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Imlek lanterns enliven Surakarta river tourism

Ganug Nugroho Adi

The Jakarta Post

Surakarta, Central Java  /  Wed, January 25, 2017  /  12:53 pm
  • Starting Jan. 19, Pepe River offers water tourism, where visitors can stroll down the river in a wooden boat.

    Starting Jan. 19, Pepe River offers water tourism, where visitors can stroll down the river in a wooden boat. OF JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi

    Starting Jan. 19, Pepe River offers water tourism, where visitors can stroll down the river in a wooden boat.

  • Visitors prepare to embark on a river cruise.

    Visitors prepare to embark on a river cruise. OF JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi

    Visitors prepare to embark on a river cruise.

  • The boats are adorned with red and blue lights to make them more exciting.

    The boats are adorned with red and blue lights to make them more exciting. OF JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi

    The boats are adorned with red and blue lights to make them more exciting.

  • Hundreds of visitors are said to enjoy the river tourism every night.

    Hundreds of visitors are said to enjoy the river tourism every night. OF JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi

    Hundreds of visitors are said to enjoy the river tourism every night.

  • The experience is offered at just Rp 10,000 per person.

    The experience is offered at just Rp 10,000 per person. OF JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi

    The experience is offered at just Rp 10,000 per person.

OF

The Pepe River in the Pasar Gede area in Surakarta, Central Java, is picturesque at night thanks to the hundreds of lanterns hanging along the riverbank, which stretches around 500 meters. The site has become a popular tourist destination during Chinese New Year.

Starting Thursday, the river also offers water tourism, where visitors can float down the river in a wooden boat. At Rp 10,000 (less than US$1) fare per person, they can conveniently enjoy the festivity's atmosphere at night. 

Visitors prepare to embark on a river cruise.(JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

"Chinese New Year has become a reason to revamp the river. We want Pepe River to serve as a water tourism site, like the Hoi An River in Vietman or Cheong Gye Cheon River in Korea," said Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi “Rudy” Rudyatmo, adding that the administration cleaned the river once a month alongside officials and local communities. "Not only Pepe River, but also the Anyar and Jenes rivers."

Three years ago, Pepe River was known to be dirty and dense. Semi-permanent houses could be found lined on its banks here and there. All household waste, as well as industrial waste, were usually thrown directly into the river.

(Read also: West Kalimantan expedition set to explore Indonesia's longest river)

The boats are adorned with red and blue lights to make them more exciting.(JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

Since 2014, Surakarta administration started to rejuvenate the small river, which its waters flow toward Bengawan Solo River. In the past two years, it also relocated 340 family heads who lived on the banks to low-cost apartments (rusunawa). 

Interestingly, historian Mufti Raharjo said that Pepe River played a big part in the city's history as it had been mentioned since the Pajang kingdom era of the mid-16th century. "During those times, Bengawan Solo had 44 merchant ports that were very important for the city's trade. One of them was Pepe River port," he said.

Today, hundreds of people could be found strolling the small river's banks every night for leisure.

"We're really curious about this river tourism. It turned out to be quite exciting—taking a nightly boat ride down the river that has been adorned with lanterns. Hopefully [the decorations] are still here after Chinese New Year," said Retnowati, 22, who hopped on one of the boats with her family.

(Read also: Water puppet shows a must-see for tourists in Vietnam)

Hundreds of visitors are said to enjoy the river tourism every night.(JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

Irsyad, 34, said he experienced a unique sensation while cruising the river, which reminded him of the time he visited Hoi An River in Vietnam. "It's not as good as the river tourism in Vietnam, but at least it has the potential to be better. Anyone will be happy if the river is clean," he said.

Retno Wulandari, the president of Indonesia Marketing Association’s (IMA) Surakarta Chapter, said it currently was cooperating with hotels to offer Chinese New Year, or Imlek, tourism packages in Surakarta. "Aside from Jakarta and Bandung, visitors from Malaysia and Singapore have also expressed their interest," she said.

Among the packages is a 8-day, 7-night tour that includes a visit to Yogyakarta and join Grebek Sudiro celebrations; and a three-day, one-night stay in Surakarta, which includes touring Pepe River by boat. "We will continue to offer the river tourism after Imlek; probably available every weekend. Such tourism is not yet available in Surakarta; it will be very interesting," she added. (kes)

The experience is offered at just Rp 10,000 per person.(JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

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