Footsteps: Treasure of Srivijaya

I have been travelling and taking pictures (internet called us “travel photographers” lol) as long as I can remember. Most of my early destinations started closer to home: Indonesia. If I were in a job interview with one of those cliche questions, my weakness probably too lazy to upload my travelling pictures. In my defence, they are very well organized.

So here we are, I will start to share with you my stories and what I have seen along the way. I love to get lost in small alleyways, unexplored path, mingle with the locals and eat what they eat. Let’s call this journey Footsteps. I hope you will enjoy each story from your own comfortable space!


Me and a friend of mine, Lian, we both lived in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. We tend to just spontaneously booked a flight just to travel somewhere new. This time we just point the map and choose a spot in South Sumatra. It was June 2013 and we are on our way to one of the best Pempek in the country.

The second largest city in Sumatra after Medan, is the city of Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra Province which was once the celebrated seat of the rich and powerful Sriwijaya empire (or Srivijaya empire) that for three centuries - from the 9th to the 11th century - reigned supreme over the Sumatra seas and up north included the strategic Straits of Malacca. Palembang is situated along the Musi River. Spanning across the Musi river right in the heart of the city, the Ampera Bridge built in 1965 is today's icon of modern Palembang.

There’s a small island located on Musi River not far from the city called Pulo Kemaro (Kemaro Island). On the island there is a Chinese pagoda, the Hok Tjing Rio monastery and a tomb said to be the burial place of Princess Siti Fatima. Buddhist worshipers attend a small temple there. The island is busiest during Chinese New Year and many young lovers travel to the island to carve their names on the ‘Tree of Love’, so much so in fact, that the tree is now fenced off from the public.

According to folklore the island emerged when Princess Siti, who was due to marry a Chinese prince, drowned in the Musi river. Her marriage was on the condition that her father would received 9 jars of gold as a dowry. She declared ‘If you see mounds of earth appear on the riverbed, you will know that I have drowned as this will be my grave.’ It is this romantic folklore take that attracts young lovers to the island today.

Chinese Pagoda Kemaro Island

Ampera Bridge lights

The brownish river depth used to be 12 meters (39 ft) sadly due to pollution, now it decreases to only 7 meters (22 ft). Still, people of Palembang including major companies depends their daily routines and income from once this trade route since the days of the Srivijaya Kingdom. The Ampera Bridge lights up every night as a proud icon of the Palembang City.

Musi River

On the Ampera Bridge

I have the honour to visit Kampung Kapitan as a settlement of Chinese people back in the days. It is located in bank of Musi River on 7 Ulu, Seberang Ulu 1, Palembang. This place inaugurated by Sriwijaya Kingdom in 9th century and Ming Dynasty in 14th century. This place is a good place to learn about the history of a Chinese person that called as Kapitan in Netherland colonial period. You can find the 13th generation of Kapitan that is still live in this village.

Chinese ancestors altar

One of the oldest house in Kampung Kapitan

Ancestors of Kampung Kapitan

Pempek is a traditional Indonesian fish cake made with ground fish meat and tapioca. The actual origin of this dish is the city of Palembang, situated in the South Sumatra province. The origin story of pempek says that an old Palembang citizen was tired of the traditional fried or grilled fish, so he thought of an innovative way to ground the meat, mix it with tapioca flour, and deep-fry it to get a crunchy and delicious snack.


Palembang traditional market

Night bazaar