Surabaya, Indonesia

My Town

Surabaya, Indonesia

Trijayanti Darmadji enjoying the views from the top of Mount Bromo, located a few hours from Surabaya. Photos courtesy of Trijayanti except where noted.

Trijayanti Darmadji (BCom’09) is the CEO of her family’s aromatherapy company in Indonesia, and has lived in Surabaya for more than twenty years.

What three words or phrases best describe Surabaya?

Hot. Comfortable. Good food.

How did you come to live in Surabaya?  

Aside from being born and raised here, I moved back home after I graduated from UBC in 2009 to help in the family business.

What do you like most about living there?

Indonesia is made up of over 17,000 islands with tons of interesting places to visit. There are also lots of activities to do, such as hiking and diving, which cater to leisure or extreme sport seekers. Since Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia, there are numerous direct flights from here that can conveniently take you to different islands as well.

Indonesia's many islands offer opportunities for a variety of natural excursions, such as hiking and diving. Click on each image to learn more.

Describe your favourite neighbourhood. 

Here we categorize the city as East, West, and Central Surabaya. I used to live in Central Surabaya and that is still my favourite part of town — it felt like I was living right in the middle of downtown. Everything is within reach here, making it easy to get to work, try new restaurants, and meet up with friends and family living in either the east or west side of town.

If you could change one thing about Surabaya, what would it be?  

If Surabaya could have a winter season, that’d be cool — it’s hot all year round!

What might surprise a visitor about Surabaya?

Considering Surabaya is the second most populous city in Indonesia, visitors might be surprised by how (relatively) laid back the traffic is, and also how clean and green the city is. Another thing that might surprise visitors is that locals like to have a rice dish for breakfast.

What are your favourite hidden gems or activities that only locals know about? 

Surabaya has tons of good food and local dishes to try! Two of my favourite would be nasi campur (meaning “mixed rice”), which is served wrapped in paper or banana leaves, and penyetan, which is fried meat or veggies smashed into chili sauce. My favourite versions of these dishes are served from food carts and stands literally on the side of the street.

What’s the most over-rated tourist hotspot? 

Rawon Setan (which translates as “devil’s rawon”) is a restaurant that is normally recommended to tourists. Rawon is the name of a savoury beef soup known for its black colouring. The restaurant used to be open from midnight to dawn to cater to late-night diners (hence the nod to setan — or “devil” — in its name). I’ve dined there once and personally would recommend other places to try rawon. 

How easy is it to meet new people?   

I think it depends on how active you are, but people here are pretty friendly, so I don’t think it’s hard to meet new people. Joining some activities would be the easiest way to do it.

What is one local custom that every visitor should know about?

On October 2, 2009, UNESCO added Indonesian batik — a traditional fabric made using a special dyeing technique — to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. To commemorate this day, which became an annual holiday, the Indonesian government encouraged residents to dress in batik on Fridays (as well as on October 2). So you’ll see people wearing batik on those days, whether at school, in the office, or when going out. I love batik, so I’m happy to wear it on Fridays. Outfits made of batik can range from casual to formal wear. You’ll even see it worn at weddings.

Snapshots of life in Surabaya. Click on each image to learn more.

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