The Jakarta Post
Ampera Bridge at night. The bridge is an iconic landmark in Palembang. (Shutterstock/File)
Palembang in South Sumatra is currently in the spotlight as the co-host of the Asian Games.
Prior to the event, the city has built various facilities, including a light rail transit (LRT) service from Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport to Jakabaring City Stadium and the Tourist Information Center (TIC) at the airport, making it more convenient for domestic and foreign tourists.
Those planning to visit Palembang during or after the Games should consider the following:
How to get there
The flight time from Jakarta to Palembang is only around an hour.
Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport is currently serving local and international airlines, including Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Batik Air, Citilink, AirAsia and Jetstar Asia Airways.
Best times to visit
It is best to visit Palembang during the dry season, from April to September, as most of the tourist activities are located near the Musi River.
Similar to other part of Indonesia, Palembang has two seasons, the wet season from October to March and the dry season from April to September.
Before exploring Palembang, let us brush up on our knowledge of the city.
Palembang is divided into two areas, Ilir and Ulu. Separated by the Musi River, they are connected by the Ampera Bridge, which is a landmark in the city.
Ilir is basically the center of activities as it is home to hospitals, shopping centers, traditional markets as well as tourist spots.
Below are the popular tourist attractions in Ilir.
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Kuto Besak Fort
Kuto Besak Fort is located on the Musi riverside. The historical building was once the center of the Sultanate of Palembang. However, it is now used as the headquarters of the defense command Kodam II Sriwijaya.
People Struggle Monument (Monpera) is located near to Kuto Besak Fort. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)
The fort and its surrounding areas are still a must-visit for those coming to Palembang. Right in front of the historical building, visitors can find the Belida Monument. Belida is a freshwater fish found in the Musi River, making the monument a new landmark in Palembang.
The outdoor area also offers a picturesque view of the Ampera Bridge.
Next to the fort, visitors can check out the Sultan Mahmud Baddarudin II Museum and People Struggle Monument (Monpera). The museum presents a history of the Sriwijaya Kingdom as well as Indonesia, while Monpera commemorates the struggle of the Palembang people.
Pulau Kemaro is among the popular tourist attractions in Palembang, South Sumatra. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)
Legend has it a Palembang princess, Siti Fatimah, and a Chinese trader, Tan Bun An, her husband, drowned in the Musi River. To commemorate the couple and their guard, the residents of Palembang made Pulau Kemaro a sacred place.
The small island is home to a pagoda and a Buddhist temple. People usually visit Pulau Kemaro during Cap Go Meh (the 15th day after Chinese New Year) and Ceng Beng (Chinese Tomb Sweeping Day).
To visit Pulau Kemaro, visitors need to rent a speedboat from the Benteng Kuto Besak area. The cost varies, starting from Rp 200,000 (US$13.90) per boat, which can accommodate around four people.
Ulu is currently the up-and-coming area in Palembang.
Visitors can find various newly built attractions, such as Jakabaring City Stadium, Kampung Kapitan, Kampung Arab and the Palembang Bird Park.
Jakabaring Sport City
Jakabaring Sport City (JSC) in Palembang, South Sumatra, also known as Gelora Sriwijaya, will host various competitions, such as sport climbing, soft tennis, beach volleyball, roller sport: skateboarding, rowing, women football, and more. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)
Jakabaring Sport City is a modern sports complex. During the Games, the complex is set to host various competitions, including climbing, soft tennis, beach volleyball, rowing, women’s football, as well as roller sports such as skateboarding, and much more.
The well-maintained complex is a popular area for local visitors. Most people visit Jakabaring to check out the football stadium. However, locals usually visit the complex for weekend exercises.
Kampung Kapitan and Kampung Arab
Kampung Kapitan and Kampung Arab are among the recently built tourist attractions. Previously, the villages were known as the residential areas for people of Chinese and Arabic descent, respectively.
In Kampung Kapitan, visitors can learn about the history of the Chinese community in Palembang, including the legend of Tan Bun An and Siti Fatimah. There are two heritage buildings that house antique Chinese furniture. The entrance fee is Rp 5,000 per person.
Meanwhile, Kampung Arab currently still serves as a residential area for people of Arabic descent. Tourists can check out the Arab architecture of the houses.
Palembang Bird Park
The Palembang Bird Park is tucked inside the parking area of the OPI Mall complex. Despite its small size, the petting zoo is still worth a visit. By paying Rp 50,000 per person, visitors can feed the park’s birds and iguanas.
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Tourists usually come to Palembang for food and songket.
Since Palembang is synonymous with pempek (fishcake served with a sour and spicy sauce), you can find a plethora of pempek sellers across the city, making it an interesting activity for foodies. Moreover, foodies can also try other South Sumatran delicacies, such as pindang patin and brengkes patin tempoyak.
Those who love traditional fabrics can visit Tangga Buntung in the Ilir area. Here, you can find various small shops, such as Zainal Songket, Cek Ilah and the Fikri Collection.
Pempek is a must-try dish in Palembang. Visitors can try a wide range variety of the dish, such as kulit (skin fishcake), kapal selam (fish cake with egg), adaan (ball-shaped fishcake) and lenjer (long cylindrical fishcake), starting at only Rp 4,000 per piece.
Pempek Vico, Pempek Beringin, Pempek Nony, Pempek Tince and Pempek Candy are among the city’s most popular pempek brands.
'Pindang patin' at Riverside Restaurant in Palembang, South Sumatra. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)
Foodies can also sample other fish-based dishes, such as pindang patin and brengkes patin tempoyak. Pindang patin is a fish soup cooked using pineapple, while brengkes patin tempoyak is fish wrapped in banana leaves with various spices, including durian, creating sweet and spicy flavors. These dishes are available in various restaurants, including Riverside Restaurant, Sarinande and Warung Nasi Terapung Mbok War.
Noodle lovers must try Bakmi 888 and Bakmi Aloi. The former serves lomie (noodles with sticky gravy) with generous toppings of pork, prawns and mushrooms, while Bakmi Aloi is a legendary noodle seller in Palembang and is usually crowded during breakfast.
As for halal noodles, visitors can go to Sari Rasa. The restaurant offers noodles topped with shredded chicken.
Durian season usually starts in June. (JP/Jessicha Valentina)
If you happen to love durian, then you are in luck. Pasar Durian offers the king of fruits at various prices, starting from Rp 25,000 per piece. It is best to visit during durian season, which is between June and December.
Where to stay
Those who want to stay in the city center can book a room at All Nite and Day Hotel on Jl. Veteran and the Arista Hotel Palembang on Jl. Kapten A Rivai.
The former is a newly opened budget hotel. Strategically located, it is surrounded by restaurants and food stalls.
Meanwhile, the latter offers five-star facilities, making it popular for both business and leisure travelers.
Those who want to stay near the airport can book a room at Hotel Santika Premiere Bandara Palembang.
What to take home
Pempek is clearly a must-take home souvenir from Palembang. Most of the sellers have pre-packaged pempek with a starting price of Rp 100,000 for 25 pieces.
In addition to pempek, songket is also a popular souvenir. The intricate details make songket high-value souvenir among fashion lovers.