Thursday, June 10, 2010

one Step closer to Jambi

The capital of Jambi is the city of the same name, a busy river port about 155km from the mouth of Sungai Batang Hari. Jambi is not known as a tourist destination, but those who have wandered the markets and watched the city in action have found that nowhere can be more fun than somewhere.

Jambi sprawls over a wide area, a combination of the old Pasar Jambi district spreading south from the port, and the new suburbs of Kota Baru and Telanaipura to the west. Most of the banks, hotels and restaurants are in Pasar Jambi near the junction of Jl Gatot Subroto and Jl Raden Mattaher, while government buildings are out at Kota Baru.

There are plenty of ATMs around town. Jl Dr Sutomo is the primary bank street.
Culture & Tourism Office (Jl H Agus Salim, Kota Baru) The English-speaking staff are keen to promote the province and can organise city tours.
Main Telkom wartel (Jl Dr Sumantri) In Telanaipura.
Post office (Jl Sultan Thaha 9) Near the port.
Thamrin Internet (Jl Gatot Subroto 6h11am-9pm) Internet access near Gloria Bookshop.
Wartel (Jl Raden Mattaher; h8am-9pm) More convenient than the main Telekom wartel; you can make international phone calls here.

Sights & Activities
Jambi is the starting point for excursions to the archaeological site of Muara Jambi.
Museum Negeri Propinsi Jambi (cnr Jl Urip Sumoharjo & Prof Dr Sri Sudewi, Telanaipura; h8.30am-3pm Mon-Fri), one of the city’s few attractions, is out in Telanaipura. It has a selection of costumes and handicrafts, as well as a small historical display. Take an ojek.

Nearby the museum is a batik centre that produces and sells traditional Jambi textiles featuring striking floral motifs. The center also has a range of handicrafts from all over the province, including songket weaving and finely woven split-rattan baskets. The center provides employment for local women.

Accommodation in Jambi isn’t much of a bargain, so you should opt for convenience instead. The most social spot to base yourself is near the market, behind the Novotel, where you’ll find a cluster of midrange and top-end hotels.
Lukman Language Exchange. Delightful Jambi resident Lukman can provide lodging in his home in exchange for a few appearances by an English native speaker at his weekly tutoring sessions.
Hotel Da’lia ( Jl Camar 100) Basic and clean, this is the best you’ll get in the budget range.
Hotel Jambi Raya (Jl Camar 45) Deluxe rooms are decorated in glam honeymoon style.
Hotel Abadi (Jl Gatot Subroto 92) Otherwise average top-end rooms are decorated with Jambi batik bedspreads for a local flair. Junior suites have a tranquil balcony.
Novotel (Jl Gatot Subroto 44) Currently the most expensive hotel in town but far from being worth it.

Saimen Perancis (Jl Raden Mattaher) An excellent bakery that also serves meals.
Simpang Raya (Jl Raden Mattaher 22) An old friend in the nasi Padang game.
Munri Food Centre (Jl Sultan Agung) More night-time eats set the night ablaze at this alfresco dining area.
Ancol (near Sungai Batang Hari) Just down from the Trade Centre, this is an evening destination for promenading and river breezes. Stalls sell local favourites, such as nanas goreng (fried pineapples) and jagung bakar (roasted corn slathered with coconut milk and chillis).
Pasar Makanan (Jl Sultan Iskandar Muda) Lots of regional Palembang specialities, which Jambi also claims as its own, get top billing at this busy market.

Getting There & Away
The Sultan Thaka Airport is 4km east of the center. Adam Air, Batavia Air and Mandala fly to Jakarta daily. Merpati flies to Batam. Most tickets are available through travel agents, but Mandala (Jl Gatot Subroto 42) also has an office.

Ratu Intan Permata (%60234; Simpang Kawat, Jl M Yamin) operates connecting services from Jambi to the coastal town of Kuala Tungkal (2 hours), from where there are speedboats to Batam (5 hours).

The highways to the south and north are in poor condition, making bus travel an arduous task. Bus ticketing offices occupy two areas of town: Simpang Rimbo, 8km west of town, and Simpang Kawat, 3.5km southwest of town on Jl M Yamin.
There are frequent economy buses to Palembang (7 hours).
Ratu Intan Permata (Simpang Kawat, Jl M Yamin) has comfortable door-to-door minibus services to Pekanbaru (8 hours), Bengkulu (10 hours), Palembang (6 hours) and Padang (13 hours).
Safa Marwa (Jl Pattimura 77) runs a similar service to Kerinci-Sungaipenuh (10 hours).
Buses from Jambi depart from the companies’ offices.

Getting Around
Local transport comprises the usual assortment of ojek and opelet. Rawasari opelet terminal, off Jl Raden Mattaher in the centre of town, is where all opelet start and finish their journeys.

The large temple complex at Muara Jambi, 26km downstream from Jambi, is the most important Hindu Buddhist site in Sumatra. It is assumed that the temples mark the location of the ancient city of Jambi, capital of the kingdom of Malayu 1000 years ago.

Most of the temples, known as candi, date from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when Jambi’s power was at its peak. However, the best of the artefacts have been taken to Jakarta.

For centuries the site lay abandoned and overgrown in the jungle on the banks of the Batang Hari. It was ‘rediscovered’ in 1920 by a British army expedition sent to explore the region.

It’s easy to spend all day at Muara Jambi (h8am-4pm). The forested site covers 12 sq km along the north bank of the Batang Hari. The entrance is through an ornate archway in the village of Muara Jambi and most places of interest are within a few minutes’ walk of here.

Eight temples have been identified so far, each at the centre of its own low-walled compound. Some are accompanied by perwara candi (smaller side temples) and three have been restored to something close to their original form. The site is dotted with numerous menapo (smaller brick mounds), thought to be the ruins of other buildings - possibly dwellings for priests and other high officials.

The restored temple Candi Gumpung, straight ahead of the donation office, has a fiendish makara (demon head) guarding its steps. Excavation work here yielded some important finds, including a peripih (stone
box) containing sheets of gold inscribed with old Javanese characters dating the temple back to the 9th century. A statue of Prajnyaparamita found here is now the star attraction at the small site museum nearby.
Candi Tinggi, 200m southeast of Candi Gumpung, is the finest of the temples un- covered so far. It dates from the 9th century but is built around another, older temple. A path leads east from Candi Tinggi to Candi Astano, 1.5km away, passing Candi Kembar Batu and lots of menapo along the way.

The temples on the western side of the site are yet to be restored. They remain pretty much as they were found - minus the jungle, which was cleared in the 1980s. The western sites are signposted from Candi Gumpung. First stop, after 900m, is Candi Gedong Satu, followed 150m further on by Candi Gedong Dua.  They are independent temples despite what their names may suggest. The path continues west for another 1.5km to Candi Kedaton, the largest of the temples, then a further 900m northwest to Candi Koto Mahligai.

The dwellings of the ordinary Malayu people have long since disappeared. According to Chinese records, they lived along the river in stilted houses or in raft huts moored to the bank.

Getting There & Away
There is no public transport to the park. You can charter a speedboat from Jambi’s river pier to the site. You can also hire an ojek.

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