Palembang is Sumatra‘s second largest city after Medan and is a useful base for travellers heading out to Bangka and Belitung. Palembang was once a major trading route to Europe and the Far East due to its massive river the Sungai Musi. Ships still sail up and down this river delivering trade although today it is not a prominent route among traders.
The one landmark of Palembang is the Ampera Bridge. This bridge is huge and was once a magnificent feat of engineering until the swing allowing larger ships to gain entrance in the city broke down in the 70’s and hasn’t been repaired since. The bridge is certainly not Pont Neuf but it will allow you to cross from one bank to the other.
As with any city that houses a major river, river cruises are a popular trip among visitors. You will find that the tourist office will try to sell you tickets on the river however you can easily negotiate a ticket yourself along the waterfront of the Ampera bridge at Pasar Ilir 16. A slow boat (Ketek) should cost no more than Rp 40,000 for an hours trip. Although the river is heavily polluted it’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
A worthwhile visit and regarded as one of the best Sumatran Museums is the Museum Negeri Propinsi Sumatra Selatan (the South Sumatra Regional Museum). It can be found on Jalan Srijaya 288 and is situated around 5 kms north of Palembang. The museum was built in the early eighties and houses geological exhibits of Sumatra, weapons, ceramics, textiles and traditional costumes. All these exhibits are held in very airy galleries and the surrounding gardens are pleasant enough to stroll around.
Accommodation in Palembang is realitively inexpensive however some higher end hotels are starting to open up. Most of the accommodation can be found around Jalan Sudirman.
Whatever you think of Palembang, try to remember it was once a bustling hive of trade serving the far flung corners of the world.
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