Benteng Kuto Besak
I read it somewhere that breakfast at Horison Hotel is something to look forward to. At 8 am, I was ready and took the elevator down to the 2nd floor. The Malabar coffee house, because of the Chap Goh Me festival, was full but there were still empty seats available and I took one. Yes, it was good and the service is excellent. It makes me blush just thinking about it. Beef sausages, pancakes, hash brown, eggs, omelet, noodles, teh tarik and the list continues.
By 10 am, I left the room and proceed on foot towards Sungai Musi. I did not go right this time, I went left because I know for a fact that Sungai Musi is located left of the Horison Hotel. After 30 minutes of walking through main road, back alleys and others people backyard, I arrived at some familiar place, the wet market, where, I had passed through yesterday evening with a becak.
I crossed the street, turn a corner and there it was, Benteng Kuto Besak. It was quite a majestic fort built by the Dutch overlooking the Musi river. One can only admire from outside, it is forbidden to visits, it is occupied by the Indonesian Navy. I walked passed through Sultan Badaruddin II Museum. It doesn’t look like it is open, so I move on.
My main aim for today is to visit Kemaro Island for the Chap Goh Me festival. I retraced my steps that I took from last night. The dark back alley has been transform into a lively bazaar. I went inside Pasar Ilir 36 to have a quick peek. Every inch of the available floor is occupied by small shops, most of them were selling fabrics of every kind and colour, shirt, t-shirt, pants etc. Outside, it is even hectic.
A rock concert?
The becak men were parking their becak, silently puffing away their kretek cigarette while waiting for customer. Traders, mostly women folks, spread a piece of cloth on the sidewalk and put their goods on it, instant shop. Just today I read in the local newspaper, somebody from wali kota (the mayor’s office) warned that people cannot just simply set up their stall at will, it is not fair people who actually pay rent.
I arrived at the small Chinese temple just as the ferry was about to docked, returning passengers and picking up hundreds more to Kemaro island. Boarding the boat was total chaos. As soon as the last passenger left the ferry, everybody starts pushing each other to be the first on board. Shouts were heard. I was praying for my life.
Dove in cages, being sold to be release.
Soon, when everyone was on board, everything is forgiven. The ferry left soon after, everything was calm and everybody was happy, me especially.
It was a slow moving upstream. You can’t really tell if you are going upstream or downstream, the flow of the Musi river seems to be going everywhere. The river is actually quite big and busy. Small boats roaring passed us and huge tanker were docking, loading and unloading their goods. There is a huge oil refinery and fertilizer factory located near the river. You can smell the ammonia in the air.
We reached Kemaro Island 30 mins later. There are thousands of people on the island and hundreds more are coming every 10 mins or so. On the island, it was very well organized. The area was divided into three sections.
The crowds on the island
These were the praying area. Smoke coming from the incense burner hang heavy in the air. Nearby, people are burning papers and doves are being sold in cages for people to release them. A few kids were diligently waiting near the dove’s cages, waiting for the birds to be released. When they do, the kids grabbed them when they are about to fly. There is also the entertainment area. Three stages were erected, two for the Chinese opera and one for a rock concert. A Rock concert?, yes, a rock concert at a religious festival. This is more fun than I thought. Last but not the least, there is the shopping and food section. Booths were installed where lots of varieties of food and souvenirs are being offered. Since it is almost lunch hour, I sat down in one of the food booth and had myself bakmi (noodles) and kopi susu (coffee with milk).
Releasing a dove.
After lunch, I went to have a look around at the shops. There’s even a stall selling mattress, motorcycles and a tattoo parlour. I spent nearly four hours of fun there and was rather sad when it is time to return. The ferry ride back was equally chaotic. Once I reach the mainland, I trace myself back through the back alley back to the Ampera Bridge.
I always wanted to cross the Ampera Bridge since the first day I arrived here. So, with my tired feet, I climbed the steps and walk the entire length of the bridge. The view on both sides was breathtaking. When I reached the end, I came down the steps to see what’s life is like on the other side of the bridge. Well, it was quite scary. It was dark, damp, dirty and people were sleeping everywhere.
I am half expecting Robocop to appear out of nowhere and start shooting me, “This is a restricted area.. This is a restricted area !!”, I practically ran back up and quickly crossed to the other side. A old man saw me and he laughed.
Once I was safely on the other side, I went to visit Masjid Agung (Agung Mosque). It was pretty impressive. The mayor's office is next to Masjid Agung, it is quite a strange looking building for a mayor’s office, it looks like a water tower. I walk further up and saw a lot of teenagers in their Sunday best. A mall is definitely nearby. Yes, there was. Palembang Indah Mall or PIM, for short. It was quite a good mall. There is a Cineplex on the top floor. They were showing 2 movies, “Awake” with Jessica Alba and “Super Hero” movie.
I have seen it a year ago. There is also a food court on the top floor but it was empty, the food doesn’t look attractive and everyone who works there looks bored. Suddenly I feel hungry again, went to the lower ground floor. There are more restaurants there. I went to one and had nasi goring and 4 bottle of teh botol (tea in a bottle). I wanted to walk back to the hotel but took a wrong turn somewhere and got lost, so, I hailed a becak back to the hotel. I don’t have any small change to I gave him Malaysian money (RM10 which is equivalent to Rp 32,000, the fare is about Rp 20,000 by the way). Had a shower, went out again to the mall nearby, Palembang Square to meet Eddie and his family. We had dinner.
To be continue….