The old city and Chinatown at Semarang Tours
Spend a day exploring the older areas of town, then head into the hills. Start your tour with a look at the harbor, a smaller version of Jakarta’s Sunda Kelapa and Surabaya’s Kali Mas. Proceed south through the old European commercial district around Jl. Jend Suprapto. The major landmark here, standing amidst 200-year-old warehouses and offices, is the copper-domed Gereja Blenduk, a Dutch church dating from 1753. To the west, across the river, lies Semarang’s shopping and hotel district, but first make a detour south along Jl. Pekojan into the heart of the city’s colorful Chinatown district.
Chinese merchants have contributed greatly to Semarang’s success as a commercial hub. Best-known among them is Oei Tiong Ham, the “sugar king” who made a fortune from agricultural exports and control of the state opium monopoly at the turn of the century-becoming chief (majoor) of Semarang’s Chinese community and owner of a vast business empire with interests in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York and London. His company has been called Asia’s first multi-national corporation, and at the time of his death in 1924 he is said to have been worth 200 million Dutch guilders.
Today Semarang maintains a strong Chinese flavor, with the highest percentage of ethnic Chinese of any city in Indonesia. The maze of lanes tucked inside a bend in the rivers at the and of Jl.Pekojan offers a fascinating glimpse of bustling shops and old “Nanyang” row-houses with carved doorways and latticed balconies.