Surabaya is the capital city of the Indonesian province of East Java and the second-largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta. Located on the northeastern border of Java island, on the Madura Strait, it is one of the earliest port cities in Southeast Asia. . . . The city was settled in the 10th century by the Kingdom of Janggala, one of the two Javanese kingdoms that was formed in 1045 when Airlangga abdicated his throne in favor of his two sons. In the late 15th and 16th centuries, Surabaya grew to be a duchy, a major political and military power as well as a port in eastern Java, probably under the Majapahit empire. At that time, Surabaya was already a major trading port, owing to its location on the River Brantas delta and the trade route between Malacca and the Spice Islands via the Java Sea. During the decline of Majapahit, the lord of Surabaya resisted the rise of the Demak Sultanate and only submitted to its rule in 1530. Surabaya became independent after the death of Sultan Trenggana of Demak in 1546. . . . In the 18th and 19th centuries, Surabaya was the largest city in the Dutch East Indies. It became a major trading center under the Dutch colonial government and hosted the most extensive naval base in the colony. Surabaya was also the largest city in the colony serving as the center of Java’s plantation economy, industry and was supported by its natural harbor.
“Map of Surabaya, Indonesia, from Guide to the Dutch East Indies”, 1897 (from Wikimedia Commons
SURABAYA, or SOERABAYA, a large seaport town of Java; on the N. E. coast, and capital of one of the three provinces into which the island is divided by the Dutch; lat. 1° 12′ 30″ S.; lon. 112° 44′ 7″ E.; it is at the mouth of a navigable river, 1½ mile from the seashore. The river separates the European part of the town from the Chinese and the native quarter. The houses are very good, and some are elegant, particularly the country seats of private individuals. Surabaya is situated within that narrow strait which is formed by the islands of Java and Madura, and is defended by batteries. The mouth of the river is also defended. Pop. of town about 120,000. Province area 2,327 square miles. Pop. 2,115,000.
Collier’s New Encyclopedia, 1921 (Wikisource)
Sourabaya is the leading commercial and industrial city of the Dutch East Indies with a population of about 250,000, of which about 25,000 are Europeans. It possesses the most up to date harbour in the whole of the archipelago. This harbour, called Tandjong Perak, is about 7 miles distant from the upper, or new, town and is easily reached by motor car, the road leading to it being laid with asphalt cement. A modern Electric Tram Service, running from the Willemsplein (William’s Square) near the Red Bridge, also connects the port with the town. In the lower town a vast volume of business is being transacted, Sourabaya being the centre of the Sugar, Coffee, Rubber and Tobacco trade. Conspicuous is the large number of Chinese here as everywhere else in the island. The Retail Trade is almost entirely in their hands while they have also large interests in the Sugar, Rubber, Coffee and Timber business. Some of the handsomest houses in the residential quarters are owned by Chinese. As regards amusements Soura- baya enjoys the reputation of being the gayest city in the Dutch East Indies. There are two Night Clubs (Dance Clubs), two large Social Clubs, a Cabaret, an Ice Cream Palace and a number of Cinema Theatres. Sourabaya is a more modern city than Batavia and as such cannot boast of the same number of sights as the latter but for all that no Sourabayan will ever willingly exchange this town with any other right through the archipelago.
“See Java : the garden of the East, a short guide for tourists”, 1918?
Soerabaya, the second town of Java, and the principal mercantile town, is the capital of the Residency of that name. The head-quarters of the Military authorities of East Java, the dock-yards, artillery works naval establishment, and the head-offices of the State Railway Company (Eastern section) are situated here. Soerabaya has two railway-stations: Soerabaya — Kotta, and Soerabaya — Goebeng.
As the principal hotels, Hotel Simpang and Hotel Embong Making are situated near the Goebeng station travellers should address their luggage to the latter, where the omnibuses of the Hotels and the carriages (here called ‘”kossong”) are waiting.
An English traveller once gave his impressions about Soerabaya in the following lines: “In the business quarter of the town there is no very marked contrast to similar places in other eastern cities, but as one comes from the station and goes on to Simpang and Kaijoen, where the Europeans principally reside, the roads become broader, shadier and cleaner, and the traffic less crowded. There are many well situated and attractive shops, and Grimm’s great cafe, standing in a fork between two roads, cannot fail to catch the eye. From this point it is said pass as many carriages as on London Bridge. The houses in the European districts are one-storeyed pavilions with pillared porticoes, and generally floored with marble, each with a railing in front, and a little patch of lawn hardly bigger than a good-sized hearthrug, and each separated from its neighbours by an eight-foot wall. “
“Java, the wonderland”, Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer, Batavia, 1900
The wharf at Sourabaya is situated like most docks in a very unaristocratic part of the town, and we had to drive a long way before reaching the Dutch residential quarter, where the best hotels are to be found, as well as the finest houses. At first we skirted the canal, passing the huge buildings belonging to the dockyards which lined one side of the road, as well as some very ugly, small ones. The boats in the canal looked most pic- turesque with their wooden roofs painted in various colours, their striped sails and brightly- decorated prows; the effect was very gay. We then turned a corner so suddenly that we were nearly jerked into the road, and found ourselves opposite a big, ancient-looking building shaded by beautiful trees; this we learnt later was the “Prins Hendrik,” an old fort no longer in use. Another turn and we were in a narrow street teeming with Oriental life, with Chinese and Javanese shops or bazaars on either side. These latter seemed full of quaint and unknown things, as far as could be seen during our rapid transit, but we could only catch glimpses of these marvels. The thorough- fare was crowded with a motley collection of Malays, Javanese, Chinese, Negroes and even Arabs conspicuous in their long, white garments; in fact, all sorts and conditions of men and women were represented, all dressed in the costume of their country, making a wonderful kaleidoscopic scene.
The strangest sight of all, and one that never lost its interest during our stay in Java, was the native carrier. At the ends of a bamboo pole, the middle of which rests on his shoulders, he carries every conceivable thing. Sometimes deep baskets containing fruit and vegetables, or flat ones with fish and native food, are fixed to each end ; at other times huge bundles of fodder for the bullocks and horses; or at the end of one pole will hang a primitive charcoal stove, and at the other a basket with eatables ready to be cooked when required. It is marvellous what heavy weights can be carried in this way; even bricks for building purposes, quite a huge pile being balanced in a hod or basket at each end of the pole. We passed many motors and numerous bicycles, also well-appointed carriages drawn by very good horses, generally in pairs. In some of the carriages, reclining at ease, were richly dressed Chinamen, as a great number of the Celestials living in Sourabaya, and indeed in most of the towns in Java, are exceedingly wealthy, and live in good style in beautiful houses, waited on by Javanese or Malay servants.
From the narrow street we emerged into a square, caught a glimpse of a market, and then entered a broad avenue, the Simpang Road, shaded on either side by tjemara trees. Here were some fine shops and one of the best cafes in the Dutch East Indies Grimm’s Restaurant. We continued our way at the same break-neck speed, passing under the beautiful trees and noting some fine public buildings, till we finally, after a drive of more than an hour, rattled into the open space in front of the Simpang Hotel.
. . .
Hotel Simpang was quite unlike any building I had seen hitherto, and consisted of a large, one- storied house in the centre, with a number of smaller houses or bungalows, built at a little distance round three sides of it, the whole covering a considerable tract of ground. These smaller buildings contained bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and various offices, while the central building had the dining-room and larger bedrooms. The various bungalows are connected with each other and with the principal house by narrow paved or concrete passages covered overhead with galvanized iron, but open at the sides, and slightly raised to escape the damp of the ground in wet weather. The spaces between the passages are filled with soft gravel which you can walk across if you like, but it is not so pleasant as on the path- ways. We were taken along a very wide verandah to an immense room in the main building which had been reserved for my brother and his wife. All the rooms, both large and small, open on to the verandah, and that portion immediately in front of each room is reserved as a sitting-room for the occupant, and furnished with table, chairs and footstools, and has a brilliant overhanging light. There is no drawing-room or lounge in Javanese hotels, the verandah answers the purpose.
“A journey to Java”, Michael McMillan, 1914