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South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) Travel Tips

4.0 stars

Insider advice for your South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) vacation

Chinese Influence in Bukit Besak, South Sumatra 4 stars
Most of Buddhist temples are very interesting; as I grew up with watching lots of Kung Fu video-series, I always dream to go to China just to see authentic grand Buddhist temples. The major color of shining gold and red make the temples very fascinating to see and more over, the very nice wind chime-like ornaments, the paper lanterns, the huge giant bell or gong, and of course the Buddha statues; definitely a very nice praying place for sure.

In the island of Sumatera, in some of the provinces, cities, and areas, you definitely will meet many Indonesians who are Chinese descendants especially in Medan, North Sumatera. Though mostly they are Catholic or Christian (Protestant and other Church branches), many of them are also still practicing Buddhism. While visiting Sumatra, though we did not really see any great temples, we were lucky enough to find the following temples as shown in the pictures below; it was my very first time going to a Buddhist temple and I quite liked it. At that time, no one was praying at the temples and it was sort of closed for the day.

These pictures were taken in Palembang, South Sumatra though, not in Medan, North Sumatra; though I was expecting something more as in Kung Fu movies, my first experience of going to Buddhist temple in Palembang made me wanting to go to China even stronger :)


Hutan Wisata Punti Kayu (Recreational Place of Natural Pine Forest) 4 stars
Another place to visit while in Palembang, South Sumatra is the famous pine forest recreational place called Hutan Wisata Punti Kayu (Punti Kayu Natural Pine Forest); well actually we were informed that this pine forest is the only recreational place that is close to downtown Palembang thus it is famous among the people. When we first came to Palembang, my brother in law kept telling us about this recreational place surrounded by trees and beautiful breeze, perfect for the family picnic.

This recreational place is beautiful, am not sure why some people would complain so much that there is nothing really to see at Hutan Wisata Punti Kayu or since it is the closest one to downtown (well not too-too close though) so the people say they have no other entertainment to do or nice places to go to but this pine forest. I liked it there at the pine forest. The area is clean, the scenery surrounding is very nice, and there are definitely quite a few things to do and spots to explore to here at the pine forest. From playground, artificial lake where you can cross with rented traditional boat; there is also a “zoo” area where you can hop on the elephant for amusement, or even swimming at the pool. So I would say even though Hutan Wisata Punti Kayu is said to be the only choice that the Palembang people could go to for picnic with the family, the place is so worth it!

One who is not a Palembang origin, when they go to Palembang, he or she should really pack some snacks, bread, cheese, wine, clean wide tablecloth and a book; head to Hutan Wisata Punti Kayu and just enjoy the day with the fresh fragrance of the pine branches :-) Oh, almost forgot, there is also a souvenir shop that you can check for some goodies!


Rumah Limas - Authentic Traditional House of Palembang 4 stars
When you go to Palembang in South Sumatra, Indonesia, you definitely will find plenty authentic traditional houses of Palembang people called Rumah Limas. Usually built in a very big size, Rumah Limas is an authentic Malay-style house (Note: Malay as in Malay people of South East Asian countries, not Malay as in Malaysian people); this unique style of house is called Rumah Limas due to its ceiling; the architecture of the ceiling has the format of “limas” similar to pyramid but slightly different at the very peak.

While in Malaysia this kind of houses is called Rumah Limas as shortened of Rumah Lima Emas (5 Golden Houses) and related to the 5 principles of the Malay/Johor people in Malaysia; in Palembang Indonesia, it is called Rumah Limas due to the ceiling. In other islands of Indonesia such as Java and Borneo, the people also has Rumah Limas as in Palembang but with different callings and architectural to the ones in Palembang.

Rumah Limas is built with a very, very strong wood material called Kayu Ulin and usually will last for a long time; but unfortunately it is often more expensive to build one compare to regular houses with bricks, thus, today there are not many new Rumah Limas built; those who still live in Rumah Limas are normally known as middle to upper class families.

Teddy, my brother in law, our tour guide when we were in Palembang, informed us there are a couple of Rumah Limas that are very well known for its beauty around Mayor Ruslan Street and Pulo Street; but the pictures of Rumah Limas that I uploaded below are taken somewhere around Demang Lebar Daun if I am not mistaken.


Bukit Serelo (Serelo Hill) - The Thumb Mountain 5 stars
Since some parts of Indonesia are still with dense rainforests and nice greens everywhere, when you go to a certain area in Indonesia, you definitely will get the nice serene feeling as if you were in an excluded village that hasn’t been touch with modern life whatsoever; but of course that is just a feeling :-) In South Sumatera, there is a hilly area called Bukit Serelo (Serelo Hill), to be in the area, the serene feeling will certainly crawls in you slightly; at least that was how I felt when I was there.

Since the hill looks as if it was a person’s thumb finger, the people who live surrounding or nearby Bukit Serelo call this hill as Thumb Hill or Thumb Mountain more often instead addressing it with its real name; Bukit Serelo; some people would call this as Point-Finger Mountain though instead Thumb Mountain. This thumb or point finger-resembling mountain is located not too-too far from Lahat city; I think it took us only 20-25 minutes drive from Lahat to Bukit Serelo.

The view from and to Bukit Serelo is very, very nice indeed. At some areas of Bukit Serelo, people usually would go for picnic or camping; in fact, boy scouts and girl scouts usually do camp around there as we were told. If you are planning to go and see Bukit Serelo, don’t forget to make a stop at the elephants’ sanctuary; more than 30ish elephants can be seen and fed over there. My baby nephew was scared in the beginning though but later on he wouldn’t leave the place at all that we had to trick him ha-ha.


Masjid Agung Palembang (Palembang's Grand Mosque) 5 stars
When you go to the capital city of South Sumatera; Palembang, there is a beautiful Muslim mosque that shines brightly at night. Though I have never been inside (of course this is not just some kind of tourists place where people with no religious purposes e.g praying or non-Muslim would just go and wander inside), I like going to the mosque area in the evening, just for a picture or two.

The mosque looks nice in broad day light, but at night they turn on the lights and the mosque become “colorful”. When my husband and I were in Saudi Arabia for a very short trip, we also did not miss to see the nice view of mosques with bright colorful lights at evening-night hour.

Teddy, my sister’s husband, he was sort of our tour guide, informed us this mosque is called Masjid Agung, if its translated to English directly it would mean Grand Mosque.
This Masjid Agung is a very-very old Muslim mosque; its age is like more than 200 years old and is considered as one of Palembang’s great landmarks. As an ancient mosque, Masjid Agung is also appears to be the largest one in Palembang. I happen to noticed that the architecture of the mosque is quite different to any other mosques I saw in Indonesia; Masjid Agung is unique and elegant, plus, it is a really big and grand mosque for sure.

So if you are in Palembang or nearby, have time to take a look at Masjid Agung, in broad day light and definitely when the dusk has come!


Bukit Siguntang (Archaelogical Buddhist Site) 5 stars
Visiting Bukit Siguntang is definitely a must when you are in South Sumatera as Bukit Siguntang is very beautiful. This archeological site is another famous tourist spot not just for the Sumatran people but also for foreign visitors.

This hilly place is located in West of Palembang (the capital city of South Sumatra); we went there with my sister and her family; her husband, Teddy, is a Palembang origin. Teddy informed us that Bukit Siguntang was related to the Buddhist people of Sumatran, many of them are Chinese descendants; in other word, Bukit Siguntang was used for religious purposes by the Buddhist in old days and was considered as a sacred place.

I did ask Teddy whether it was Japanese Buddhist instead Chinese Buddhist remembering Japanese also occupied Indonesia for quite sometimes but he wasn’t sure, yet he did say Bukit Siguntang is related to the old-ancient Malay Kingdom, Sriwijaya, which was connected to the Thai and Chinese in the past; and Sriwijaya existed long before the Japanese came to Indonesia.

We did not explore to further area of Bukit Siguntang but we were told that near the peak of the hill is located an ancient cemetery that is also considered to be sacred until today. We were informed that many people would come to particular graveyard to “wish” something good and prosperous in their lives.


Watervang (Dutch Water Dam) 4 stars
Watervang is actually a historical water dam built by the Dutch back in 1941 when Indonesia was under their occupation. Located about 5 km east of downtown Lubuklinggau, South Sumatera, Indonesia, this water dam is considered as a tourist spot not just for the Sumatrans (mostly) but also for other Indonesians who are not Sumatran originally and foreign tourists.

When we went to Watervang, we saw a couple of elder gentlemen were fishing and kids were playing in the water. There’s a bridge just above the water dam; I saw people passing on the bridge in relax way but once I tried it, I got Goosebumps thinking what if the bridge collapse out of sudden when I was not prepared whatsoever; that’s gotta hurt a lot remembering there are rocks underneath!

This water dam’ main purpose is to water the rice fields that lay along the Kelingi River of Lubuklinggau. I think it took us only like 18-20 minutes by car to reach Watervang from where we stayed while we were in South Sumatra. Watervang is very well know; when we asked a cigarette street vendor (who was a young boy) the way to Watervang, he explained us details of directions.

If you are visiting Watervang for a picture or two, you might as well take the time to see the rice fields along the Kelingi River up to Tugu Mulyo and Megang Sakti (both are sub-districts of Musi Rawas, I think). It is not hard to find the place once you already know where to go but even if you don’t, just ask whoever you see nearby, most people know where Watervang is located!


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