The Heart of the Ancient Srivijaya Kingdom
Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, was once the centre seat of the ancient Srivijaya Empire. For more than three centuries, the Buddhist kingdom was a powerful trade hub with merchants from China, India and Java trading in gold, spices, silk and ivory. Today, the legacy of Srivijaya’s golden age shows itself in the city’s museums, its traditional gold and silver songket and its red-and-black lacquerware. More recently, the city co-hosted the 26th Southeast Asian Games, with the opening ceremony taking place at Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium. Divided by the wide Musi River, the Ampera Bridge is a striking city feature with locals often comparing its design and colouring to that of the Golden Gate Bridge. For gastronomic travellers, Palembang’s regional specialty is pempek: a savoury fishcake served with sweet vinegar sauce.
Things to do
Cruise the Musi
On a cruise down the Musi River opens in new window you’ll pass the iconic Ampera bridge and floating market, Pasar 16 Ilir (activities peak around 11am). While the arrangement is informal, travellers are able to haggle with local captains to charter a boat. Costs vary depending on distance and time.
A cruise down the Musi river would be incomplete without a stop at Kemaro Island opens in new window. Located in the centre of the river, the island is home to the Buddhist temple -- Hok Tjing Rio -- and the grave of a Chinese princess, betrothed to a Srivijaya king.
Pagaralam opens in new window, a six hour drive from Palembang, is well worth a visit. Nestled in the Pasemah Highlands, it’s famous for the mysterious megalithic stone monuments that dot the landscape. While these date back some 3000 years, little else is known about them or the civilisation that carved them.
Behind the Museum Sultan Machmud Badaruddin II, lies Palembang’s local art market opens in new window where you can watch artisans at work and buy handcrafted souvenirs. Look out for the region’s gold and silver songket sarongs and red-and-black lacquerware.
Step into history
The Museum of Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II opens in new window holds a collection of more than 500 artifacts ranging from the kingdom of Srivijaya to the Sultanate of Palembang. The building itself is a mix of Dutch colonial architecture and traditional Limas roofing.
Travel time 37 minutes
Taxi Approx IDR 70,000 - IDR 90,000; Blue Bird taxi is the most reliable
Bus TRANSMUSI corridor five operates between Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II International Airport and Alang Alang Lebar Bus StationBack to top
When to go
Palembang has a tropical, rainforest climate with relatively high humidity and consistent year round lows (23°C) and highs (31°C). July and August experience the least yearly rainfall while November - April are the region’s wetter months.
Every June the Sriwijaya Festival takes place at the Archaeological Park of Sriwijaya Palembang in celebration of the ancient kingdom. Come August and coinciding with Independence Day (17 August) the Annual Bidar Race (a traditional canoe race) takes place on the Musi River.Back to top
Palembang’s city bus system, TRANS MUSI, is one of Indonesia’s most convenient. There are currently 11 lines in operation with a flat fare of IDR 5,000 per trip. Take corridor two for the Palembang Indah Mall and corridor six for Palembang Square. Otherwise, take one of the many becak (bicycle rickshaws) or ojek (motorcycle taxis) stationed around the city.Back to top