The city of Semarang, capital city of Central Java province, is known for its numerous Chinese temples and monasteries. Semarang is where Chinese Admiral Cheng Ho during his journeys to the archipelago first set foot on Java's soil and sojourned here the longest. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that this city has one of the oldest Chinatown areas in the country which continues to draw visitors to explore.
This year, do plan to visit Semarang on Chinese New Year, on 8th February 2016, where you can witness and experience genuine Chinese New Year festivities as presented by the Chinese Indonesian Peranakan community of Semarang.
A must-see destination one should definitely not miss while in Semarang is the Semawis market. Located at Gang Warung street, the Semawis Market or sometimes called Warung Semawis was originally a night market in Chinatown that was held a few days before the Chinese New Year celebrations. Lately, Semawis market was revitalized to commemorate the 600 years anniversary of Admiral Cheng Ho's arrival in the Indonesian archipelago.
The Semawis market was initiated by the Semawis Coffee Community and Semarang's Chinatown Community for Tourism. Located just a short 10 minutes' drive from the Semarang Tawang train station, here you can find hundreds of booths offering a gamut offoodstalls, ranging from Semarang traditional food (such as nasi Semarang spring rolls or lumpia, gudeg, nasi pindang, and soto, sate, chicken rice, babat fried rice, etc.), to Middle Eastern meals, Pakistani and Indian cuisine and of course typical Chinese cuisine to be enjoyed.
During the celebrations, there will also be a stage for entertainment presenting typical Chinese Peranakan art such as the wayang potehi, Semarang xylophones, jipin, twa why djwee, the lion dance, toyo games, drums, and wushu performed by those from the nearby temples. At the corners of Chinatown near Gang Warung you can see rows of red lanterns adorning every nook and cranny and hung over the street. And for those curious to know what the future has in store, here you can also find Feng Shui consultant booths, next to traditional Chinese medicine shops.
Beyond Chinese New Year, Semawis market is still interesting to visit. Opening hours are between 18.00 to 23.00 hrs every weekend on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. At Gang Warung, you will find hundreds of food stalls selling all kinds of mouth-watering meals ranging from Javanese, Chinese, Arab, Pakistani, and Indian cuisine. Meanwhile the karaoke stall blaring Mandarin songs will accompany your dinner.
When you arrive at Semawis market early, explore its historic heritage such as the Tay Kak Sie temple in Gang Lombok, the Siu Hok Biotemple (1753) at Wotgandul Timur street, the Liong Hok Bio at Gang Pinggir, and many more. While in Semarang do take time to visit the ancient Sam Poo Kong temple.
Semarang is also a major gateway to see the Borobudur temple.