Semarang Indonesia is home to about 2 million generally friendly and warm people, and is a major hub of Central Java. This strategic location made Semarang the melting pot of Western, Chinese and Indian Arab culture. Indonesia is probably the only country that I’ve travelled to where I am a millionaire. Seriously. I was holding in my hand 10 Rupiah notes in denomination of IDR200000.00 after changing my Singapore dollars upon arrival.
Not only that. In Semarang Indonesia, there is a coffee-house that serves the worlds’ most expensive coffee, the civet cat coffee or locally known as Kopi Luwak. I was able to get a taste of this famous coffee during a free taste in one of the city tours I joined.
Semarang may off the beaten path, as they say because of its location and there is not much tourist passing thru here going to Yogyakarta or to Solo, but this birthplace of the delectable ayam penyet may just surprise you endlessly.
The nearest airport to the center of Semarang, Indonesia is Achmad Yani International Airport (SRG/WARS). The airport also serves international and domestic flights. Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia’s national flag carrier, serves most of the domestic flights around Indonesia.
To get around Semarang, taxi is highly recommended but provided you understand the route and the directions. Before I leave the hostel, I ask the receptionist to translate the directions for me on the map. Most young professionals here can speak English. Bus or mini-bus can be taken too but I did not try it because I didn’t understand the mini-bus routes.
From Semarang to Yogyakarta, here is a transport guide via bus and train travel transport guide is here. If you to choose to drive, you can reach Yogyakarta in 2 hours.
Best time to visit
Being located in the tropics and right smack in the middle of the equator, Semarang features a tropical rainforest climate that is influenced by tropical monsoon climate. So that means there are only two climates, wet and wetter.Drier months are from June to August and the rest of the year are wetter months.
What to pack
In addition to what you usually pack in your backpack when heading for Southeast Asian destinations, you should not forget the following
A folding umbrella and a poncho
Modest options for dressing up for when visiting temples and sacred places of worships
Reusable water bottle, for being a responsible tourist
Where to stay
If you are on budget or prefer to hit Semarang backpacking style, head on to Jalan Kauman and you will see the hostels and backpacker inns side by side. Most prices start at around IDR70,000 to IDR200,000, about USD5-15.00
Mid-range to Luxury
Since the currency exchange from USD to IDR is unbelievably cheap, most mid-range to luxury accommodations here can be affordable too. One good place worthy to check out is the Quest Hotel Semarang, here is their link from Traveloka, a 3 star hotel with a relaxing poolside that you can lounge for a restful day. For luxury hotels, 4 stars and up, price range per night is around USD30-35.00 per night.
Points of interest
Semarang maybe tranquil for some but these iconic attractions may just surprise you;
Gadang Betu, just a quick note for women visiting this Chinese temple, you are not allowed to enter the temple during your monthly period but you can roam around its complex.
Lawang Sewu Building
Central Java Grand Mosque
Sam Po Kong Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in Semarang
Semawis Night Market, a must experience especially on weekends
Rawa Pening Lake
Horse ride to Mount Ungaran for USD7-8. Nope, I don’t do kidding.
As with most other destinations, stay alert and bring your common sense with you everywhere you go. Scams are also pretty common. For taxi companies, Blue Bird comes highly recommended by the locals because of its reputation of being safe to ride. Never go alone after midnight or passing in dark alleys.
Semarang Indonesia may lack the magnetic attractions of Yogyakarta or may not be anywhere near the surfer’s paradise that is Bali, but give this silent coast a chance and it just might take your breath away with its rural charms and historic structures. Who knows, passing by this serene tranquil city maybe well worth it.