Palembang, a Passage of Time

March 16, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Palembang, a Passage of Time



Palembang has been attracting travelers since the Chinese voyager I-Tsing came in 7th century AD and wrote a report of the mighty Sriwijaya kingdom. According to many evidences, Palembang is the most probable site of this prosperous kingdom. Now, 1,300 years later in the second millennium, tourists with hanging DSLR in their neck enjoy this bustling city, walk thru its famous Ampera Bridge, enjoy the breathtaking scenery while sipping teh tarik from one of the river side restaurant and take a relaxing journey down the Musi River. 


Certainly, Palembang is an attractive destination for anyone looking for different experience in Indonesia. While it's not much to see of what was once the capital seat of a kingdom that  dominating and controlled the Southeast Asia water, just make sure to have a seat in one of the ubiquitous Martabak HAR outlets in town and come home loaded with boxes full of pempek. People will love you, and you will miss Palembang!


Palembang, a busy trading port on Musi River

Busy trading port and an important hub for centuries.



Oil was found at the turn of 20th Century. The first touch of modernization. Houses in the bank of Musi River, Sebrang Ulu and the refinery in the background. The classical portrait of modern and traditional goes hand in hand.



Old coal barge anchors in Musi River, Palembang, South Sumatra Musi, the longest river in Sumatra (in competition with the Batanghari of Jambi). For centuries, it has been navigable by large vessel for  100 km inland. But since the presence of Jembatan Ampera (Ampera Bridge), some of them must stop. The bridge now only provide clearance of 8-9 m height. Nevertheless, Musi is still the busiest waterway in the island. This barge will continue its journey upriver passing below the Ampera Bridge.



Tires used as protection of wooden boat in Musi River



Pak Asli collecting his day's catch in Musi River, Palembang

Source of life.



Our playground



Glowing Ampera Bridge at dusk

Jembatan Ampera, the pride of Palembang. By design, it is a vertical-lift bridge. Ships up to 44.5 m of maximum height and 60 m of maximum width allowed to travel upriver thru the central part of the span. It's no longer work, due to the heavy traffic of the city (official statement).



Indonesia's most celebrated bridge.  Built in 1962 and officially completed in 1965, inaugurated as the longest in Southeast Asia.



Most of Palembang's people travel across or beneath the Ampera in daily basis. The bridge connects two most important area of the city: Sebrang Ulu and Sebrang Ilir and  a great number of people are also walk thru it. Unlike other bridge in Indonesia, here you can walk safely.  Mesmerized by the breathtaking view and the constant gentle breeze will make you stay longer up there.



The making of Palembang songket

A peek to the cultural heritage. Songket. The three months process of hand-woven, distinctive motif and a lightweight fabric make the Palembang Songket one of the most adorable piece of cloth in its kind. Our gratitude to Zaenal Songket.



Take a seat in one of the ubiquitous martabak HAR outlet. Folded pan-fried bread served with curry and potato gravy is an incomparable dish. The founder, Haji Abdul Rozak, is an Indian descendant started his business in the city around 1930-1940s. Now this kind of martabak along with pempek is the daily staple of Palembangnesse.



A melting pot of Melayu, Chinese, India and Arab culture, traveler find Palembang is a paradise. From the Melayu realm:  pindang. Most famous is pindang patin. Picture here is pindang iga/ribs.



Love it or hate it



local Palembang cafe

Beseiged by modern and air-conditioned cafes that spring up in every corner, old fashioned warungs where the past time Palembangnesse enjoy coffee, traditional snacks, teh tarik, etc, still can be found in some areas. Want to try burgo or laksan? Find Warung Joen in Pasar Kuto.



Enlightenment after Ashar praying time in grand mosque. Islam has a long history in Palembang.



Stop! Not for you. It was for boats down there.



The other side.



Present-day traffic of vehicles up there on the bridge of the 60s. Wooden boat that plying the river for centuries. The mighty Musi that flow hundred kilometers for millennea. A passage of time.


Text and photo Fadil Aziz


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