A Place Called Home

Asia, Indonesia

Gereja Blenduk (An Old Church at Semarang’s Old Quarter)

I have lived in different cities across Indonesia and traveled to a few countries. But there is one place that I call home, it’s Semarang. Semarang is the capital of Central Java province in the island of Java, Indonesia, and by population it is currently the country’s fifth biggest city with total population of 1.5 million. Compared to other big cities in Indonesia, Semarang is a much more relaxed city. It is home to arguably some of the finest Dutch colonial buildings in Indonesia and also to the famous and lively Chinatown (the city has a large number of ethnic Chinese population).

Almost all of the most exquisite Dutch colonial buildings are located around Old Quarter in northern part of the city. However, there is one beautiful and well-known Dutch-style building which is located in the city center, that is Lawang Sewu (literally means Thousand Doors, after its hundreds of doors).

Lawang Sewu at Dawn

Apart from old buildings, Semarang offers a unique panoramic view due to the city’s topographic feature which divides the city into two different terrains: Lower Semarang and Upper Semarang. Lower Semarang is where all old buildings and government offices are located (it’s hot and humid throughout the year), while Upper Semarang is where most residential areas are located (largely thanks to its milder temperature and humidity).

Nevertheless, there is one thing that draws many tourists to come to this city, it’s the food! Compared to other big cities in Indonesia, foods in Semarang are incredibly much cheaper with a large variety of delicacies to choose. The foods are heavily influenced by various cultures because during its heyday Semarang was the main port of Java. Hence local people at that time were accustomed to make contact with traders from all over Asia and Europe who eventually introduced their own recipes to the local people.

Just a little information, when Semarang was the most important port in Java, the Dutch people established the first stock exchange ever in the Netherlands Indies (then Indonesia). Nowadays, Semarang’s position as an economic hub has been overtaken by Jakarta and Surabaya (Indonesia’s second largest city). But the charm is still there, waiting to be explored.

So, this time I visit Semarang during Eid al-Fitr (often just called Eid) which is a major holiday in Indonesia (comparable to Thanksgiving in North America or Chinese New Year Festival in China) where huge numbers of people travel to their hometowns to gather with their families. Usually people have roasted turkey dish during Thanksgiving, while here in Indonesia people from different cultures have their own special dish for Eid. However, many parts of the country have opor ayam (chicken in thick yellowish coconut milk curry), sambal goreng (chicken gizzard, shrimp and egg in spicy coconut milk curry with chili), ketupat (boiled rice wrapped in woven coconut leaves) and shrimp crackers as special dishes during Eid.

Opor Ayam (My Mother Used Free-Range Chickens Instead of Broiler Chickens for Better Taste)

Spicy Sambal Goreng

Peeled and Cut Ketupat

Shrimp Crackers

To serve all those dishes just put and mix them in a plate and don’t forget to add the curry to the plate in order all the dishes to be half drowned. But, that’s not all. Just like Christmas, cookies are also ubiquitous during Eid Festival. Below are three of the most common types of cookies in my house during Eid:

Top: Nastar (Cookies Filled with Pineapple Jam), Bottom Left: Putri Salju (Butter Cookies Covered in Powdered Sugar), Bottom Right: Kastengel (Cheese Cookies)

Have a great day everyone!

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

42 thoughts on “A Place Called Home”

  1. Fiona.q says:

    Semarang, the name sounds beautiful. im not into south east asia food. too spicy for me :”(
    and…gosh, finally you update ur blog, lol.


    • I know it’s been a while since my last post. I made this blog to share my travel stories and pictures. So, no travel, no new post. lol.
      However, you can expect new and fresh posts from me around December, January, April and May because I’ll be traveling (either weekend excursions or longer travel) to other countries.
      But, I might spontaneously book a ticket to some place before December. Who knew? I can be a very impulsive person when it comes to traveling. lol.
      And by the way, in Mandarin Semarang is pronounced Sampoloong (I guess).


      • Fiona.q says:

        lol. you do plan… i never plan such long time ago. wanna go, then go in 2-4 weeks.


      • The thing is airlines like AirAsia frequently offer crazily cheap return ticket only if the booking is made in advance (months before the date of travel). So, I need to take the risk in order to get one of those crazy deals. lol.


  2. Your post is making me hungryl Oh, how I love ethnic food. Our food here just isn’t the same. I wish I had time to cook these delicious looking foods.


    • You need lots of spices to cook such dish. I remember when I went to Europe 4 years ago, everyday I had bread or sandwich or pasta, you know, such foods. But when I went to Brussels and visited the house of an Indonesian family who live there, I had Indonesian hot and spicy eggs for dinner, and it tastes like heaven! That was the time when I understood why Europeans went to Far East to find spices..haha..


  3. Gretel says:

    Bamm… kok lu ga foto lawang sewu bagian dalem nya? ga berani masuk yaaaaa… coward, hahahahahahahha


    • Coward gimana, orang gw dulu udah pernah masuk kok. Ini pas gw ambil fotonya pas pagi2 banget, jadi tempatnya belom buka. Dan kemaren gw entah kenapa jadi males banget mau explore Semarang. Bawaannya makan dan tidur mulu di rumah. Home sweet home 🙂


  4. julianus ricky says:

    Wow I don’t know much about semarang..I have to go there sometime..naik kereta sepertinya lebih enak ya??


    • Naik kereta yg pasti bisa liat pemandangan sih, di beberapa daerah malah bisa liat laut soalnya relnya ada di pinggir laut persis..


  5. julianus ricky says:

    Tuh kan pasti naek kereta lebih enak..walopun lama setidaknya puas liat pemandangan deh..have to go there for sure


  6. julianus ricky says:

    Woahh can’t wait to go there..wondering how cheap and delicious that food..sebelom ke singapur ke semarang dulu kali yah..and what is “lawang sewu”? never heard that before..is that a mountain?


    • Beda kali sensasinya kalo ke Semarang sama Singapur. Udeh cari tiket promo ke Singapur aja, hehe…Lawang Sewu tuh gedung tua peninggalan Belanda yg sebenernya bagus banget tapi terkenal angker..


      • julianus ricky says:

        Angker bam??wew ga jadi dah..sounds creepy soalnya bukannya ude di film-n kan ye??cuma gw ga brani nonton..yeah tenang aja november semoga dapet tiket murah..*prayer*


  7. Wow! I can’t help salivating upon looking at the different dishes there, Bama. You made me starve …

    Through your amazing pictures, I was transported to Indonesia. Thank you for making me feel like I’ve been there.


    • Actually there are still many parts of Indonesia which I haven’t shared yet (hint: I will be sharing some of those within a few months). Thanks for dropping by, Sony!


  8. I’m glad I stumbled upon your Semarang post. My family is also from Semarang, but I haven’t been back since I was 11. I was excited to see your pictures of Semarang, and I hope one day you’ll do another post and take more pictures of this beloved city. You have a great blog!


    • Hi Anette!
      Thanks for dropping by! What do you still remember about Semarang? I will surely post more pictures and write more stories of Semarang in the future.


  9. My memories of Smg are a little blurry. But here we go: I remember having a bad fall at A. Yani airport’s runway when I was 7. Then I went back when I was 11, sadly to attend a relative’s funeral. So I spent the majority of the time at the hospital. When we weren’t at the hospital, my grandparents took me to a place that sold home-made ice cream, and we rode around in a becak. I thought riding the becak was so much fun, because they didn’t let me do that in Jkt. I love roti Sanitas, lumpia Smg (which is so hard to get in the US), and bandeng presto.


    • I love lumpia! That is definitely one thing everyone shouldn’t miss in Smg. I guess next time I’ll take more pictures of the local foods in Smg and post them in my blog to make everyone’s mouth water 🙂


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  11. Those pics are mouthwatering Bama! We shall have to include Semarang in an Indonesian itinerary (if ever we manage it) ! Thanks for another neat post!


    • And they taste really good as well! 🙂
      When you’re making any plans to visit Indonesia, just let me know. I’ll give you some recommendations!


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    • Hi Marisol! The old quarter of Semarang has a very pleasant colonial charm, indeed. Definitely not to be missed when you go to this city!


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  15. Prem says:

    hi. It’s Prem from Cabo Verde.
    thankxxxxx for sharing many precious things about some places, food and culture in Indonesia. I was born in Java and left Indonesia in the 80’s where the tourist boom has not arrived there yet, except in Bali. Right now I am in the space of longing for my birth country. I read all kind of issues about Indonesia, the new President, travel spots, music scenes, so then i found your blog. Your blog is more then informative but also so simple. I love all the pics. They radiance a good feeling! AND that FOODs! woooooowww! these make my heart aching. I’m desperate for all these delicious foods i can’t find anywhere else. Thanxxx Bama keep moving.


    • Hi Prem. It’s my pleasure to share stories and pictures from the places I’ve visited in Indonesia. Which part of Java were you born in? I wonder how much you would recognize when you return one day. It’s good to know that someone from a place as far as Cape Verde follows everything that is happening in Indonesia. Come to Indonesia, and have some nostalgic moments in the country! 🙂 Thank you for reading my blog and leaving such a heartening comment.


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