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8 Iconic Landmarks of Cities in Indonesia and Its Historical Meaning

by Vina Krisna Yanti

Each of the places in Indonesia has their own uniqueness that links to the historical, cultural, and societal aspects within their region. As a way to commemorate the aspects of the region, a landmark was built in form of an object or feature that can be recognized from a distance to marked an important stage or turning point of something in that place.

Considering the number of cities in 34 provinces that are situated on more than 17,000 islands in Indonesia, there are probably a list of evergrowing number of landmarks in Indonesia since every cities or even village has an object to indicate the historical, cultural, and societal aspect of their region.

However, apart from the long list, there are always some iconic landmarks that are well-known among Indonesian. The landmarks are situated in big cities of Indonesia and are rich with historical and cultural background.

To give you a clear picture of how these landmarks are, here is a list of 8 iconic landmarks of cities in Indonesia.

1. Monas, Jakarta

Monas, Jakarta

The name Monas stands as a shorter form of the monument name in Bahasa Indonesia, which is Monumen Nasional or National Monument. It is located in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.

Monas was built on August 17, 1961 and is about 132 meters high. Just like the name, the monument is used to commemorate the struggle of Indonesian to stand as an independent nation.

It has a gold plated flame crown at the top of the monument which is used to symbolized the blazing spirit of Indonesian in fighting for the independence.

On the outside wall of the monument, there is a relief telling the history of Indonesia. If you wish to enter the monument, you can either choose to only enter the bottom part of Monas, or go straight to the top with a lift.

It is usually crowded on weekends, but it is all worth it since when you go to the top, you can see the view of Jakarta from 4 directions.

Visiting Monas with kids will be a sort of edutainment for them since they can know more about the history of Indonesia and enjoy a fun time playing around the areal of Monas.

So, when you are in Jakarta with kids, make sure to put visiting Monas on your list of things to do in jakarta with kids.

2. Sura and Baya Statue, Surabaya

Sura and Baya Statue, Surabaya

Sura and Baya statue is the symbol of Surabaya city in East Java province. The name Sura means shark while Baya means crocodile. This is where the name of Surabaya city was derived from.

The origin of the statue is inseparable with a folklore about a fight between a shark and a crocodile. It is said that in the vast ocean, a shark and a crocodile was fighting over teritory.

Since both of them were exhausted, they made an agreement to divide the teritory whereas the crocodile will have the land and the river, while the shark will stay in the ocean.

However, the shark broke the agreement by entering the crocodile teritory and another fight broke out. The shark and the crocodile were bitting each other’s tail. The fight ended with the defeat of the shark that eventually returned to the ocean and the crocodile that could defend his territory.

Apart from the folklore, the statue itself is believed to have philosophical meaning related to the struggle of Indonesia in gaining independence.

The word Sura means safe while Baya means danger. Thus, Surabaya is named as a form of gratitute for being saved from danger.

The event of the gratitute is the victory gained by Surabayan in fighting and defending their region from Chinese troops who came by ships and are symbolyzed as the shark.

The victory of the Surabayan is pictured as the crocodile who successfully fought the shark. The day when the Surabayan successfully depend their region was then celebrated as the anniversary of Surabaya city.

There are 3 locations where the Sura and Baya statues were situated. They are in front of the Surabaya Zoo and Wildlife Park, in the Skate Board Park on Ketabang Kali road, and on Moh. Nasir road.

The historical and societal background of Surabaya is one of the reasons why you should visit Surabaya. So, make sure to take a moment to visit this city!

3. Heroes Monument, Surabaya

Heroes Monument, Surabaya

Surabaya is also known as the city of heroes, considering the historical aspect where many of Indonesian heroes and citizens were fighting against the colonialism and the imperialism in order to gain the independence. The battle of Indonesian and the colonials are known as the Battle of Surabaya.

The climax of the battle happened on November 10, 1945, 3 months after Indonesia has declared its independency. It is the biggest and heviest battle in the history of Indonesian national revolution.

The battle happened as the Indian-Dutch colonials and their allies were trying to take over Indonesia once more. Indonesia could finally win the battle and the day, November 10, is celebrated every year as Heroes’ Day in Indonesia.

The Heroes Monument is used to commemorate the struggle of the heroes in defending Indonesia from the colonials. It is located on Tembaan road, in front of the East Java Governor office. The battle is symbolized with 10 arches and 11 segments, reflecting the date of the battle.

When entering the monument, there are two statues of the Proclamators of Indonesia, Ir. Soekarno and Moh. Hatta. The monument is also in the same complex with 10 November Museum, a museum preserving and showcasing the historical events of the battle.

The great historical values of Surabaya makes it even more interesting to be visited. If you visit Surabaya during summer, make sure to check out where to go in Surabaya during the summer vacation.

4. Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK), Badung, Bali

Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Badung, Bali

Garuda Wisnu Kencana or often referred to as GWK is known as the tourism icon and landmark of Bali, even though it is located in Uluwatu road, Ungasan Village, Badung regency, Bali, in Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park.

The statue was built based on Hindu philosophy about the search of the elixir of life, called Tirta Amrita. Garuda, a legendary bird or bird-like creature in Hindu, agreed to be ridden by Wisnu, a god in Hindu that act as the preserver, in return for the right to use the Amrita to liberate his mother. The statue was built in the shape of this philosophy.

The statue is a 122 meters high and was designed by Nyoman Nuarta in 1990. It took 28 years to finally complete the statue as it was inaugurated in September 2018.

The statue is even taller than the Liberty Statue for about 30 meters. It is also wider since the wingspan is about the half of its high, which is 64 meters.

There are several other statues that are based on Hindu philosophy in this park and the areal is quite wide with many accomodations that can complete your visit and beautiful scenery of tough and high cliffs.

It is well-known as a tourism attraction in Bali and is also quite close to Dreamland Beach, one of the beautiful beaches in Bali. So, make sure to include visiting GWK on your list of what to do in Dreamland Beach, Bali.

5. Ampera Bridge, Palembang

Ampeera Bridge, Palembang

Ampera Brige is located in Palembang, South Sumatera Province. It connects Seberang Ulu and Seberang Ilir, two lands that are seperated by Musi River. The length of the bridge is 1,117 meters while the width is 22 meter.

The color of the bridge has been changes 3 times. The first color was grey, but it was then changed to yellow in 1992, and changed again to red in 2002.

The history of the bridge is quite long. The idea of creating a bridge that could connect the island has appeared long before the proclamation of Indonesian independence.

It was planned and built during the era of Ir. Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia and the Proclamator of Indonesia’s independence by using the funds from japanese war reparations.

The opening was done on 30 September 1965. The bridge was actually named after Ir. Soekarno as he is considered as the most important person to the independence of Indonesia.

However, due to his fall around 1965-1966 and the massive movement of De-Soekarnoization, the bridge was then renamed as Ampera Bridge, which stand for Amanat Penderitaan Rakyat meaning the mandate of the suffering citizens.

However, the bridge can no longer be opened today for safety reasons. It is said that it is due to the harmful construction of the bridge. So, it’s closed in order to prevent possible inccidents. However, you can still visit this bridge and enjoy its beauty.

It’s best to come to Ampera bridge on the late afternoon since the light creates a picturesque scenery that is wonderfully amazing.

There are also numerous floating stalls on the rivers and food vendors on the river banks. A great place to put on the list of things to do in Palembang!

6. Gadang Clock, Bukittinggi

Gadang Clock, Bukittinggi, West Sumatera

Gadang Clock, locally known as Jam Gadang, is a clock tower that acts as the main landmark of Bukittinggi city in West Sumatera. It sits in the center of the city near the main market, Ateh Market, and the palace of Moh. Hatta, the first vice president and the proclamator of Indonesia.

The clock tower has a large clock on each of its side. It was actually built during the Dutch colonial era in 1926 as a gift from Queen Wilhelmia to the Dutch controller in the city. It is believed that the internal mechanisms of the tower clock is similar to those in the Big Ben in London.

The roof of the clock tower has gone through several shanges due to the colonialism. When it was innitially built, it has round roof with a statue of a rooster facing west.

Then, during the occupation of Japanese troops, the roof was changed to a pagoda shape in regards to Japanese belief. It was finally changed to the shape of traditional Minangkabau shape after the independence.

Since it is mainly known as the attraction of the city of Bukittinggi, make some time to visit it as one of the things to do in Bukittinggi, West Sumatera.

7. Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, Banda Aceh

Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, Aceh

Baiturrahman Grand Mosque was one of few buildings that still stood firmly after the big tsunami that hit Aceh in December 2004. It only had minor cracks and damage so it was used as a temporary shelter for displaced people.

It is located in the center of Banda Aceh and was similar to Taj Mahal in India when you look at it at the first glance. The architecture of the grand mosque really is similar to the Taj Mahal since it has stunning carvings and a water pool outside of the mosque.

Baiturrahman Grand Mosque is the symbol of the spirit, culture, religion, struggle, and nationalism of Acehnese. It was firstly built in 1612 as a royal mosque during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda, featuring the architecture of Aceh. But when the Dutch East Indies colonialism, the mosque caught fire.

To ease the anger of Acehnese, the Dutch rebuilt the mosque in 1879 and was done in 1881. At first, Acehnese refused to pray in the mosque since it was built by the Dutch who had colonialized Indonesia. However, it is now served as the landmark of Banda Aceh.

8. Christ Blessing Monument

Christ Blessing Monument

Located in Winangun Satu, Malalayang, Manado City, North Sulawesi, Christ Blessing Monument the second highest in the world after the statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The total height of the statue is 50 meters with 20 meters support poles and 30 meters statue high.

Uniquely, the statue has 20 degree of declivity that is made from fiber, making it looks like a flying statue with oustretched hand position.

The statue is positioned facing the city of Manado, making it seems like giving blessings to the city of Manado and its citizens. This is also the origin of the name.

It’s truly amazing to know what these landmarks have as their background story. There are more other interesting and breathtaking stories that you can hear once you get to Indonesia. So, make sure to visit Indonesia and explore every place here!

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