Most Indonesians have learned in school about the exile of Soekarno (affectionately known as Bung Karno, meaning Brother Karno) Indonesia’s first president and leader of the country’s struggle for Independence from the late 1930s. In the midst of this struggle, to prevent Soekarno from making political speeches against the Dutch colonial policy, the Dutch Governor-General sentenced Soekarno to exile without trial. In 1934, Bung Karno and his family were first shipped to Ende, a town on the island of Flores. Due to a malaria outbreak in 1938, Dutch authorities then moved political prisoners to the city of Bengkulu in Southwest Sumatra, where they remained until the Japanese invasion in 1942.
During his exile in Bengkulu, Sukarno met Fatmawati, a young woman from Bengkulu, whom he later married. Fatmawati later became the first Indonesian First Lady. The airport of the city of Bengkulu is also named after her. During these hard times Farmawati was accredited to have personally sewn by hand the first Red and White Flag of Indonesia. This was the flag that was flown on the historic moment of the Proclamation of Independence of Indonesia on 17 August 1945 and every year until 1967, when it was too threadbare to fly. Today, at every Independence Day ceremony, this flag is taken out to accompany a newer version of the Indonesian flag that is flown in front of the Merdeka Palace.
Bung Karno’s exile home in the town of Bengkulu measures roughly 162 square meters. It is a simple, rectangular house with plain walls, a high pyramid-shaped roof and a spacious yard. The main doors are double leaf with ornate window grills. It is not known when the house was first constructed, but it is estimated to have been built in the early 20th century.
The house was originally owned by Chinese businessman, Tan Eng Cian, who worked as a grocery supplier for the Dutch Government. Chinese characteristics can be found in the structure of the building’s vents, and several doors and windows are still patterned with Chinese characters. The house was later leased by the Dutch government as a home for Sukarno.
Today, the building is maintained by the Bengkulu Provincial Government, and is named Persada Bung Karno. It now serves as a museum, library, meeting room and theater. Within the house is a collection of objects of high historical value, such as Soekarno’s strategy outlines during his struggle in exile.
Bung Karno’s exile home is located on Jalan Jeruk – later renamed Jalan Soekarno-Hatta, in the Gading Cempaka District, Bengkulu City.
A piece of paper is taped to the inside of a closet door in Soekarno’s exile home listing some of Bung Karno’s preferred dishes. Some of these are Shark Bagar and Pais Fish.
Bagar Shark is one of the traditional cuisines of Bengkulu. The dish uses shark meat, seasoned with onions, garlic, tumeric, bay leaves, and lime leaves. Nowadays, sharks are listed under the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) as endangered species, thus making the chances of trying this dish close to none.
Tempoyak is another dish that is perhaps always present at the Bengkulu family dinner table. This food is made from fermented durian fruit and is served as a side dish. Tempoyak chili sauce is also one of the flavors you will often come across in Bengkulu. This sauce often contains ocean or river fish, and is sometimes mixed with shrimp as well.
Other typical Bengkulu dishes that are worth a try are ikan pais, bagar kambing, juada tat, anak tat, kue satu, and perut punai.
The historic homes are located not far from the city center where you can buy some traditional souvenirs from of the region.
Hotel Santika is located in the Sawah Lebar District, an ideal location for visiting the city’s attractions of Soekarno’s home, Marlborough Fort and Bengkulu’s beautiful Panjang Beach. Smoking and non-smoking rooms are available, each including the usual amenities. Hotel facilities include an indoor swimming pool, a ballroom with a 500 person capacity, Fitness center, Restaurant and Spa.
Address: Jalan Raya Jati No. 45, Sawah Lebar, Bengkulu
Splash Hotel is Bengkulu’s leading business hotel. It is ideally located just 6 km from Fatmawati airport, and is close to select destinations throughout the city. Facilities include a restaurant, lounge, business center, meeting rooms and hotspots around the hotel.
Address: Jl. Sudirman No. 48 Bengkulu Indonesia
Grage Horizon Hotel is located beside Long Beach, just 20 minutes from the airport and close to the city center, making it ideal for both business and leisure visitors. Grage hotel comprises of 58 rooms of 6 different types to suit your varying needs. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, swimming pool, meeting room and ballroom.
Address: Jalan Pantai Nala 142 Anggut Bawah Bengkulu-Indonesia
Several historical relics belonging to Indonesia’s founding father can be found here. These include a vast variety of objects ranging from his beloved bicycle to a love letter to his future wife, Fatmawati.
Two glass cabinets store Soekarno’s diverse collection of books, including “Het Post Zegelboek,” “Jong Java’s Lief en Leed,” “The Automatic Letter Writer,” “Plammarion-in Het Stervensuur,” “Mia Bruyn-Buwehand,” “de Rhynmonders,” and ” KatholiekeJeugdbijbel .” A collection of music books also indicate that Bung Karno must have had a notable interest in music.
Also on display are a chair, table and bed that were used by Bung Karno. Another room contains a sewing machine that was used by Fatmawati. A number of other household items used by Bung Karno and his family are still stored here.
Behind the house, there is a well that is believed to bring luck and good fortune, thus leading many to wash in the waters of this well, hoping for a taste of such blessings.
About 600 meters from Bung Karno’s exile home is the residence of Fatmawati and her family before her marriage to Soekarno. It is located near the Simpang Lima round about, in front of the office of the Mayor of Bengkulu. The house is brown, and structured in the traditional style. This building is now also a museum containing much of the furniture and belongings of Mrs. Fatmawati. This includes the sewing machine that was used to stitch Indonesia’s first Red and White Flag which was flown at the Proclamation of Independence on August 17, 1945.
Fatmawati Airport in Bengkulu is a domestic airport, serving only Jakarta and Batam.
Soekarno’s home is located in the city center, not far from the Mayor’s office, and about 2 km from Fort Malborough. To get there from the airport, simply hail a cab to take you to Jalan Soekarno-Hatta, or you may prefer to rent a car for further exploration of the city.