Palembang: South Sumatra

My first foray into Sumatra decades ago was in fact what I call a flying trip – a prelude to my full-on assault to explore the island. It was a good trip and one I would recommend to anybody wanting to experience a quick look at Sumatra. I flew into Bandar Lampung for a three week stay, on to Bengkulu for three weeks, then Palembang for four weeks, to Jambi for three weeks, onto Padang for two weeks and had the same amount of time in Pekanbaru before flying onto Medan for a two week stay, then continuing to Banda Aceh for a month. Palembang was indeed a city that I found intriguing.

Located in the south of the island, Palembang is a city divided virtually in half by the Musi River. Because the river is the heart of the city it is only natural that a lot of transportation and business is conducted on it. Houses built on piles line the river banks facing the water. It is an historic city that attracts travellers because of its cultural diversity and panoramic scenery.The shopping in the markets is colourful and along the river where vendors ply their trade is an experience not to be forgotten.

Getting into Palembang is extremely easy. Both domestic and international flights fly into Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport from most of the larger cities in Indonesia. You can get international flights to Singapore with Garuda Airlines or Silk Air and domestic flights include frequent flights to Jakarta, Medan and Batam as well as other destinations within the archipelago. Getting around the city is quite easy and I would recommend you do a lot of walking so as to absorb the cultural atmosphere of the city. However, if too much walking is not your forte then there are a lot of public buses, becaks, and some strange modified vans called Angkots.

The traditional dish of Palembang is Pempek fish cakes. These are deep fried fish cakes eaten with Cuka, a dark sauce made from brown sugar, chili pepper, garlic and salt. I was introduced to Pempek in Yogyakarta even before I set foot on the island of Sumatra and believe me, they are delicious.

Most of the traditional dishes from other islands are available in Palembang at restorans and warungs or the kaki lima. Of course there are the ubiquitous fast food outlets like McDonalds, KFC,CFC and Texas Fired Chicken. But, who wants to eat that crap when you have some of the finest delicacies of the archipelago around you!.

Palembang is also known for its delicious Martabaks, Pratha filled with mince meat and egg and eaten with mild or hot curry. The most famous place for these is Martabak Har and you will find their outlets around the city.

The City of Palembang warrants a decent stay of at least two weeks and do get out into the countryside where you will find some stunning scenery and sites of historical value, not to mention a lot of friendly people!.