Holidays are definitely one of the best days of the year and especially when you spend most of your time around two super-hyperactive kids, holidays are essential to give a break.
We went on a fantastic Europe road trip last summer and though it was quite busy going around the modern cities, having a break from the daily, mechanical routine made a big difference. While there are many popular cities on the map that everyone would love to see, there are some cities that are extremely obscure but still the most wonderful places to visit.
Semarang in Indonesia is one of them. There is plenty of beauty to be discovered in this sleepy paradise. Till today, Semarang remains untouched by modern day commercialisation, a trait which can be witnessed in the down to earth nature of the extremely hospitable locals. So if you really want to relish some old world charm at very affordable prices, simply head to Semarang and take in these five places for a holiday of a lifetime.
1) Lawang Sewu
This former Dutch office of the railways was converted into a torture chamber during World War II by the Japanese. The basement is said to have borne the brunt of numerous killings and tortures, to the effect that it is considered as a haunted building. Present day visitors and thrill seekers throng the premises in order to get a glimpse of the supernatural and the headless ghosts that have been known to have been sighted in their corridors. The beautifully restored Dutch architecture adds to the spookiness with sudden wind gusts adding to the creepiness.
2) Gedong Songo
This ancient Hindu temple was erected during the Medang period, a clan which controlled most of Central Java in the 8th and 9th century. There are nine different structures situated on Mount Ungaran, all spread at distances making access a bit difficult. To counter this, horses are an excellent option to take you up the steep and winding slopes. Surrounded by volcanoes, Gedong Songo is history and beauty personified.
3) Toko Oen
This eighty year old restaurant, reminiscent of the Dutch colonial era occupies a special place for culinary delight seekers in Semarang. Nothing has changed a lot in the years gone by, and true to its character, Toko Oen has maintained the dining standards since then.The vintage interiors take you back into time as you savour the succulent offerings on offer, especially the chicken thigh meat stuffed with cheese and ham.
4) Sam Poo Kong Temple
You feel instantly transported to China, as you walk through Sam Poo Kong temple and its surroundings. Though it encourages all faiths, the temple is mostly frequented by Muslims, Taoists and Buddhists. The huge temple was built in honour of Admiral Cheng Ho and has a three tiered oagoda roof, painted bright red. The temple gives ample testimony to the harmony and diversity prevailing in the Semarang culture.
5) Rawa Pening lake
Rumour has it that a massive snake, known by the name of Baruklinting, pulled out a stick from the ground to create a gaping hole that eventually formed this sprawling lake. A village boy was said to have placed this stick to antagonise the wicked people of the village. Set amidst towering mountains as a backdrop, Rawa Pening apart from the natural beauty offers untold peace and solace. The lake is best viewed by a boat ride down the river, particularly during sunset.
If you would like to plan a trip to Semarang, I recommend Traveloka which is one of the best websites to book flights and hotels at the cheapest price. The Star hotel Semarang is highly recommended as one of the best family friendly hotels with connecting/adjoining rooms which we always found very useful.