Tuesday, October 30, 2012

[SURABAYA] Malling Here, Malling There

I don't really know why I ended up booking a ticket to Surabaya. All I know is that I was supposed to let that ticket go to waste because I was supposed to go back to Manila for a quick return trip for an exam before heading to Indonesia. The exam, however, did not push through, and instead of going back to Manila and then to Jakarta and paying the travel tax again, I just chose to save the KL-Surabaya flight instead of the Manila-Jakarta one. And so there. I ended up in Surabaya which is the capital of East Java. I think I read how Wikitravel compared it to Paris or something. I haven't been to Paris, but I don't really see anything that merits the comparison, at least from what I know about Paris. Surabaya is one of those cities that you'd gladly live in, especially for Filipinos as the atmosphere of the place is pretty much similar to Metro Manila’s, not to mention that they are also addicted to malls, like, there is one in every other block. However, as a touristy place, Surabaya doesn't have that much to offer. That probably explains why tourist attendance is kind of low.

The hostel I booked has a prime location near one of the malls as well as Stasiun Gubeng, which links the city to other big cities in Java. After settling in, I asked the receptionist to suggest some places to visit or to give me some tourism brochures recommending places to see. She was unable to give me one. After a day or two in the city, it was clear why. It is convenient to be a resident of Surabaya but as a tourist, you do not have a lot of options.

Most of what can be seen are heritage buildings from the Dutch period such as government offices and old churches. They also have a plethora of monuments dedicated to various personalities from Indonesia’s history. And that's it. As with any other city, they have party places and nightly hangout venues for the young and the hip, which I no longer bothered to visit because I have no reason for being there. If I wanted my share of night life, I could wait until I get back to Makati, so no thanks. There is also a water park which would've been cool to visit, in every sense of the word, as a refuge from the hellish hot weather. In any case, there is one thing that you should definitely do in Surabaya, and that is malling.    

I have visited two or three and they seem to have the same layout as the malls that we have in Manila. In short, those malls lessen the homesickness you might have to endure while you're here, further aggravated by the lack of interesting things to do. Internationally recognized fast food chains are plenty, from KFC to A&W. For those with more adventurous palates, there's Indonesian cuisine to try in malls or at hawker stalls, of which I only saw few, surprisingly.

If you have the time, patience, and thick skin, you can walk around the central area where most of the tourist attractions are. The distance won't be considered as “walking distance” by most, in which case I recommend hailing a cab. It came as a surprise to me that taxi drivers here are not from hell. They use the meter (say ‘argo’) and the flag down rate is cheap at 5,000 rupiah, although it ticks fast once it starts doing so. I had two taxi rides which didn't exceed 20,000 rupiah each. That would be less than a hundred pesos, pretty much the same fare you would pay a taxi driver in Makati, if he isn't one of the many opportunistic ones.

The most popular of the tourist attractions would be the Sampoerna Museum, located in a rather shady neighborhood not far from Kya-Kya Chinatown. The museum has something to do with the tobacco industry. I only checked out the architecture but no longer bothered to go in. This is, perhaps, the farthest to reach from Jalan Kayun, and I walked all the way there. But then again as I always say, I love walking! Even if the sun wouldn't stop baking me while doing so. Back to Taman Sampoerna, it is located at a rather long road stretching north from another road leading to Chinatown, where you also find some IBIS hotels.

Long story short, I went malling during my first day here and spent half of the day around lunch time walking around and seeing the tourist sites indicated on a tourist map I downloaded from the web. Do I recommend Surabaya as a tourist destination then? Not really. Maybe you can use it to establish a base if you want to visit other destinations in East Java such as Mount Bromo. Otherwise, skip Surabaya, unless you want to reside there, in which case I wouldn't discourage you because it is a modern city teeming with convenience. Less traffic too! But yeah, that is one of the caveats: they are big fans of one way streets, and the scarcity of traffic lights and overpasses simply means waiting forever to cross the road.

Leaving? Catch a train at Stasiun Gubeng. You might want to reserve a seat or buy a ticket a few days before your trip. Trains here are popular forms of transportation and they are cheap. Shell out some cash on executive class. The seats recline and come with a power socket just perfect for charging that laptop! No WiFi, though.

[SURABAYA] Malling Here, Malling There
[EAST JAVA] Budget and Itinerary

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