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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 ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 500 words.)

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