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A Melting-pot Of People, Cultures & Cuisines

In global terms Indonesia has demonstrated remarkable resilience over the last decade and in many ways is developing into a regional power, not just because of its size but because of its increasing attractiveness as an investment hub.  

There are, of course, huge challenges ahead, but as the rapidly growing middle class testifies, entrepreneurship, improved accountability and openness continue to be the engine of change and a conduit by which people are given the chance to add both personal wealth and to the development of the nation.   

Due to its sheer geographical scale, Indonesia is a hugely diverse country with an incredible array of differing landscapes, people, cultures, cuisines and expectations. The historical influences, from the invaders and traders to the pre and post-colonial religious and cultural influences, have shaped and continue to shape the nation, both its urban and rural populations. For the older generation, the country must be unrecognisable, whilst at the same time for their younger peers, especially those in its major cities, it must be impossible to consider the difficulties most of their grandparents endured.

Alongside the economic progress there has also been a movement towards defining what it means to be Indonesian, an impossible task some might argue, however a goal that has seen a resurgence in the traditional Indonesian arts, the evolution of Indonesian fine dining and a growing assertion of nationhood that embraces the country’s variety and history.

Perhaps this is what Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz meant in 1677 when he coined the phrase Unity in Diversity, adopted on independence by Indonesia as its motto. The phrase was a deliberate oxymoron on the part of Leibniz as he looked to advance multiculturalism in Europe, but for the Republic of Indonesia, it precisely captures both the strength and potential within and that is something to rejoice in. So, together, let’s Celebrate Indonesia.

“The gateway to the beauty of Bromo & the Spice Islands.”

With a large natural harbour, Surabaya was one of the earliest port cities in Southeast Asia and rivalled both Shanghai and Hong Kong through the 18TH and 19TH centuries in terms of global importance. It was the largest city in the Dutch East Indies until surpassed by Batavia in 1920, as well as being the centre of much of its trade from the Spice Islands and the plantations of Java. Its location at the edge of the Straits of Madura also made it a port of significant strategic military value and it was home to the Dutch East Indies fleet.

Today, after a long and often violent pre and post-colonial history, Surabaya is the capital of the Indonesian province of East Java and is a vibrant metropolis with modern skyscrapers towering over both traditional and modern Javanese homes, canals and a selection of colonial buildings, some like the Hotel Majapahit in the centre of Surabaya being classic legacy buildings. Like most port cities, Surabaya has a thriving Chinatown and Arab Quarter that expanded as the traders, sailors and migrant workers settled and added their own flavour to the city. Today it remains a melting-pot of cultures, styles and cuisines. The dining and nightlife in the city is a reflection of city’s people and, with a large Muslim majority, naturally there are huge numbers of halal cafés and restaurants serving both local and Arabic food. There is also a plethora of international options, with some outstanding Italian, Indian and Cantonese restaurants in particular.

Surabaya is full of commemorative statues and interesting references to the Indonesian battle for independence. The city is often referred as Kota Pahlawan, or the city of heroes, a specific reference to the role of the Battle of Surabaya which, although the Indonesian side were heavily beaten, acted as a catalyst and galvanized support for the independence movement both at home and abroad; a pivotal moment in the wider struggle. For the more adventurous traveller Surabaya is also the gateway to the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, Java’s most recognisable and beautiful vista and home to the Tenggerese, who claim to be the direct descendants of the Majapahit princes. The population of roughly 100,000 is found in just 30 villages in the isolated higher reaches of the park, where they practice a unique mix of Hinduism infused with Animism and Buddhism.