Charm of Asia Festival: Semarang, Central Java

Semarang city in Central Java is completing preparations for a major festival it will host from Aug. 10 to 15, called Semarang: Charm of Asia.

The festival will feature a wide range of events and performances, including dance performances from Java, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia, Singapore and India, as part of the Inter-Cultural Asian Dance Presentation.

There also will be exhibitions for commercial products from Indonesia and abroad, and promotions for tourist destinations in Semarang and Central Java.

Semarang Information and Communications Office spokesman Achyani said the event would also include the Zheng Ho Festival, to commemorate Chinese Admiral Zheng Ho’s arrival in Semarang 602 years ago.

A replica of Zheng Ho’s vessel has been built on the Semarang River, in front of Tay Kak Sie Temple.

There will be a Chinese lion dance parade, involving 168 groups. They will make their way across the city from Tay Kak Sie Temple in Chinatown to Sam Poo Kong Temple in Gedung Putih, some 5 kilometers away.

Achyani said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially opened the festival, which will be centered in Simpang Lima Square, on Thursday.

The President and his entourage arrived in the city in the morning, and then opened the festival later in the day, Achyani said.

The event is the brainchild of Semarang Mayor Sukawi Sutarip, who is seeking to recreate a similar festival held in the city during the Dutch colonial period.

Then, the Dutch administration worked with local Chinese businessmen to make the event a success.

Now, Sukawi is working with local and foreign businesspeople, with the full support of the provincial administration.

The mayor says his ultimate goal is to see Semarang transformed into a major metropolis, like Jakarta, Medan or Surabaya.

Other preparations for the festival include the construction of a large stage in Simpang Lima Square, in the heart of Semarang, for the holding of arts performances.

International exhibitions and business conferences will take place at the Central Java Development, Promotion and Recreational Center, located in the north in the coastal city.

Tourist sites in the city have been cleaned up to greet expected visitors. These sites include the Kota Lama old town area and Little Holland.

At least 20 Chinese temples in Semarang have been dressed up, as has the Central Java Grand Mosque, which was completed just last year.

There is also the historic Lawang Sewu Building and the steam locomotive in Ambarawa, as well as Borobudur and Gedong Songo temples.

About 3,000 local police officers will be deployed during the festival, with around 200 officers from the provincial police on standby if needed.

There will also be public order officers, military personnel and security members from mass organizations on hand to provide security.

“We will work extra hard to secure this international-level event. Many foreign guests are expected,” said Semarang Police chief Sr. Comr. Guritno Sigit Wiranto.

The city has also enlisted English-speaking college students to serve as guides and translators for visitors.