📍 Surabaya, 18th of August 2018.
Today we are traveling to Surabaya – the Frankfurt of Indonesia, an industrial city Northeast of Yogya. This city is not very popular with tourists, acting more like a transfer point for anybody traveling to see Mt Bromo. We took a 5h train in the Executive Class, since it was only a little bit more expensive than the standard. The train is rather comfortable with plenty of legroom (I couldn’t even reach the seat in front of me). No wifi, but at least sockets to charge our laptops 😊
The funny part was finding our platform. We left the station and could see trains on platform 1, 2 and signs to platforms 4-6. Of course, the platform we were looking for was 3. So, the trick to get to platform 3 is to go through the trains on platforms 1 and 2, hopefully before either of them leaves 😉
Another interesting aspect is the security at the train station – it is like at the airport, only holders of boarding passes could enter. You even have boarding pass printing computers standing in front of the security, if, like us, you didn’t manage to find a place to print your tickets in advance (handy!).
Exploring the city
After checking in Hotel 88 (we chose this one because it had the best breakfast photos and we were dying for some nice morning meal), we took a grab to Kya Kya (Surabaya Chinatown). Unfortunately, only after we arrived did the driver tell us that everything was closed. Not willing to believe him nor to give up, we decided to stroll through the neighbourhood in the quest for food (a reoccurring mission on our trip 😉). Instead of finding absolutely anything open, we ended up exchanging greetings and smiles with almost every person we crossed – apparently two lost Europeans is a rarity here. Was lovely – a smile given, a smile received – going to miss this friendliness!
Our goalless wandering lead us to smaller streets and something which looked like a market, albeit a closing one. Hoping we’d be able to still find something to eat there, we entered the labyrinth of small, dark and stinky alleys of the market. Animals, faeces and rotting food on the floor contributed to not the most appealing aroma; not seeing an exit, we were starting to get a bit anxious. Luckily, soon after that we reached the still open fish area of the market. Although we were rushing to the exit, in passing we could still greet the singing and laughing fisherman and their huge catch. The fish must be so fresh and delicious! Next time…
When we finally made it to a road with some food, we realised we were really not in the mood for another sate or fried noodles. Instead, we went for snacks resembling some sort of a pancake - a “Mexican burger” and “kebab”. It really didn’t exactly look nor taste like neither but was delicious nevertheless. Some sort of dough with veggies, spicy sauce and meat – enough to numb the hunger.
The magical d-tour
The sight we wanted to see in Surabaya was the longest Indonesian bridge, connecting the islands of Java with Madura. Since it was already dark, the view was promising to be spectacular, especially from the rooftop of North Quay (or so we thought). An hour walk to the harbour was good to stretch after sitting most of the day on the train. Throughout Indonesia walking is a bit of a challenge, since there are no pedestrian roads. You end up walking on the driveway, which can be very uncomfortable, especially at night. This is particularly true for Surabaya, where on top of everything mentioned the roads are not well lit.
To reduce the chances of being hit by a car or a scooter, we went off the planned route and decided to walk on a smaller parallel road. The best decision ever made! Just 10 meters off the main road with heavy traffic there was a cute residential area with typical one-floor Indonesian houses and booming life. It felt like stepping into some parallel universe. Probably still celebrating Indonesia’s independence, there was a huge fest through the whole village – music on every corner, kids’ attractions, dinners being served and shared with neighbours.
Everybody seemed to be so happy! Although we felt like intruding (and hence didn’t take any pictures), we were so warmly welcomed and invited to join. At the end of the village a stage was setup and locals slowly filling up the chairs rounded up the stage. There was probably some entertainment program to follow. The street we had to take was thus blocked. It didn’t take long for people around us to notice it and to escort us to the exit. The only thing we had to do before leaving was to go on stage and take a couple of pictures with the locals 😊 Immediately the crowd in front of us took out their phones, snapping one picture after another. The biggest cheer we got was when we asked if we could take a selfie with them as well 😊 Going through this village (?) was so much fun and the absolute highlight of the day! We couldn’t stop smiling for a while after leaving.
When we reached the harbour, we realised the place was nothing like what we had envisioned. Instead of the rooftop bar with a view on the bridge, there was a food court with a small terrace and a view on the ship in front of it. The bridge could barely be seen from here (oooops, that was not very well planned on my side).
Late night shopping
Since the rooftop plan failed, we decided to return and to visit one of the huge malls to buy a couple of things we were missing. We chose World Trade Centre, as it sounded like something which would offer a wide range of products. Nope! The huge mall was dedicated solely to mobile phones. Not even electronics, just mobile phones. There were like 30 shops of Samsung, LG, oppo and other brands. Probably different resellers? How crazy! On a second thought, it was probably not that surprising there would be a shop for mobile phones only. It feels like in Indonesia (guessing the same would be elsewhere in Asia as well) every single person, elderly or child, no matter how poor, no matter what they are doing has a smartphone. This also reassured me that my phone will never be stolen, since nobody here would need that old crap. Huh 😀
We finished the evening in the hugest mall of Surabaya – Tunjungan Plaza, which consists of six separate malls connected with pathways. This was another parallel world experience – the mall looks super fancy with expensive brands on every floor and an endless flow of people. Tired of buzzing crowds and still not having found what we came there for, we went for a cup of coffee and a cake. This cost us more than lunch and all the cab drives of the day. Nevertheless, a delicious way to finish the day where nothing seemed to go according to the plan.
Crossing the road be like
"David, maybe you should focus on the traffic if you don't want to be killed!" - panicky Darja 😉