Mostly visited on business trips, many overlook Surabaya’s soulfoul colonial charms and footprints of fierce heroism. While most Javanese are stereotypically bound by strict aristocratic protocols and etiquette, the second-largest city in Indonesia is home to the most free-spirited natives on the island, contributing a very different character to Java, rebellious, outspoken bold and fearless.
Surabaya has long been known as the “City of Heroes“. The name ‘Surabaya’ itself came from two words suro (shark) and boyo (crocodile). The creatures were believed to be depicted in prophecy where they fought each other to gain the status of the most powerful animal. This local myth is also sometimes interpreted as the conflict between the Mongols and the forces of the reigning Majapahit Kingdom.
Surabaya’s history did not start with the ferocious battle in 1945. The coastal area on the eastern plain of Java Island was once the reigning Majapahit Kingdom and Chinese invaders from Mongolia. Led by Raden Wijaya, the Majapahit troops marched to victory on May 31, 1293. This date has since been commemorated as the birthday of Surabaya.
After enjoying almost five centuries of prosperous golden area, Surabaya fell to the hands of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) or Dutch East India Company on November 11, 1743, as a result of an agreement between Pakubuwono II of the Mataram Kingdom, and the VOC. Until the 1900s development of the city had been very slow, mostly concentrated on the western side of the Red Bridge where the Europeans resided.The Surabayans lived on the eastern side of the bridge as well as the Chinese and Arabs giving rise to unique villages of Kembang Jepun, and Ampel where their descendants live and thrive until today.
Today, Surabaya is the second-largest city in the nation. Traces of its courageous history are unfortunately concealed among the mushrooming growth of skyscrapers, residential real estate and increasing traffic congestion. The Suramadu Bridge, a bridge that connects the mainland of Java with the island of Madura, was clear in view.