By Muhammad Hasif Mohd Jelani on August 15, 2018
From what I gather, Indonesia never disappoints. Most of my travel destinations in 2017 are located in this great country, yet it seemed like I still do not have enough of Indonesia. From the first time I set my foot here, I couldn’t stop myself from admiring its natural beauty over and over again. And South Sumatra is definitely one of the strong reasons why I think Indonesia is rightfully so.
South Sumatra abounds with plenty of natural wonders and amazing historical background thanks to its geographical features. It is situated on the eastern side of Bukit Barisan mountain range, the southernmost rim of the South China Sea, close to the shipping lanes linking the Far East with Europe, said to be one of the world’s busiest. Though it is not as popular as some major destinations, South Sumatra offers travellers a less crowded travel and tourism destination through its own charms. Follow us as we share with you the selected attractions to be enjoyed when being in South Sumatra.
After an hour flight from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to Silampari Airport, my travel companions, who were also from the media, and I went here for lunch.
More than merely serving traditional Sundanese foods like sambal udang (spicy shrimp paste), gurami (grilled gourami fish) and kerupuk (Indonesian crackers) which were all agreeable, I was surprised to find out that we could also soak our feet in a large pool inside the restaurant and get them ‘massaged’ by a school of fish while we dined. The tickling sensation from that so-called fish spa felt even better with es jeruk murni (orange juice) in my hand together while taking in the view of restaurant’s soothingly rustic surroundings.
We arrived at Villa Gunung Gare quite late from Lubuk Linggau after a five-hour van ride. Since it was already dark, I did get to do much except resting because we needed to wake up early the next morning to view the sunrise.
Come morning, I started to realise that the villa is surrounded by a magnificently lush green tea plantation and the majestic panorama of Gunung Dempo. Having the opportunity to wake up to such a view made me miss the place so much!
Villa Gunung Gare also has interesting spaces such as Tangga 2001, where local youngsters can gather around for a chill-out session with good music, local snacks and refreshing breeze.
Catching the sunrise was not easy; we had to wake up as early as 3:30 a.m. and climb up to the sunrise viewing point called Tugu Rimau, which is 1,820 metres above sea level, for 45 minutes. The journey to Tugu Rimau was literally winding and bumpy, no joke. At 18° Celsius (sometimes it could even go as low as 16° Celsius), travellers need to be prepared to endure the cold. When the sun started to show, we began to realise that we were surrounded by a bewitching panorama of the seemingly endless sea of surrounding tea plantation and the city of Pagar Alam from afar.
The name Tugu Rimau refers to a tiger statue that wears a traditional attire while holding a torch – it was the mascot for the National Athletics Event hosted in South Sumatra back in 2014. The viewing point was where the parasailing and mountain biking competitions took place.
Satisfied with the shots taken, we went downhill for another photo opportunity where we met friendly local workers showing us how tea leaves are plucked.
Situated in Talang Tinggi, which is 15 minutes’ drive from Pagar Alam city, Air Terjun Tujuh Kenangan ( literally means ‘seven memories waterfall’) is another natural wonder of South Sumatra. To reach this 40-metre waterfall, travellers need to trek uphill for about 500 metres, passing by a private coffee plantation, garden and forest. For those seeking a good place to swim, this is absolutely one of the best options.
Tip: Travellers are advised to hire a guide and wear proper sports attire to avoid mishap.
This site is intriguing for history aficionados. I learned that Tegur Wangi Archaeological Site was once inhabited by an ancient community whose members used the site as their place of worship. With archaeological remains still can be found in the forms of statues, stone cists, menhir (upright stone), dolmen (a huge stone supported by smaller ones), monolith and carving stone, folklore has it that this place is sacred. These remains are believed to have been in existence since A.D. 100. Among the well-known statues is Batu Beghibu, which means a statue with earrings.
We had lunch at Lesehan Lembur Kuring Karjak, one of the more famous restaurants in Pagar Alam. The restaurant stands above fish ponds, overlooking the pastoral view of a typically local house with a range of mountains looming in the distance as background. Among the must-savour menus are gurami asam manis (sweet sour tilapia), gurami bakar (grilled tilapia), ikan mas masak kuning (goldfish in yellow gravy) and tahu sumedang (Sundanese deep-fried tofu).
Besides coffee and tea plantation, little did I know that Pagar Alam also has its own jeruk (mandarin orange) plantations and this farm is one of them. There are 460 trees in this two-hectare farm. Do not be surprised because if you were to combine all jeruk farms that are run by the locals here, it could take up to 80 hectares!
There are three types of jeruk planted in this farm: Batu 555; Siam Puntianak; and RGL. The sweetest is said to be Batu 555. Travellers are not allowed to pick the fruit themselves but they are welcome to buy them at only IDR30,000 per kilogram.
With the ticket costing IDR130,000 per person one way, we headed to Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, using the night train from Lahat to Kertapati. Though the journey took eight hours, it was a smooth ride and an interestingly new experience for me.
Tip: Even though blanket is provided, it is best to bring your own jacket to withstand the cabin’s air-conditioning.
The experience of exploring a land of great history would be incomplete without the trip to the museum that chronicles the land’s significant through valuable records, documents and artefacts. In Palembang, Balaputra Dewa Museum is a must-visit for those seeking to understand more about the destination’s formative history and the psyche of the local people.
There are around 3,800 objects displayed in this museum, all categorised under 10 different sections such as geology, biology, philology, numismatics, and ceramics, among others. The exhibit that strongly caught my eye is the almost two-century-old Rumah Limas (local traditional house), which is also depicted on Indonesia’s IDR10,000 currency note.
Palembang also bears relevance to Malaysians because the founder of the Melaka Sultanate back in the 1400s, Parameswara (who later assumed the title as Sultan Iskandar Syah after reverting to Islam) was born in Palembang. The museum also specifically dedicated one exhibition space as a tribute to Parameswara. We were told that the space is mutually managed by the museum and the State Government of Melaka in Malaysia due to the strong historical ties.
Al-Quran Al-Akbar literally means ‘the giant Quran (Holy Book of Islam)’. As the name suggests, travellers are able to find the world’s largest Quran with 630 pages that contain verses painstakingly carved in tembesu (Fagraea fragrans tree) wood by 35 carvers in a span of seven years, from 2002 until 2009! Even more inspiring, the creation of this religious attraction was achieved solely from public and private donations.
During my visit, some renovation was still taking place. The plan is to enlarge the museum complex further so that eventually it could exhibit all of the Quran’s enormous pages at one go. Currently, the complex could only exhibit half of the Holy Book due to space constraint. If the plan runs smoothly, the enlargement of the complex will be completed in early 2018.
This humble restaurant is smallish in size and has no air-conditioning units installed. However, Rumah Makan Pindang Musi Rawas is well-known among locals for serving authentically delicious local dishes at affordable prices.
Among the highlights that travellers should try are pindang ikan patin (traditional silver catfish stew), udang sambal pete (prawns cooked with chili paste and stink beans) and brengkes ikan patin tempoyak (silver catfish with yellow, thick gravy made from fermented durian).
Palembang is famous for the traditional cake called pempek, thus travellers should savour it at Pondok Tince, once of the best places in town that serves up many types of pempek that come in various forms and flavours such as lenjer, kapal selam, adaan, keriting and pistel; each pempek is prepared differently and has its own flavour. Pempek serves well as a tasty souvenir.
Around 300 years ago, after the collapse of Sriwijaya Kingdom, the Chinese community during the Ming period led by Captain Tjoa Ham Hin settled in Palembang. The Dutch, who colonised Palembang at that time, appointed him as the leader called Kapitan, hence the name of the village.
More than just traditional limas house with heavily Chinese-influenced interior, travellers can expect to encounter friendly locals who are noticeably slit-eyed, claimed to be the 13th generation of the said Chinese community.
Locally known as ‘Kampung Arab’ (Arab Village), this settlement is home to the Arab descendants. There are a few traditional houses that sport heavy Arab influences to be found around here. Just like Kampung Kapitan, the place is now touted as a tourism attraction due to its historical features and significance. These villages attest to Palembang’s diverse and harmonious society that continues to this day.
Considered as a warm-up event for the 2018 Asian Games in Palembang, this yearly event is a rowing competition where participants pass through Palembang rivers, including the iconic Musi River. Already in its 6th series, the event attracted participants not only domestically but also from China, Singapore, Brunei, Philippines and Malaysia.
Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia for making the writer’s trip to South Sumatra possible. For more information about South Sumatra, please browse www.indonesia.travel.
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 13.2. Read the magazine for free HERE.