Our last port in Indonesia, Semarang on the island of Java is an eclectic mix of cultures due to its strategic position along major trade routes. Its first foreign occupiers were the Chinese, who arrived in the 15th Century. At the beginning of the 18th Century, Semarang became part of the Dutch East India Company (the first corporation to be listed on an official stock exchange), which dominated Asian trade for two centuries. It was an early form of a corporate conglomerate, and the worth of this one company ($7.9 trillion) was equal to today’s 20 largest companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. The Dutch East India Company was more like a country than a company in many ways, such as having its own military forces and fortifications. It began to build up the infrastructure in Java, constructing roads and railroads to make the area even more accessible for trading.
The Dutch dominated Indonesia for about 350 years, and then during WW II the Japanese occupied the country. Driving around the city with our fabulous hosts, Agung and Irma, we saw evidence of many different cultures. We first visited Lawang Sewu, headquarters of the railroad company dating back to the Dutch colonial days, and seen in the first three photos. It is known as the Building of 1,000 Doors and has a beautiful courtyard with benches. Following that, seen in the next six photos, we went to Sam Poo Kong Chinese temple, the foundation of which was built in the year 1400. Next up was Pagoda Avalokitesvara, a Buddhist temple built in 1955. After the photo of the pagoda are some random photos from around the city…a pretty pink decorated bicycle conveyance, some folks lined up for a colorful photo, and some street food (literally!).
Agung is quite special. We met him on a Holland America cruise last summer, and he diligently kept in correspondence with us since then, insisting that he would drive 10 hours from his home to meet us and spend the day with us. This is mind-boggling enough, BUT…he got married four days before meeting us! He is one of the truly good people on earth, so nice, and very hospitable. He and Irma paid for all of our admissions to the historical buildings as well as parking! And at the end of the day, he thanked us for visiting his country! We did manage to treat the newlyweds to lunch. We went to a floating restaurant, built over water, and had quite the feast. It is shown in the photo that is third from the bottom. We asked Agung and Irma to order everything, and we had a table heaping with enormous portions of fish lip soup, two kinds of fried rice, coconut chicken, fried shrimp, shrimp and crab with salted egg, and steamed broccoli. Fish lip soup??? you ask. Why yes, although Agung told us that it was just a name, not really fish lips. We looked it up, and recipes do indeed call for dried fish lips. However, it was delicious, and we were glad we didn’t know in advance! Anyway, the bill totaled 468,600 Indonesian rupiahs. Sounds like a lot, but that equals just $33.20……$8 US each for great variety and enormous portions, and yes, that also includes 6 drinks! The most expensive dish, shrimp and crab with salted egg and rice, was $5.70! Such a great meal for so little.
After lunch, we visited Blenduk Protestant Church, where we saw the gorgeous, elaborate pipe organ in the photo below, dating from the 1700s. So, quite the eclectic day! Many cultures, different styles of architecture, all in one very diverse city. And we end with a great quote we saw on a coffee shop window as we concluded the day’s many stops and sights. A fabulous day that we will always remember.