Heroic History of Surabaya
As the second largest cities in Indonesia, Surabaya kept many stories to share and obviously this monumental city also took an important part in Indonesian revolution during 1945. Before we talk about it, let’s back to the era where the name of Surabaya was given to this city. In the year 1225 a book which written by Chau Ju-Kua revealed the existence of Sulumayi and Jung-ya-lu, the ancient name of Surabaya that time. Besides foreign encounters, this city also plays important role for Javanese’s Sultanate during 15th – 16th centuries.
Surabaya was once captured by Sultanate Mataram (Mataram Kingdom, which centralized in Jogjakarta) under charismatic leader, Sultan Agung. It wasn’t an easy conquer task for the Mataram since Surabaya was helped by its allies Sukadana and Madura. Under the Mataram Rules, Surabaya simply became one of the strategic posts in Eastern Java area and gave major support for the Sultanate expansion especially in naval force.
The history of Surabaya continued and it was East Indies Companies (the Dutch) that took-over the city from Mataram in year 1743. Since that time, Surabaya became the largest naval base for the East Indies Companies and major trading post was built to strengthen the Dutch domination in the new colony. This situation changed as the Japanese came to Indonesia and without resistance Surabaya felt into Japanese control in the year 1942. Two years since the Japanese conquered Surabaya, this city was bombed by the allied forces in the year 1944 and Indonesian Nationalists seized this city as the Independence Day Proclaimed by Soekarno – Hatta in the year 1945.
The long track-record which clearly shown a high spirit of arek – arek suroboyo (it is Javanese language which means Surabaya people) to fight for their mother land hasn’t stop at that time as the epic battle happened on November, 10th 1945. It was a fierce battle between Indonesian Nationalists with the Allied forces (surely the Dutch was also took part in this Alliance to take back their domination in Surabaya). The battle started after the British Brigadier Mallaby died on October 30th, 1945 and that was tragedy for the Allied forces so they gave ultimatum to the republicans to surrender immediately but the republicans refused.
The Battle of Surabaya was recorded as one of the most important battles in Indonesian revolution and it was Bung Tomo, the famous local leader who encourages entire Surabaya to fight against the new imperialism that brought by the Allied forces and freed their mother land once again. The icon of this battle was the incident of Red-White-Blue Flag which torn apart into Red-White flag at the top of Yamato Hotel’s tower as a symbol of resistance to the (new) Dutch Imperialism ambition.
Thousands of lives were gone in that battle and today Indonesians gave honor to the heroes who died bravely in the Battle of Surabaya with National Celebration on every November 10th and Indonesians called the Memorial Day as the Heroes Day (Hari Pahlawan).
The name of Surabaya and the city today
Most of Javanese especially East Javanese and Surabaya people believes that Surabaya as a name came from a Legend. Centuries ago there was story about spiritual creature fight along north coast-line of Java between Suro (Shark) and Boyo (Crocodile). The brutal fight (to gain the most powerful animal title) between those spiritual creatures ended near MaduraStrait, exactly at the place where Surabaya city grown up today. That legend passed down between generations and today the Spiritual Creature (Suro and Boyo) chosen as the Symbol of Surabaya city. We can see Suro and Boyo monument near the City Zoo entrance point which is very attractive.
So, how is Surabaya today? Similar like other big cities in Indonesia, Surabaya has everything to offer either for business or leisure. This city has grown up into one of the biggest cities in South East Asia. With total area (city and metro) around 2.179km2 and population reached 3 million people (in main city) and around 7 million people (in metro/supporting areas such as Lamongan-Northwest, Gresik-West, Bangkalan-Northeast, Sidoarjo-South, Mojokerto and Jombang-Southwest) surely this city nearly match with Jakarta’s superiority. All of the supporting areas which explained before formed special supporting region that famous as Gerbangkertosusila. In the year 2009 exactly on 10th June, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) led the ceremonial celebration of the first SuramaduBridge operational. This bridge connects Surabaya-MaduraIsland and currently recorded as the longest bridge in Indonesia. Besides direct land access through Suramadu bridge, Madura also can be accessed by a ferry which operated regularly from Tanjung Perak (the busiest port in Indonesia).
As the city for business people, Surabaya offers many Malls such as the famous Tunjungan Plaza, GrandCity, Pakuwon Indah Supermal, Surabaya Town Square, etc. There are also local TV studio, Various Universities and JuandaInternationalAirport which claimed as the second busiest airport in Indonesia after Soekarno-Hatta (Cengkareng) InternationalAirport. This city supported with major train route that connects major cities such as Semarang and Jogjakarta so it is very simple to go there by train. Three main train stations in Surabaya are Surabaya Kota or also known as Semut, Pasar Turi and Gubeng. Going there by bus is also another option that surely must be tried by the travelers and the biggest bus terminal which can be found in Surabaya is Purabaya or also known as Bungurasih.
Surabaya never changed as the main base for naval forces and Indonesia has the biggest marine HQ in this city. The location of the city is very ideal for marine HQ and some of famous naval school also established in here. Marine HQ in Surabaya has a unique icon which is a submarine named KRI Pasopati 410 that built by the Russian in the year 1952. This old-school submarine has retired from battle but today it serves people who want to take an adventure inside the submarine. Yes, Pasopati 410 was decommissioned in the year 1990 and it was turned cleverly into a monument.
Most of local people of Surabaya speaks with local Javanese dialect which known as Suroboyoan. Although for some areas of java this dialect is somehow rude but actually people of Surabaya are very friendly. They are types of person who likes to talk directly to the matters and assume everyone as equal in social rank. The equality spirit of arek – arek suroboyo can be seen clearly as there is no level of Javanese speech just like other Java areas. Old person will talk directly to the young one and vice versa, no certain level of Javanese speech such as Kromo or other, just Suroboyoan. They just talk like this “hey son where are you going?” and the son said, “None of your business pap!” Well, for some areas of Java that kind of conversation is very rude but in Surabaya it is no problem.
Attractions and Interesting Places in Surabaya
As explained before, Surabaya has many things to offer and you need at least 3 days to explore interesting places briefly here. Start from the historical building, there is Heroes monument which built as an icon for Heroic life of Surabaya from the ancient centuries to the monumental November 10th, 1945, there is also Surabaya Zoo (Kebun Binatang Surabaya). This Zoo is considered as the pioneer in Indonesia and established since 1916 and recorded as the first Zoo in the world that succeed in orangutan breeding project. Recently the Surabaya Zoo announced that they will have giant aquarium and release new attraction program which named The Night Zoo (tentative). The Surabaya Zoo development program has started and scheduled will be finished in fourth quarter of 2014.
Next is related to religion attractions. Surabaya known as multi-culture and multi-race city and this is the only city in Indonesia that has synagogue. Although Islam is the main religion in Surabaya but other people (with different religion) can live in harmony without any worried about sarcasm or other disturbing situation that might be happened for minority. The biggest mosque in East Java (Al-Akbar Mosque) can be found in this city and the biggest Islamic organization in Indonesia, The Nahdlatul Ulama a.k.a. NU also well-established in Surabaya. The famous and low-profile President of the Republic of Indonesia KH.Abdurrahman Wahid a.k.a. Gus Dur was key person in Nahdlatul Ulama and most people in East Java said Gus Dur was equal to Wali (Saint). We can find the Nahdlatul Ulama museum in East Gayungsari and for traveler who wants to see Javanese ancient artifact, Museum Mpu Tantular is the target. Since Chinese element has influenced some of local building don’t be surprised you will see the beautiful Cheng Ho Mosque in Surabaya. That mosque is the first Chinese architectural mosque ever built in Indonesia.
For travelers around the world who wants to seek the extraordinary sex pleasure Dolly is the place. It is an ironic reality that Dolly is very famous (even in South East Asia) and its popularity easily exceeds the popularity of other tourist’s attractions such as the Surabaya Zoo and Heroes monument (Tugu Pahlawan).
Dolly a.k.a. The Dollywood is the biggest prostitution area in Surabaya as well in Indonesia. More than 1080 girls are ready to be your mate as long as you like. Although the girls are hot like dolls but surely they aren’t your dolls, so just don’t do anything stupid here otherwise you will be blacklisted and other bigger problem could be yours. This place is just like a haven for “sex hunter” travelers but other type of travelers also can visit this area just to feel the hype and buy some drinks in café which located next to The Dollywood.
Traveling around the city will be boring without something to eat, isn’t it? Don’t worry Surabaya is the place of remarkable dishes. From street food to five star hotel dishes can be found easily all day long. Some of street-food stalls choose Duck (Bebek in Bahasa Indonesia) as their main dish. There are various types of Duck based dish but the most popular are Roasted Duck and Fried Crispy Duck.
For people with high-cholesterol level it is important to take cucumber juice as beverage to prevent the high-cholesterol problem after taking culinary adventure in Surabaya. Besides duck, other dish that must be on the list is Rawon. Yes, rawon is very challenging for most people especially if you find dice of beef inside the large bowl of black soup. Tadaaa, i got the beef what about you? Rawon is a traditional dish from East Java and surely there are various types of Rawon and we will share it further on other article.
Besides the food and beverage Surabaya also famous for traditional act performance which called Ludruk. Usually Ludruk performed for local television show or a very special occasion such as marriage and celebration day. Unfortunately these days Ludruk is rarely can be found in this city since modern lifestyle became very popular among young people of Surabaya.
Even some of local art performer said that Ludruk is near to extiction, wow that’s a major problem for everyone in Surabaya but I am sure there is still enough time to regenerate this rare skill and pass the tradition to the next generation in Indonesia especially Surabaya.
Another epic attraction of Surabaya is absolutely the Persebaya. This local football club was established in the year 1927 and today it is became one of the most admirable football clubs in Indonesian Football League. Persebaya also famous as Bajul Ijo it is because the Green Jersey of Persebaya always associated with Crocodile that never stops to hunt down its prey. For football fans, you can visit their home-base at Gelora Bung Tomo, the home of BONEK.
The members of this controversial fans-club of Persebaya always ready to die for their sacred club. BONEK itself abbreviated from BOndo NEKat which means “Nothing to Loose” other people might say “Die Hard” or “Tough Boy” anyway Bonek always came to other cities when there is league fixture for Persebaya. They will do anything to support the Persebaya team including doing dangerous things which will give impact either for themselves or other people. Sounds pretty scary isn’t it?? but that’s the spirit of BONEK and other group of football fans in Indonesia considered BONEK is the core of football fans which totally “all for football”.
So, visiting East Java without feel the spirit of Suro and Boyo is likely similar to dancing without soul. Whenever you came to Indonesia especially East Java, grab your ticket to Surabaya and once you arrived there you will understand why this city deserves the title of City of Heroes.
By Amar Pujo Wicaksono
(Contributor at visitingjava.com)