The Tawang polder in front of the Tawang railway station.
|- Total||225.17 km2 (86.9 sq mi)|
|Time zone||WIB (UTC+7)|
Semarang is a city on the north coast of the island of Java, Indonesia. It is the capital of the province of Central Java. It has an area of 225.17 km² and a population of approximately 1.5 million people, making it Indonesia's fifth largest city. Semarang is located at . A major port during the Dutch colonial era, and still an important port today, the city has a large ethnically Chinese population.
The name of the city, Semarang, may have originated from the concatenation of the words "assam" (tamarind) and "arang" (rare). Another version is that Semarang is originated from Chinese word Sam Po Lang (San Bao Loong, 三宝垄), meaning "the city of Sam Po" (Admiral Zheng He).
Semarang's history dates back to the ninth century, when it was known as Bergota. By the end of fifteenth century, a Javanese Islamic missionary from nearby Sultanate of Demak with the name of Kyai Pandan Arang founded a village and an Islamic boarding school in this place. On May 1, 1547, after consulting Sunan Kalijaga, Sultan Hadiwijaya of Pajang declared Kyai Pandan Arang the first bupati (regent) of Semarang, thus culturally and politically, on this day Semarang was born.
In 1678, Sunan Amangkurat II promised to give control of Semarang to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) as a part of a debt payment. In 1682, the Semarang state was founded by the Dutch colonial power. On October 5, 1705 after years of occupations, Semarang officially became a VOC city when Susuhunan Pakubuwono I made a deal to give extensive trade rights to the VOC in exchange of wiping out Mataram's debt. The VOC, and later, the Dutch East Indies government, established tobacco plantations in the region and built roads and railroads, making Semarang an important colonial trading centre.
In the 1920s, the city became a center of leftist and nationalist activism. With the founding of the Communist Party of Indonesia in the city, Semarang became known as the "Red City". The Japanese military occupied the city along with the rest of Java in 1942, during Pacific War of World War II. During that time, Semarang was headed by a military governor called a Shiko), and two vice governors known as Fuku Shiko. One of the vice governors was appointed from Japan, and the other was chosen from the local population. After Indonesian independence in 1945, Semarang became the capital of Central Java province.
The city of Semarang divided into 16 districts (kecamatan) and 177 sub-districts of (kelurahan). The 16 districts are: West Semarang, East Semarang, Central Semarang, North Semarang, South Semarang, Candisari, Gajahmungkur, Gayamsari, Pedurungan, Genuk, Tembalang, Banyumanik, Gunungpati, Mijen, Ngaliyan, and Tugu.
A Bupati (regent) used to be the head of government in Semarang until 1906. After 1906, the city of Semarang was headed by a Mayor (Walikota).
Mayors of Semarang after Indonesian independence:
Semarang is located on the northern coast of Java. The northern part of the city is built on the coastal plain while the southern parts, known as Candi Lama and Candi Baru, are on higher ground. Two Dutch-built aquaducts run through the city to control the yearly flood, one on the east side and one through the west side, essentially dividing the city into three major areas.
The western part of the city is home to many industrial parks and factories. The port of Semarang is located on the north coast and it is the main shipping port for the province of Central Java. Many small manufacturers are located in Semarang, producing goods such as textiles, furniture, and processed foods. Large companies, such as Kubota and Coca-Cola, also have plants in Semarang or its outer towns.
Many major banks in Indonesia have large offices in Semarang. These include BCA, BNI, Panin Bank, HSBC, Permata, and Bank Mandiri. Most of these offices are located in the center of the city, especially around Jalan Pandanaran and Jalan Pemuda.
Hospitality is becoming increasingly important in Semarang. It is home to about a dozen upscale hotels that cater to business travelers and tourists, including Hotel Horison, Hotel Ciputra, Grand Candi Hotel and Hotel Gumaya.
Consumer activity spending remains strong Semarang. Most locals attend daily or weekly markets, like Pasar Johar. The majority of stores in Semarang are small, family-owned businesses. However, larger Indonesian companies as well as foreign companies have begun to open their own stores here. Carrefour, a French hypermarket chain, opened its first store in Central Java at DP Mall in Semarang, the newest of 3 large shopping malls in the city. The other two malls are Ciputra Mall and the Java Supermall. A fourth mall, scheduled to be open late 2009, will be the largest shopping center in Central Java Province.
The population of Semarang is predominantly Javanese, though with smaller numbers of people from many regions in Indonesia. The city is known for its large ethnically Chinese population. The main languages spoken are Indonesian and Javanese. Sometimes Hokkien Chinese or Mandarin is spoken among the Chinese residence.
Semarang is home to several notable universities and high schools. A notable state-owned university at Semarang is Diponegoro University and Semarang State University. Other notable universities are Soegijapranata Catholic University and Sultan Agung Islamic University. Among the other schools is Karangturi, a national private school which has facilities for children in Kindergarten through senior high school. Karangturi is known for having a high proportion of Chinese-Indonesian students.
As a result of its large ethnically Chinese population, the city boasts several Chinese temples. These include Sam Po Kong (Gedung Batu), built in honour of the Chinese Great Admiral Zheng He who visited the area in 1405, and Tay Kak Sie Temple. Blenduk Church, a 1753 Protestant church built by the Dutch, is located in the old town (called "Oudstad"). Tugu Muda (Youth Monument), a monument to heroes of Indonesia's independence struggle, is located in a large roundabout surrounded by famous buildings such as Gedung Lawang Sewu and the Semarang Cathedral. Jalan Pemuda, one of the roads leading into the roundabout, is a major shopping street. The Cathedral of the Holy Rosary is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Semarang.
Semarang is widely known for its Bandeng Presto (pressure-cooked milkfish) and Lumpia.
The city's name derives from the Javanese words "asem" and "arang" which literary translate to "scarce tamarind."
Semarang lies in the northern part of Central Java. It is a bustling mid-size town with 1.5 million population. More a business than tourism destination, it nevertheless has its own charm with contrasting modern mid-rises, Dutch colonial architecture, China town, and small kampongs jut against each other.
The city weather is hot and humid. Wear cotton clothes. You do not need a long sleeve shirt, instead a T-shirt and knee-long trousers are comfortable. Some places like mosques (masjid) and temples require polite dress such as long trousers/skirts. Hot pants/mini skirts will attract people attention and might be considered impolite.
Semarang is off the tourist trail and knowing even basic Indonesian will be helpful (and courteous), although younger people can often speak some English.
Semarang's Airport is Achmad Yani International Airport, quite nearby from the city centre. Daily flights are available to many major cities in Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia, Merpati Nusantara, Mandala Air, Batavia Air, Sriwijaya Air and Jatayu Airlines fly to Jakarta daily. Merpati also has daily flight to Surabaya. Deraya flies to Pangkalanbun and Bandung. There is also flight service to Yogyakarta by Trigana Air/Kalstar. Trigana Air/Kalstar and Indonesia Air Transport also fly daily to Pankalanbun.
Semarang is connected to Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya by trains. Interestingly, there is no comparable railway service to Yogyakarta, although a railway line exists. The Argo Muria express connects Semarang to Jakarta, and with its relatively new equipment (2002), is very comfortable. The downside is the very early departure (5.00 AM!) to Jakarta. Overnight trains are also available. The fastest train between Semarang and Jakarta takes around 6 hours.
Bandung and Surabaya are also connected to Semarang with air-conditioned eksekutif class trains.
There are two main railway station in Semarang, Stasiun Tawang and Stasiun Poncol.
On the northern main line, between Semarang and Pekalongan, the railway line follows the coast line, providing passengers with beautiful views of the Java Sea.
Semarang can be reached by car from Jakarta. It takes around 10 to 12 hours depending on the road traffic. You can choose to leave early in the morning from Jakarta to arrive in Semarang the next 12 hours. Over night drive is faster yet more challenging and even dangerous for "Pantura" non familiar driver. Pantura derives from "Pantai" which means Beach and "Utara" which means North.
From Jakarta you can take the route eastward via Cikampek toll road. Go along the toll road until your reach Cikampek toll gate, take left and you are in "Pantura Road". In Pantura road you have to follow the direction sign "Cirebon", "Pekalongan", "Kendal", "Semarang" or "Surabaya" as those cities are eastward from Jakarta.
You will pass small towns like Patrol, Jatibarang, and relatively bigger ones like Cirebon. Before entering Cirebon, you can take the toll road instead of taking into Cirebon traffic if you do not want to drop by in Cirebon. After exit from the Cirebon toll road, you will drive eastward along Losari and then you will pass Tegal, Pemalang, Pekalongan and Kendal before you arrive in Semarang.
Gas station are abundant, you can see them almost every 5 or 10 kilometers along the road. They have toilet facilities. Pay Rp1,000 (US$ 10 cents). Beware of small or old gas station, they have poor lighting and terrible toilet. Choose a newer and bigger gas station with good lighting parking space and clean toilets. Please make sure that you have locked your car and do not leave your valuable unattended.
Many bus services from Jakarta to Semarang. You can choose to go in the day time with air conditioned (A/C) from Pasar Rebo Bus Terminal in East Jakarta, Kalideres Bus Terminal in West Jakarta or from Lebak Bulus Bus Terminal in South Jakarta. The overnight bus with A/C are also available with good services. You can choose bus operators such as: "Rosalia Indah" , "Raya", "Kramat Jati", Safari Dharma Raya  as the good reputed bus serving Jakarta to Semarang. Sometimes the bus route is Jakarta to Solo via Semarang, you can choose them too, but please remind the bus driver's assistant (usually male, a person who check your ticket onboard the bus) to wake you up in Semarang.
There is also the executive-class tourist bus Joglosemar, that connects Jogjakarta, Solo and Semarang (hence the name). Joglosemar picks up tourists from specific hotels and provide snacks and water for your trip. Considerably pricier than other executive buses, it is more comfortable and provides a friendly service throughout the journey.
If you are on a group, you can also rent a "Tourist/Charter Bus" .
Jakarta - Semarang (vice versa) traditionally travelled via railway, northern coast road ("pantura") or by plane. A trip by a sea vessel is uncommon due to its rare schedule and length of journey that takes too long compared with train (approx 6 hours) and over night bus (9 hours).
However, cruise ships occasionally spend a day in port. The port has few facilities for passengers, but an informal market of street vendors often assembles outside the secure area. Most passengers take tours to Borobudur.
There are plenty of mini bus (locally called angkot/daihatsu) and medium-sized bus called Damri in the city. These mini bus go to different destinations as follows:
As 2008 Dishub Pemda Semarang operating Damri AC for Rp 5,000
As September 2009 There is Bus rapid transit (BRT) called Trans Semarang planned route:
The mini bus has a route travelled written on the top-front of the bus. The route normally written in the form of 'origin-destination' and sometimes with 'via' information if there are more than 1 mini bus ply the same origin-destination but through a different path in between.
For example: Daihatsu Johar-Sampangan, means the origin is from Johar terminal and going to Sampangan and vice-versa. The fares for the mini-bus is around Rp.2000-3000.
Some popular places in Semarang that can be reached by mini bus/bus are:
Make sure you ask the conductor/driver of the minibus before you board for the route it goes and whether it pass the place you want to go.
Taxis are very safe and comfortable, and reasonably priced (starting price of Rp4000).
Make sure you understand the route or ask your friend. Make sure the driver use the meter ("argo"). If he refused to use the meter, use other taxis. List of taxi companies:
Fuel for your car (if you rent a car) are "Premium", "Pertamax" and "Pertamax Plus" for gasoline fueled car and "Solar" for diesel engined car. It is not self service, you cannot fill in the gasoline yourself. The gas station has their employees who will help you and you have to pay to them for the fuel according to the fuel meter reading.
Northern Semarang has a lot of old Dutch colonial buildings. This was where the old walled city located. The wall is no longer there, but many of the old building remains, especially in the area called Kota Lama (The Old Town or Oudstadt). On certain months, this part of Semarang is flooded by the rising tide (called "rob" in Javanese).
Semarang has a very good landscape, some says best landscape thanks to its coastal area in the northern part of the city with Tanjung Mas as its international harbour and hilly area in the southern part streching from Candi area to Bukit Sari with picturesque Mount Ungaran at the background.
Before you get into hilly area named Bukit Sari, you will see on your left Taman Tabanas Gombel where you can stop by, drink tea and see Semarang's view from the hill. It's view is really beautiful and romantic during the night time.
Gunung Ungaran with its tea and jasmine plantation, Gua Kreo/Kreo Cave with its interesting stalactite and stalagmite and of course Marina at Tanjung Mas are the alternatives for those who has more than 2 free days in Semarang.
Tugu Muda is one of Semarang's landmark. It is situated westward off Simpang Lima, one of the 5 streets crossing Simpang Lima named Jalan Pandanaran. This monument commemorated the 5 days of fierce battle (October 14-19, 1945) between Indonesian freedom fighters and Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender their weapons.
There are some Dutch colonial buildings around Tugu Muda; the most famous one is Lawang Sewu which means A Thousand Doors. It was built as the headquarter of the local railway company. During World War II, it was used as the Japanese army's headquarter. The building is now empty and in a dilapidated state (and notoriously haunted), nevertheless it is still considered as one of Semarang's most prominent landmark.
Semarang is the hosts of some universities/colleges. Diponegoro University is the state university. It is the biggest and the oldest university with good reputed faculty of law, economics, medicine, architecture, engineering, fisheries etc. It hosts more than 10 thousand students in its two campus, Pleburan (in the downtown) and Tembalang in the southern hilly part of Semarang. Islamic University of Sultan Agung and Catholic University of Soegijapranata are major private universities in Semarang.
For business travellers, Semarang is a transit city where you only have a chance to see Semarang's bustling activities from the taxi or hotel's window.
Semarang is also an industrial city. Many companies open their manufacture sites in eastern, western and southern part of Semarang. For foreigner who wants to work in Semarang, this place is a good place because of its landscape. You can live in the hilly and considerably cooler housing area in Candi or Bukit Sari while you work in the downtown area. Traffic jam is considered fewer than Bandung or Surabaya. For visitor from Jakarta, driving car in Semarang is "heaven" for its much fewer traffic jam compared with Jakarta.
Semarang is the home of the biggest "Jamu" (means "javanese traditional herbal") industry such as Jamu Jago, Nyonya Meneer and others.
Most of Jakarta's major banks and companies open their branches in Semarang. For its relatively close vicinity with Jakarta (only 40 minutes by plane) and 6 hours by train, Semarang receives many branches of companies and enjoys its status as the major hub in Java island.
Currency used is Rupiah (Rp). You can find money changer in the downtown area, or simply get into banks and you will get fair exchange rate. Please note that in practice, money changer and banks are not accepting US$ bank notes with issuance year 1999 backwards because of the experience in Indonesia mostly found US$ with issuance year 1999 backward had been forged.
Near the airport in Jendral Sudirman street, there is Money Changer "Golden Valasindo", which accept most of foreign currency include US$ bank notes with issuance year before 1999. The phone number is (024) 766 32631.
Banks are open between 8.30 a.m to 3.00 p.m.
You can visit some malls available in Semarang such as Sri Ratu (the first mall in Semarang from the 80's), Matahari Plaza, Ciputra Mall Java Mall and the DP Mall. There, you can buy batik (Javanese handwritten cloth), antiques and the traditional items in "Johar Market" or in Bahasa Indonesia called "Pasar Johar" (spell "Pa Saar Jouw Har). They have plenty of choices. Ask if you can get assistance from hotel staff or a travel agent staff to take you around Pasar Johar. It is also accessible by Angkot (vans) from Simpang Lima.
Semarang have many arts and crafts shops around the city. They normally sell Javanese arts, paintings and clothes including Batik. Some shops popularly visited by tourist are:
Many travelers buy Bandeng Presto (pressure cooked milk fish), Lumpia Semarang (a kind of spring rolls with bamboo shoots filling), Roti Sanitas (famous bakery), Wingko Babat (sticky rice and coconut in a variety of flavors). If buying from street vendors or open stalls, you might look for locals as an indication the food is done well.
There are hawker-style food stalls and tents all across Semarang. They are very popular and offer good food at unbelievably cheap prices. Please note as they are not permanent establishments, they do not have phone numbers and exact address. However, they usually open in the same spots and at a regular time everyday. Also, as in any hawker-style establishments, hygiene is not a top priority here.
Simpang Lima in the heart of Semarang has plenty of food stalls offering variety of Indonesian and Javanese food. The price is cheap, sometimes very cheap, you can eat 1 piece of leg or thigh of fried chicken plus 1 plate of steamed rice for as little as Rp 10,000 (equivalent to US$ 1). You can also get into other tents to try other meals, some of them offering "lesehan" or "sit down on a carpet" during your meal time. Beef or chicken satay (grilled beef of chicken) is mouth watering with peanut sauce and hot chilli while "fried rice" or nasi goreng babat situated in "Air Mancur" or fountain southward off Simpang Lima and in front of Diponegoro University campus is delicious.
Along Jalan Pahlawan, south of Simpang Lima, you will also face many food stalls under tents, selling a variety of foods from "Gudeg" (Javanese steam sweet sour vegetables), Bubur ayam (Chicken porridge), Jagung bakar (grilled corn) and many others. Pamper yourself with plenty of good foods yet very cheap.
Semawis is another place to go for hawker-style food. Located on Gang Warung in the China Town, it opens only weekend nights (friday, Saturday and Sunday) and has a variety of food stalls offering authentic Semarang cuisine and delicacies.
Food Stalls (Note: Unless stated otherwise, these foodstalls only open after sunset everyday)
In Semarang it is not easy to find bars. However, lately a few stylish venues have sprung up, mainly caters to the trendy young population.
There are few bars and cafe around 'Simpang Lima' location (right in the downtown).After sunset, please avoid small tents selling homemade tea (teh poci) as lots of hookers looking for targets, especially rich looking travellers.
Wedhang means hot soothing drink. You can get them in Simpang Lima, hotels or restaurants in Semarang. One of the most popular variety is STMJ (Susu Telor Madu Jahe, a concoction of milk, egg, honey, and ginger drink). For more Wedhang:
If you want to travel with backpackers style, you can go to Jalan Kauman and you'll find a lot of hostel there. With less than u$20 you can get a nice, clean, and air-conditioned room in Hotel Bali and Rahayu at Jalan Imam Bonjol.
Semarang's safety is considered moderate. The people are nice, especially to stranger (western tourist especially); People are helpful and friendly.
Never touch anyone's head (especially teenagers and older men) as it is considered as "insult" and might invite troubles. In the crowded bus/train/small car used as public transportation, "un-intended touch" is tolerated. Never look at someone (especially young men) straight to the eyes more than 3 times as it might be considered as "challenging them to fight" (this is apply especially in bigger town/city - as the villagers are more friendly to strangers).
Semarang is neither a small city nor huge like Jakarta. Everyone is urged to take account universal rules such as "only walk in the light-bright area"; do not attempt to deal with hookers or trans-sexual hookers which are usually done under secluded and dark area; lady travelers are urged not to travel alone after 11 p.m especially in an unknown dark neighborhood, sometimes even in residential areas. For precautions do carry a mace or pepper sprays. Only take moderate amount of money in an open air ATM.
When riding the public transportation it is not encouraged to wear jewelry, or gaudy and branded or designer watches. Petty thieves are common, but they do not strike when it isn't obvious. During the night take public transportations that have more than a few people in them.
Tap water in Indonesia is not potable. So do not drink your hotel tap water unless you boil it first. Bottled water is very popular and not expensive, popular brand is AQUA, ADES, 2 Tang etc. You can find them in department stores and mini mart such as Indomart, Alfa Mart and even in small street stalls (usually in the corner of street intersection).
Hospitals with 24 hours emergency rooms (ER):
Post offices are easy to find. DHL, TNT, Fedex and other international courier also available. Local courier and shipping company (also serving international courier and freight) is ELTEHA (LTH). Ask your hotel staff to help you dealing with these courier companies.
Tourism Information Centre :
Semarang is the major hub city of Central Java. From Semarang you can go to Dieng Plateau situated north off small town namd Wonosobo for one day tour seeing ancient hindus temple/candi in a former ancient city lies in the misty plateau.
Alternatively, within one and a half hours you can go to Borobudur temple in Muntilan and then to Prambanan temple in Klaten and buy some antiques and batik in Yogyakarta. It take less than 2 hours drive from Semarang to Yogyakarta. Solo is also only one and half hour drive from Semarang.
You can also go further southward to some small towns like Ungaran, Salatiga, Ambarawa, Kopeng and Bandungan. It will take at least a one day tour but is really worth it. You will see beautiful scenery on the way between Semarang, Salatiga and the adjacent cities like Solo and Yogyakarta. You can reach Solo (sometimes called Surakarta) or Yogyakarta in less than 2 hours.
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