Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city with a population of 2.5 million according to most recent estimates, is located on the north coast of Java and is the capital of Jawa Timur (East Java) province. It's a major trade and transport hub, making it a city many visitors will be forced to transit through on their way to other destinations.
Surabaya however shouldn't simply be seen as a transit point, as tourists can enjoy a number of quality activities here and the feel of this sprawling city compares favourably to places such as Jakarta and Bandung. Highlights include the fantastic House of Sampoerna cigarette factory, the Majapahit relics at Trowulan and the Surabaya old city.
The name Surabaya is thought by locals to have been formed from the words for shark (sura) and crocodile (baya) which in local folklore battled for supremacy. Statues of fighting sharks and crocodiles can be seen throughout the city and on the official seal.
Sharks and crocodiles however, were not the only ones who thought Surabaya was worth fighting for. It was here that the aptly named Battle of Surabaya took place in 1945. After the killing of a British soldier in late October of that year, the occupying British forces gave Indonesian forces within the city an ultimatum to surrender and when this lapsed they attacked. In what subsequently became known as Heroes Day (and an Indonesian national holiday), what began on November 10 and was supposed to be a two or three day campaign developed into a three week battle with over 6,000 Indonesians killed while the British bombed the city from the air. While the British eventually "won" the battle, the war was eventually to be won by Indonesians.
Weather year-round is fairly consistent with maximum temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, the exception being that the wet season brings daily rain between November and April.
The main train station, Gubeng, is located in the centre of town while the main bus station, Purabaya, is located 13 kilometres south of town at Bungurasih.
Surabaya is a large city with ATMs, internet facilities and police stations located throughout town.
The tourist information centre has some basic information should you be on the lookout for cultural performances. The centre is conveniently located on Jalan Pemuda and is open from Monday to Saturday.
By Adam Poskitt