Day 6: The City of Heroes

Suddenly there was a lot of movement in the cabin. The train crew were collecting blankets from the passengers. I only slept for an hour or two. It was 4 am in Surabaya.

I saw people standing up to keep water bottles in their bags on the overhead compartments. There was no one sitting beside me. I had been laying down, tossing around to get some sleep on the train. Of course my body didn’t fit in the two seats, but I tried to get as comfortable as possible. I decided, now, that overnight train ride is not a good idea. I needed sleeper train.

But, hey! East Java exploration has not come to end. It is definitely ending and I can’t wait to see my family already.

I took a cab to get to the nearest hotel with good reviews on traveling apps. But it was full. Bummer. The taxi driver offered me a hotel just nearby. I chose a hotel near to the Gubeng train station because I have to take 7 am train to Jogjakarta tomorrow.

I was dropped at a hotel that looked pretty good from the outside. The price was pretty standard too. I wanted to check out the room at first, but it was not even 5 am in the morning and I wanted to sleep so badly before exploring the city later. I was telling myself that the lobby was empty because no one would be awake at this time. So I paid in full, as asked. Pretty weird that the person asked for full payment as I checked in, right?

As I entered the corridors and walked into the room, I realised it was the most horrifying hotel I have ever stayed at. Imagine a 90s hotel that hasn’t gone through any upgrading whatsoever. It’s 2015 now, and I could easily imagine the hotel as a venue in horror movies. Dimly lit corridors, flickering lights at the end of it, large mirror with rust stains, wide wooden door for each room and big dark bath tub with sink that makes noise when you turn the tap on. If I were a main character in a horror movie, the viewers would diss at me and not feel sorry for me for choosing such a scary hotel in a city. “Of course you get disturbed by the ghosts! The place is haunted,” they would say.

I couldn’t get a refund.

Fortunately, the bed was comfy. I have to give the hotel credit for that. Clean linen and big pillows. I couldn’t care less about the surrounding and fell a sleep right after I put down my stuff.

Where did I go in Surabaya? House of Sampoerna, A cigarette factory with the descendants of its original owner living in the complex. If you’re smoker, I guess you should know about Sampoerna. I visited the place just to know how cigarettes are made.

Museum cigarette

Anyway, the factory provides free tour of different parts of the city, daily. I went for the 9 am tour, The Heroes City and 3 pm tour, Surabaya during The Dutch Occupation. There was another tour at 1 pm, The Trading City with visits to local temple and bank. I turned that down. Thanks to the free tours, also the free cigarette factory, I kind of know a lot about the city, about the history following Indonesia’s independence and the really pretty and historical Dutch colonial buildings and what they were used for during that time. I totally recommend the tours.

Full-AC bus tour
Full-AC bus tour
Former Bank of Indonesia
Former Bank of Indonesia
A park to remember the fallen heroes
A park to remember the fallen heroes


Church interior
Church interior
Formerly the school of Indonesia's first president
Formerly the school of Indonesia’s first president, now a post office

The cigarette factory smelled like tobacco. (duh!) I went around and saw many pictures and displays about the excos of the company, different tobaccos from all around the world, changes of packaging designs and advertisements and also the company’s contribution to the community. At the top of the museum, also the end of it, I saw from a huge glass window, hundreds of factory workers sitting on long tables and chairs, all facing the same direction at the first floor. They were working really fast, wrapping the tobacco, cutting the edges, bundled the cigarettes and putting them in packages. The whole place smelled like tobacco. I have to say that twice. Also they blasted Dangdut music for the workers. I guess it fuelled their fast movements.

Factory workers working as fast as lightning
Factory workers working as fast as lightning

I put aside time after lunch to visit the iconic landmark of Surabaya (Sura, the shark, and Baya, the crocodile). It’s kind of like Singapore’s Merlion. Both are iconic to tourists and meaningless to locals.

Surabaya’s icon
road safety
The cuter version of them in road safety poster

I also saw the longest (ordinary) bridge in Indonesia. Honestly, I would rather visit wooden bridge at its edge of breaking in some villages and see how the villagers still manage to cross it. But still, it looked pretty awesome. I couldn’t see the end of it.

Suramadu Bridge
Suramadu Bridge

One thing about Surabaya was that the city is clean. It has large side walks that enable people to jog in the late afternoon. I saw so many gardens with great maintenance. I commented about the gardens to some people I met along the way and they replied almost the same thing. They admire the current mayor for what she did to the city. She literally transformed the city to a garden city, they said.

garden Statue

After all those fun exploring the city, I had to go back to the horrific hotel. It was after sunset and I expected a lobby full of people. None. Not back from activities, I thought. I went to the reception and asked for the AC remote. I couldn’t switch it off when I left and also it was freezing cold. When the staff came to my room he told me that there is only one remote for the entire floor. But, he let me keep the remote for the night. I looked outside at the other 20 over rooms on the same floor. I was the only guest that night.

I slept with the TV and lights switched on.
18th June 2015


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