Surabaya is Indonesia’s second largest city. It has a climate that brings on a thirst. It is also a strict follower of Moslem law, which means it is challenging to quench that thirst especially during Ramadan.
One of my best travel experiences occurred outside of Surabaya, watching the sunrise at Mount Bromo. That is worth visiting Surabaya alone. The city of Malang, which is 100kms south and easily drivable has a unique colour town.
In Surabaya, itself there’s a bit to see. In 1945, the Brits tried to impose their will on Surabaya. Despite many casualties the people of Surabaya resisted the Poms and Indonesians commemorate 10 November 1945 as an important moment in their independence. The monuments and museum to this time are worth visiting. The Majsid Al Akbar Mosque is one of Asia’s biggest. I also spent time at a highly unusual copy of Beijing’s famous Temple of Heaven which now pretty much abandoned. Weird.
I was staying the Doubletree Hilton, which allegedly had Surabaya’s finest rooftop bar. Well, I’ve never know, because it was closed for Ramadan. No booze during Ramadan. There is an exemption for bars in foreign owned hotels (so the front bar at the JW Marriott copped a hammering), but the Doubletree kept the faith.
Now I didn’t fully appreciate the extent of this booze ban, when I went looking for a pub/bar after a punishing day of walking. Whilst Surabaya isn’t teeming with venues, there were a few according to some googling. Everywhere was with closed or turned my “Bintang” request down. That was until I discovered Beer Garden by BURO.
This is a fabulous venue with a big outdoor space with shade and industrial fans taking the edge off the heat. “Bintang?”, I tentatively asked. Never a nod or a yes, but I was taken to a table and served a glass of amber liquid with a straw. I took a sip. The waiter raised a quizzical eyebrow. I nodded that it was satisfactory and that was that. A steady flow of glasses with straws ensued
Later in the evening the subterfuge was eased, as I think there’s a legal window for cocktails and my friends and I enjoyed some rocket fuel and very satisfactory pizzas.
So if you are going to visit Surabaya – don’t go during Ramadan. If you want a beer, you must go to BeerGarden by BURO. It is out the back of a fine coffee shop called Historica. Worth finding
BeerGarden by BURO: JL Sumatera No. 40 Gubeng, Kec. Gubeng Kota SBY