In November of 2011, I was fortunate enough to travel to Palembang and witness the closing of the 26th Sea Games held in Indonesia. Throughout my stay, I learned many things concerning not only the culture of Palembang but also the meaning behind the Sea Games’ logo and its mascots. The logo for the Sea Games contains the Garuda, a mythical bird that resembles the Javan hawk-eagle known as the Rajawali. The Garuda is also seen as a symbol of protection and fortification.The head of the logo was given a vibrant red color to symbolize courage, morale, the spirit of the competition, and a sense of nationalism. The blue lines underneath the logo signify the seas of the archipelago while the green strokes above represent the mountains of Indonesia.

As for the mascots- “Modo and Madi”, they are represented by the figure of komodo dragons. Modo, the male version of the komodo dragon donning a blue-colored Indonesian attire along with a batik sash, while Madi the female version of the komodo dragon, wears a red-colored kebaya (known as a Javanese blouse), a shawl, and a batik skirt.

As you can tell the closing ceremony was nothing but spectacular. The fireworks pierced both rain and overcast and managed to sparkle throughout the skies, while dancers showcased brightly-colored, traditional Songket pieces and Indonesian garments such as the batik.

26th Sea Games ticket, “United and Rising”

Jakabaring Sport City Stadium

Closing Sea Games’ night ceremony

Named the Venice of the East and awarded numerous awards such as the Best City Park in Indonesia and the Adipura Award for Cleanest Metropolitan City in Indonesia from 2007 to 2011, Palembang was once the ancient capital of the kingdom of Sriwijaya during the 7th century. Sitting on top of the Musi River it is home to the Ampera Bridge, the songket or traditional Palembang attire, fast boat rides, and delicious cuisine, including the famous Pempek.

Jembatan Ampera

The meticulous weaving of Songket. It can take up to one month to weave a songket, depending on its length and size.

My friends and I, part of small group of students from Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta who were sponsored by Bina Darma University for our short journey to Palembang, not only got a close peak into the actual making and threading of Songket but also met one of the most famous Songket designers-Mr. Zainal. Mr. Zainal recounted how he personally tailored various pieces for beauty queens, actresses, and movie stars. One can easily identify a songket due to its long sleeves, the sheer body part, and its skirt like appearance that make this one piece a must have for formal occasions. Below you can see the wide range of colors of these masterpieces; pink sown with a thin golden flower motif and a white encrusted beaded songket.

Mr. Zainal’s Songket store on Jalan Ki Gede Ing Suro No. 173, Rt. 5-30 Ilir Palembang

Various songket models in Mr. Zainal’s  store

One of the highlights of our entire trip was learning how to make Pempek. Considered a staple in Palembang, this traditional dish is a made of fish “ikan” and or “udang” paste. When we turned to in the small village or “kampung”, we saw what looked like a pool   otherwise known as a “kolam” in front of a house. The pool appeared to be quarantined by a thin wire screening and some bushes. This is where fish are raised until they are caught and used for food.

The dough of fish and tapioca are the main ingredients of Pempek. Naturally, although small in size, making Pempek is an art in of itself. For Indonesians in Palembang the crafting of a Pempek is of equal importance to that of  a perfect dumpling to the Chinese. To begin you have to take the fish dough and place it in the palm of your hand. Lightly but steadily make sure that the dough makes a small circular cup. Take some egg yolk and fill up the small circular cup. Try not to overflow that tiny cup with too much yolk otherwise your Pempek will prematurely open itself into the frying pan and you’ll have egg yolk in the pan. The perfect amount is just having enough yolk to fill up a bit over 3/4 of the dough like cup and then use the remaining space to close the opening on the top, concealing the egg yolk inside.

Lightly, steadily, but not too hastily, dip the newly formed little ball into the frying pan, waiting until you see the dough turn a light golden color. If you see it brown, I am afraid Charlie Brown you left it swim too long in that sea of oil.

A traditional kitchen otherwise known as a “dapur asli”.

Preparing Pempek

Pempek is usually enjoyed as light afternoon snack. It normally is accompanied with tea known as “teh” or milk known as “susu”.

Teh botol- an Indonesian popular drink

Tekwan sedang

A local Palembang delicacy:  Pindang tulang. Pindang is made of meat, tomatoes, and onions.

A fish stew with sambal (a form of chili).


Purse and key chain shopping in Palembang.


The Al Jamik Masjid

In order to make your stay a very unique one, I recommend for your to ride a kapal, a boat, underneath the Jembatan bridge. It will be one of the most memorable things you will do on your visit to Palembang. From the Musi River you can lay eyes on a Japanese pagoda and floating houses on the river.

Boat ride with a speed boat. In Palembang, this activity is known as perahu ketek.

                                              Featured in the Publication “Palembang Society”

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