Surabaya (for TEFL Indonesia)
Indonesia’s second largest city has become a cultural, and culinary, melting pot.
Here you will eventually discover Malay, Javanese, Madurese, Indian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean, Taiwanese and Chinese people.
Some of these are recent additions to the mix, and some are the recent representatives of ethnic groups that have been here for generations.
Moreover you will find these cultures have brought their food and their eclectic taste buds. Add Mexican, Scandinavian, Western fast-food, steaks and a dazzling array of breads, pastries and desserts.
Surabaya has a number of activities available within, and outside of, the city. In the city center there is a BMX/skateboard park, an occasionally available ice-skating rink, go-karting, and a few museums.
There’s a submarine exhibit, and various temples, mosques and churches abound. The City of Heroes (an important staging area for the revolution against Dutch Colonialism) is a large city with ample opportunities for photo-taking and sight-seeing.
The multi-ethnic environment has been a part of Surabaya since the port was established over 700 years ago. Traders brought their wares, their architecture, their bloodlines, their beliefs and their food. You will see a wide variety in the faces that range from Malay, East Asian, and Chinese, Arabian and Indian and all the wonderful combinations.
You’ll note a heady mix of historical and religious architecture from government building, schools, churches, mosques, temples and old shops. Dutch churches sit near to Arabic-inspired mosques. Old Dutch homes share streets with Chinese shophouses (translates as Rumah Toko, although generally called Ruko).
There are also older Colonial hotels and their more modern competition. Each of the larger hotels offers restaurants, bars, Karaoke, nightclubs, swimming pools, and fitness/spa facilities. Smaller budget hotels exist, and there are a growing number of boutique hotels.
Rooming houses, guest houses and backpacker hostels offer budget options. Towering office building and apartment complex now dot a changing city-scape. You can still find open fields and see the occasional grazing cattle or goats.
Surabaya is a remarkably understanding and open city with a history of religious and cultural tolerance. That being said, it is expected that visitors will respect locally-accepted cultural and behavioral attitudes and ways of acting.
Public intoxication, fighting or drug use could result in arrest. The first two could mean a night in jail, dismissal from your job or deportation. Drug use will almost guarantee a longer stay in a local jail. It would not be an ideal way to become a long-term resident.
We’ve recently had a spate of foreigners running out on bar and restaurant tabs. That’s really a poor way to repay your hosts and creates problems for everyone. Surabaya may be large geographically but foreigners comprise a small and visible part of the community. These individuals soon find themselves unwelcome even among other expats.
Surabaya is not an ideal city for walking and there are a few reasons. It’s either too hot or it’s raining. Another reason is that sidewalks (when and where they exist) are badly maintained, and often blocked with a roadside food, drink or whatever cart. A kilometer-long walk is an exercise in patience and agility. Walking is generally an indoor activity and air-conditioned malls offer a variety of ‘trails’ and ‘spots’ to stop, hangout, and chill. (See local attractions)
Once you’ve been here for awhile you will identify some quiet residential areas ideal for walking or jogging. You can also make contact with Surabaya’s chapter of the Hash-house Harriers(http://indohash.com/javaeast.html) This hardy band of ne’er-do-wells plot out hiking trails and set off on adventures most weekends.
For more sedate (sober) adventures there are salsa, aerobics and a variety of language courses available. Surabaya has numerous fitness centers, pools and spas. Some of these are in hotels, some in shopping malls. There are rock climbing walls, and a few tennis and badminton courts. For those of you who are more flush with cash there are golf courses and driving ranges.
Although Surabaya is a coastal city, swim-worthy beaches don’t exist here. For a day at the beach and a quick dip, cross the Suramadu Bridge into Madura. For swimming, snorkeling or scuba-diving; best to travel to Pasir Putih, near Malang, Jember, Yogyakarta or Karimunjawa. Farther afield there is Bali, Komodo, the Gili islands and Sulawesi. In the event you need medical care or just a checkup; Surabaya has a good range of hospitals, clinics and dentists.
A full range of hospitals, clinics, general practitioners and dentists exists. Alternatively there are traditional methods of reflexology, acupressure and acupuncture. A number of local pharmacies are available. (Locally called apotiks) These range from small stores to large chains like Guardian and Century.
Sometimes getting out of the city is the best medicine. Close to Surabaya are volcanoes, trails for hiking, places to camp, villas for rent and horses to ride (see outside the City of Heroes).
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