Once part of the province of West Java, Banten was officially established as its own province in the year 2000. Located at the westernmost part on the island of Java, Banten may be a young province, but it holds spectacular natural and cultural wonders that have attracted travelers for quite a long time.
Capital of this Province is the city of Serang, formerly the administrative center of the broader Serang Regency, when Banten was still part of West Java.
Situated on the north coast of Banten, about 2 hours drive from Jakarta, the city of Serang is not only the center of the provincial government and business activities, but the city is also gateway to some of the most spellbinding wonders of Banten that include the Ujung Kulon National Park, the Tanjung Lesung Resort, Carita Beach, the traditional village of Baduy, and a whole lot more.
Although appointed as an autonomous city only in 2007, Serang has played an important role in the country’s history. The city was the seat of the once thriving Islamic Banten Sultanate which reigned from 1527 to 1813, and was widely recognized as a prominent trading center in Southeast Asia. Today, the once great sultanate may just be pages in history, however remnants of its glorious past still radiate from the site of the old capital known today as the Old Banten Complex.
Centered around the Masjid Agung Banten or the Grand Mosque of Banten, the old Banten complex is situated at the northern part of the city, about 10 km from the heart of Serang. Next to the grand mosque, only a set of orange brick perimeter walls are all that remain of the grand Surosowan Palace, once the seat of power of the Banten Sultanate. The other palace in the complex is the Kaibon Palace which was destroyed by the Dutch in 1832, marking the end of the era of the Banten Sultanate. To learn more about the history of the this Sultanate, visit the Old Banten Museum, located between the Grand Mosque and the Surosowan Palace.
With the arrival of Dutch colonial forces in the early 17th century and the decline of the Banten Sultanate, Serang continued to serve as an important city for the Dutch colonial government. It was here that the Dutch trading company Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) first opened its office in 1603 which was later taken over by the Dutch Kingdom, from where they started the occupation of the entire Indonesian Archipelago.
After its establishment as capital of the Banten Region of the Netherlands East Indies in 1808, Serang grew as a colonial city, decorated with distinct Dutch architectural buildings. Among those still preserved in its authentic architecture is the Pendopo Gubernur Banten, or “The Governor’s Office of Banten”.
Situated in the heart of Serang, directly facing Serang Square, the Pendopo Gubernur Banten, or “The Governor’s Office of Banten” is the legacy from the Dutch Colonial era that also marks the change of reign over this region, from the Banten Sultanate to the Dutch Colonial administration.
Built in 1828, the building was used as office and residence of Dutch Colonial governors in Banten from 1827 to 1942. With the arrival of the Japanese forces in 1942, the building was taken over by the Japanese and used as a military based. The building continued to play its part as the seat of government after the Independence of the Republic of Indonesia in 1945 until the establishment of the newly integrated Banten Provincial Government Complex in November 2013.
Considering its long and significant history, a plan is now underway to transform the Pendopo Gubernur Banten, which still retains its original architecture, to become the Provincial Museum by the year of 2015.
The historical account of Banten is also carved at the Port of Karangantu on the north coast of the city, which was once known as the largest port on Java before the arrival of Dutch colonial forces and the move of the Dutch East Indies capital to Batavia (present day Jakarta) as the hub of activities of the VOC.
Situated near the old Banten Complex, Karangantu, the main port of Banten’s Sultanante was once abuzz with merchant ships from China, Arabia, Turkey, and other countries that regularly called on this port. Today, although the port has been reduced to just a small fishing town, nonetheless, it is the gateway to some of the most fascinating islands off the coast of Banten for those who enjoy fishing, snorkeling, and diving.
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