Let’s Go “Mudik” to Palembang!

Idul Fitri (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Fitr) is Islamic event that most celebrated in Indonesia. People would go back to their hometown to gather with family. Big cities like Jakarta would be less crowded because most of the Muslim family prefer to spend the time with relatives in villages, it’s called as “mudik” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudik).

This year the first day of Syawwal 1433 H will fall on Sunday – August 19, 2012 (http://www.muhammadiyah.or.id/id/download-maklumat.html). I’ve bought my return tickets to Palembang, my hometown, since December 9, 2011 from Lion Air (http://www.lionair.co.id) to get cheap fare (only Rp.786,800 = US$83 for return trip per person) otherwise would be expensive.

I think that Idul Fitri doesn’t cause such huge temporary exodus in any other Islam country (or Muslim majority country), unlike in Indonesia. So many people traveled from other cities to gather with their family, then landtrip can be a nightmare (my friend who lives in Wonosobo usually needs 14 hours from Jakarta, but during Eid holiday then it would be 36 hours due to traffic jam almost any where along the “mudik route”). Soekarno-Hatta International Airport must manage to handle additional 135 daily flights during “mudik” period this year.

DAY ONE (Thursday – August 16, 2012)

Alif and I left from my office at 11:10 AM, still more than 3 hours before our flight (ETD 2:15 PM) but I wanted to anticipated the traffic jam, might be longer time needed to reach airport than usual 45-50 minutes.

Luckily it was smooth trip, I could reach Terminal 1B within 50 minutes, fare was only Rp.79,500 plus toll fee Rp.12,500. After checked in and dropped our baggage at special counter for passengers who already got city check in (on Lion Air office at Jl Gajah Mada) or web check in (on http://www.lionair.co.id), then we were waiting at Gate B1.

The plane departure was 15 minutes late, but surprisingly could arrive at Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport, Palembang, as scheduled (ETA 3:40 PM). It was half an hour waiting for hour bags before finally we got out from arrival gate.

Instead of taxi (fare would be Rp.75,000), we took Trans Musi bus to city (Rp.4,000/person). It was very convenient and cheap, but unluckily not available until late (last bus from airport would be 5:30 PM).

Finally we arrived at Graha Sriwijaya Hotel in the middle of the city, http://hotelgrahasriwijaya.com/ (booked already through http://www.agoda.com). During ramadhan, the fare included breakfast (sahri, 3:00 AM – 5:00 AM), and breakfasting plus dinner (ta’jil and iftar, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM). The taste was s0-s0, but good enough for us after long trip from Jakarta.

I planned for a self-arranged walking tour to Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Museum at Plaza Benteng Kuto Besak, MONPERA (Monumen Perjuangan Rakyat), then see sunset later at Ampera Bridge, but Alif was so tired. After dinner, he fell asleep on 7:30 PM.

DAY TWO (Friday – August 17, 2012)

I wanted to go out to see “Upacara Kemerdekaan” (67th Indonesia Independence Day Flag Ceremony) but Alif didn’t wake up until 8:30 AM, means it was too late because the ceremony usually started at 8:00 AM in government’s offices.

We left our room at 10:00 AM, then walked 5 minutes to Museum Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II. Alif had no interest to look what they kept or displayed in the museum (but there were many students went inside), then we rent an old fashioned boat (“perahu getek”) to Pulau Kemaro after few poses in front of the museum, also in front of the famous Ampera Bridge.

The boat was Rp.80,000 for return trip to Kemaro Island, the fare was per boat (can accommodate 6-7 passengers) then cost per passenger would be cheaper if go in group instead of just me and my son. One way took 40-45 minutes, at least 40-45 minutes to explore the island and take photos, means should spare 2-2.5 hours for the whole trip.

The legend of Kemaro Island: The unhappy ending love story between a Muslim princess (Siti Fatimah) and Chinese sailor (Tan Bun An).

The main temple on the island.

The laughing Buddha statue on the yard.

It was 1:00 PM when we got back to our room now, later Alif went swimming at the indoor pool then got some rest until we went out again on 4:30 PM. We walked to MONPERA (Monumen Perjuangan Rakyat, means Monument for Independence Struggle) then got around the city center, Bundaran Air Mancur (fountain circle). I took some pics of Masjid Agung (Grand Mosque), built in 10 years (1738-1748 AD or 1151-1161 H in Islamic year), refer to http://melayuonline.com/​eng/history/dig/300/​palembang-grand-mosque.

View to Masjid Agung from the fountain.

The main entrance.

Beautiful artdeco on the windows.

Ended the night with local delicacies: Pempek Panggang (grilled fish cake) and Martabak HAR (flat bread stuffed with egg and potato, with spicy potato curry sauce).

DAY THREE (Saturday – August 18, 2012)

Started the day by taking my son to my childhood house, located in a military estate near KM5 (means located 5 kilometer from the city center). My late dad was Ka JASDAM II Sriwijaya when my family lived there, 1983-1987.

It felt different, the yard was not as big as what I remembered, the living room was not so spacious (well, perhaps because I’m much bigger and taller than I was when lived in that house). One thing that doesn’t change: No need air conditioner or fan to cool inside the house, the house location was good then no heat during hot days of this dry season.

Later Alif and I visited Museum Balaputeradewa (but they closed then couldn’t enter any exhibition room, only walked around to see few relics on the yard).

On our way back to the city, we made a stop at my old primary school – Sekolah Dasar Negeri (SDN) 60, few years ago renumbered become SDN 42). I was 9 years old when started schooling there (Grade 4), my son was 8 years old (Grade 3) when he visited the school this morning. He was suprised to realize that I was ever a student in that school. Well, I explained to him that I cannot possibly become an old woman like now without ever been a kid like him, hehehe…

Back to hotel (after a stop at JM Plaza, Alif bought a new toy, I bought “manisan mangga” and “manisan liko), we took a swimming (again!) at the pool. Later Alif got tired, he took afternoon nap when I went to Tangga Buntung by public transport (“oplet”, blue colored minibus – Rp.2,000 one way from in front of the hotel).

The famous traditional cloth from South Sumatra Province is “songket” (http://melayuonline.com/eng/culture/dig/555/songket-weaving-of-palembang-south-sumatra), I have three sets already but thought about buying some new ones. My first stop in that Ki Gede Ing Suro area was at the house of unofficially aclaimed as number one supplier: Zainal Songket. Sadly the price was way over my budget (even 30% cheaper than their retail price in Jakarta). So I moved to a smaller one next door, Hj.Laila Aguscik Shop, and met the owner herself.

From Mrs.Laila, I bought a set of “kain jumputan” (http://www.epalembang.com/lang/en/travel-tourism/art-and-culture/jumputan), “kain tajung”, “sulam usus” blouse, and one wall decoration of Al Qur’an verses.

Alif looked very tired, so we decided to stay in our room after iftar at the hotel (Soto Ayam, Ayam Goreng Tepung, Rendang Daging, Es Buah), watched the firecrackers on the sky and teenagers’ convoys on the road from our windows.

DAY FOUR (Sunday – August 19, 2012)

Allahu akbar…Allahu akbar…Allahu akbar…la ila ha ill-Allahu Allahu akbar…Allahu Akbar wa lillah il-hamd…

The takbir and tahmid was in the air this morning, 1st day of Syawal 1433H, end of Ramadhan. Every Muslim all over the world celebrate the day as Idul Fitri (Indonesia) or Aidil Fitri (Malaysia and Singapore) or Eid ul-Fitr (other countries) after 29 or 30 days of fasting from pre-dawn until sunset. Alif and I left the hotel at 6:50 AM, walked our way to Masjid Agung.

There were more than 15,000 jamaah gathered at the masjid also the surrounding area, Alif and I got a place on the road. The major of the city (Walikota Palembang, Eddy Santana Putra) and governor of the province (Gubernur Sumatera Selatan, Alex Noerdin) were the ones among local prominent figures who shared the space of shalat inside the masjid. The pray started on 7:00 AM, lasted for 15 minutes with imam KH Nawawi Dencik Al Hafidz and khatib KH Taufiq Hasnuri.

Back to the hotel, we found that breakfast buffet menu at the hotel was special: Opor Ayam, Sambal Buncis, Rendang Daging. The desert was usual fresh fruits (melon, watermelon) and chocolate pudding, but they also served something special: Kue Engkak Ketan. It’s a traditional cake originally from this area, the recipe was forwarded from generations to generations since hundreds years old ago (e.g. http://kangzusi.com/Resep_Makanan/Kue_Engkak_Ketan.htm).

Breakfast menu: Steamed white rice, Opor Ayam, Sambal Buncis, with fruits and orange juice.

Chocolate pudding and special Palembang traditional cake: Kue Engkak Ketan.

On lunch time, Alif and I went to the house of my closest relative in the city, Mrs. Nawawi Yuni. She is my mom’s aunt, born in year 1933, a widowed mother of 12 kids (first daughter was born in 1954, last son was born in 1975). She loves my mom like her own daughter, loves me like her own granddaughter, loves Alif like her other 10 great-grandchildren.

From the hotel, we took green minibus to Lemabang (fare = Rp.2,500), then another mininus from Lemabang to Sekojo (fare = Rp.2,000). Got off at Jl Iswahyudi, it was still far from her house then we continued our trip by “becak” (cyclo rickshaw or pedicab, fare = Rp.7,000).

It was so nice to be in her house, we met most of her daughters and sons and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So happy to see her in happy and healthy life (only a little problem on her knees).

There were lots of cookies and cakes, then we ate “Tekwan” (http://indonesiaeats.com/​tekwan-indonesian-palembang​-fish-balls-soup/) with the complete dressings of chopped cucumber, white vermicelli, fried shallot, green chilli sauce.

On our way back to hotel, few minutes before sunset, we walked through the back side of Masjid Agung. Alif commented, “Wow, Bunda…this mosque is beautiful!”

There was a pool with fountain, actually it was water reservoir for “wudhu” (ablution before pray), indicated with lots of taps around it. The architecture of the mosque was unique, without standard dome but “limas” roof style instead. Looked a bit like a Buddhist temple, in my opinion. Well, perhaps because there was Chinese influence on cultural artefacts from Palembang Sultanate era.

DAY FIVE (Monday – August 20, 2012)

I started the day by a quick visit to my old junior high school, Sekolah Menengah Pertama Negeri (SMPN) 2. Actually it was close to the hotel but Alif and I took “oplet” (Rp.2,000 for both of us, less than 2 km) from the hotel.

The next destination was Sekip Ujung to visit my old house at Tunas Jaya V in a military estate. I lived there for 5 years, 1987-1992. Too bad that current house owner was not home then I couldn’t enter. I wished to see my bedrooms where I spent my nights as lonely sad introvert teenager.

Few minutes walk from my old home was my senior high school, Sekolah Menengah Atas Negeri (SMAN) 6. I felt so proud that seemed like the school has got accredited as good school. There were WiFi connections and PCs in their library, free of charge for students, while there was no single computer in the school until I got graduated in 1992.

On the  noon, I joined my high school reunion at Swarna Dwipa Hotel.

Awesome buffet lunch of Pindang Kakap!

Alif and I ended the day by photo session around Masjid Agung and Jembatan Ampera.

DAY SIX (Tuesday – August 21, 2012)

After breakfast and swimming, Alif wanted to see the gym facility. Unlike hotels in Jakarta, they allowed kids (<17 years old) to enter, also allowed customer who doesn’t wear sport shoes. Anyway, the equipment was quite complete.

After shower, I took Alif to buy some souvenirs (t-shirt, keychains) at Jalan Kapten A Rivai.

Next door to the store was the famous “Pempek Candy” outlet. We ate our portions of delicious “Pempek Kapal Selam”, “Pempek Lenjer”, etc and enjoyed our glasses of “Es Kacang Merah”.

Here is their price list for take-away package:

On our way, we made a quick stop in front of the beautiful Al Atiq Mosque.

Back to the hotel (after packed a cheese burger from McDonald’s for Alif’s dinner), we checked out then got the taxi to the airport. I had a very bad experience with the staff at front desk, that girl cheated me badly.

She was really pissed me off, I still wonder whether she was so idiot and stupid enough to damage the hotel’s reputation in exchange to 2 cans of softdrink (I spotted the driver gave it to her when entered the lobby)…or she was poorly paid, low salary from her occupation at the hotel, then cheated hotel guests through her cheap and annoying “airport taxi” trick to get small amount of tipping from the driver.

I have clearly told her to book Blue Bird taxi, even asked twice to confirm if that waiting taxi was really from the best taxi company in Indonesia and she answered “yes”, but then turned out that she has called his friend instead – a driver who self-acclaimed himself as “provides regular airport transfer for hotel guests”. As I wrote on http://www.agoda.com/asia/indonesia/palembang/graha_sriwijaya_hotel/reviews.html, the driver ripped me off to pay Rp.110,000 for only 15 km trip (should be less than Rp.80,000) because he wanted to get extra Rp.30,000 during the Eid Holiday. The flag fall was Rp.7,000 and fare was Rp.5,000/km which was crazy amount compared to highly trusted Blue Bird taxis (flag fall = Rp.3,000 and fare = Rp.2,500/km).

CONCLUSION: Never never never book a taxi through the staff hotel, call BLUE BIRD directly by yourself by phone to 24/7 call center at (+62 711) 36 1111 or (+62 711) 366 450

Still grateful anyway,  after the driver took wrong circling routes and added more charge to his argometer, Alif and I could make a quick stop on our way to the airport to visit my dad’s grave (military cemetery – Kebun Bunga) and sent a pray for him.

The departure hall was nice, there was a giant display of Rp.10,000 (Indonesian bank note) which display the local hero. It’s time to say: Good bye, Palembang…