Architectural Interest of Colonial Indonesia
With more than 350 years of Dutch occupation, it is no surprise that Indonesia is rich in colonial history. One does not have to venture far to see these influences on the urban landscapes of Java. Once integral to the famous and notorious trade routes to the Spice Islands, now called the Maluccas, Java is home to several cities along the northern coast that were visited by European sailing ships.
Semarang and Jepara in central Java are two of these cities. Today, best known for its Chinese community, yearly floods and hot climate, Semarang has several of the best-preserved neighborhoods with European (Dutch), Chinese and even Yemeni architecture. Included on UNESCO’s tentative list for Asia, the kota lama (old quarter) is perfect for wandering around and taking a walk through colonial times. Many buildings need renovation, but the charm is still there.
In the early 18th century, Semarang took over the role as most important transit port in central Java from Jepara, another important, but smaller port. Jepara is known for its Portuguese and Dutch influences. It is the birthplace of Kartini, one of Indonesia’s national heroes and a gateway to other parts of Indonesia for religions and cultures. Jepara is the first place in Java that was introduced to Islam.
At that time, business was booming for the VOC (Dutch East India Trading Company) and Semarang became the second most important city for the Dutch after Batavia, modern day Jakarta. Trading and financial companies built their office buildings in kota lama, which is strategically located near the Semarang River and close to the elegant Blenduk church.
After 1830, the trade emphasis shifted from the sea to the hinterlands and Semarang’s goods were transported inland. To guarantee smooth logistics, extensive canal systems and even railways were built. Urban planning was high on the city’s agenda and these early design features of the city are still visible today. In addition to the European influence, the Chinese community has left its mark on the city as well. One of Asia’s first multinationals was founded in Semarang and the Chinese Sam Po Kong Temple is an historical landmark of early Chinese culture and architecture.
Khiri Travel Indonesia invites your travelers for our unique exploration of both Semarang and Jepara port cities to discover a diverse culture of history and architecture as well as some relaxing natural features. We will bring Dutch and Chinese colonial history to life during a tour on foot in Semarang’s traditional and atmospheric Old Quarter.
We will then continue to Jepara to see the port district’s historic remains of European architecture. Nearby Jepara there are also beautiful beaches and lush green landscapes of terraced rice fields and hidden waterfalls. We can even ride aboard a local fishing on boat in the famous Java Sea to witness a sunrise and experience how countless newcomers throughout history came ashore in Jepara to embark on their new endeavors in Indonesia.