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House of Sampoerna

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Only in Indonesia could someone buying an abandoned orphanage to turn it into a cigarette factory, be passed off in the official brochures without the slightest of raised eyebrows—welcome to one of Surabaya’s most popular “attractions” the House of Sampoerna.

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The story of the founder, Liem Seeng Tee is a compelling one. Born in 1893 in Fukkien province in China, he immigrated to Indonesia, where he lived with a foster family in Bojonegoro. As a child he first worked the railroads then ended up selling household wares on the streets of Surabaya as a young man.

100+ years of slowing killing Indonesia’s best and brightest. Photo taken in or around House of Sampoerna, Surabaya, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

100+ years of slowing killing Indonesia’s best and brightest. Photo: Stuart McDonald

In 1913, he switched to selling hand rolled kretek cigarettes from his home—kretek cigarettes contain a mix of tobacco and dried cloves and have a very distinct smell. Business took a turn for the better when, in 1916, he bought up the tobacco stock of another (bankrupt) tobacco merchant and from there the business went from strength to strength. Fast forward less than a century to 2005, and tobacco conglomerate Philip Morris offered over US$5 billion dollars to buy what had by then become Sampoerna—a household brand across the archipelago.

You can learn this and much more in a small museum which occupies the front part of the House of Sampoerna. Containing photos and memorabilia throughout the history of the founder and his company, these provide a fascinating insight into how life was back in the day. As with most tobacco museums in Indonesia, the collection is extremely well presented, with near perfect bilingual signage and has a thoroughly professional feel and staff. It would be great to see some of Indonesia’s tobacco magnates pour some of their buckets of money into other non-tobacco-related museums across the country as they certainly appear to be keen on funding their ... Travelfish members only (Around 500 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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House of Sampoerna
Taman Sampoerna 6, Surabaya
Mo–Su: 09:00-19:00
T: (031) 353 9000
Admission: Free

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