in the world)

A Mosque with strong Chinese influence in Palembang city
Palembang Souvenirs

Everyone leaves with souvenirs when they travel and Palembang has some unique ones to take home after your trip here. Among them, fabrics and food are the two top souvenirs here or the local term 'Oleh-Oleh' that most Southeast Asians hunt for in Palembang, Indonesia.

Kampung al Munawar, a traditional Arab village dating back over 250 years
Palembang Batik and Songket
Palembang is well known for their fabrics which is the Palembang Batik or South Sumatra Batik with the unique designs differing from those in Java. Songket weaving is also well known here and there are a number of home industries that offer visits to see how the Songket is made and then showing you the amazing collection of fabrics. One of them that I visited was the Fikri Koleksi Batik and Songket Shop in town and they have a pretty wide range of fabrics available, for both men and women. 

Krupuk Kemplang or Keropok Palembang (Fish Crackers)
If you visited any of the Pempek factories or shops, you are bound to see that they also sell the Keropok Ikan or Fish Crackers which are also the speciality here in Palembang. Best part is they let you try as much as you like simply due to the many shapes and flavors offered. For me, after trying a number, I ended up buying two huge bags to take back to Malaysia. They are simply mouth-watering and really, these are some of the best I have ever had in years. I got mine from Mangdin, a local home industry in 

Local village kids in Palembang
This trip to Palembang in February 2016 was made possible with the team from the South Sumatra Tourism and Culture Service and we were put up in the beautiful resort style Novotel Hotel in Palembang. Without this trip, I would have very little knowledge of this historical city in South Sumatra and hopefully I can come here once again to fully explore this place. For more information, you can visit the official Palembang Tourism Website as they have an English section there too.

18th Asian Games Palembang
Also to mention, Palembang will be the host to the 18th Asian Games alongside with Jakarta as this is also the first time in history that two cities will be hosting the Asian Games. The dates have also been set from 18th August to 2nd September 2018.

The South Sumatra's provincial government is also ready to host at least 18 sport disciplines with their existing Jakabaring Sport City Complex which is undergoing renovations for some of facilities here.

They are also performing a capacity upgrade of Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium from 40,000 to 60,000 seats and also lengthen of the Jakabaring Lake to 2,300 meters.

With this, Palembang is now creating world news as the solar eclipse has also attracted global eclipse hunters from multiple backgrounds including astronomers, enthusiasts, photographers, and scientists while local and international tour operators have already made specialised tour packages to bring visitors in to witness the Solar Eclipse in Palembang Indonesia. 


suzannita said...

Let's comeback again to Palembang and explore South Sumatra with all the nature beauty

Firsta | Discover Your Indonesia said...

Hi David, what a recap! Oh btw, which one do you like the most: Pindang, Pempek or Mie Celor? I bet you'll answer Pempek :p
Great to know you and I'll definitely let you know when I travel to KL! You'll have to bring me to the best place to eat Pempek in KL. :D

Malaysia Asia said...

Thanks Suzan, I would love to! So much more to explore.

Malaysia Asia said...

Firsta, I think Pindang was more unique and special for me because we have similar Pempek here too. But again, if you come, I will take you to eat the local one!. :)

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't ask which one of those food we tried you most like. Because I know Kerupuk is your favorite :))

Thanks for join us in the trip David, wouldn't be the same without you! Looking forward to meet you again some other time :).

Ciki said...

Good post David! Very informative:) Looks like a swell place to visit.. esp for the eclipse! :)

Unknown said...

Jadi kita tunggu 9 maret 2016 di palembang yaaa hehehe

Malaysia Asia said...

Shasya, thank you very much and yes, the Kerupuk is awesome! I am still trying to find the right chili sauce for it :) Look forward to seeing you again, hopefully soon.

Malaysia Asia said...

Thanks Mei, Yes, new and not touristy. I love the rawness in Palembang.

Malaysia Asia said...

Cumi, kalau boleh, kita berjumpa ya. :) Would be nice to go back to cover the rest of the places.

Anonymous said...

David, apparently I was one of the lucky ones who was in palembang to catch this phenomena and thank you for the tips provided.

The bridge was really crowded but it did not stop me from seeing the solar eclipse and the food you recommended, I have to say that I tried the celor noodles which was amazing.