Cirebon, situated on the border of West and Central Java offers wealth of culture and history. It is one of many cities worth visiting in Indonesia.
Where is it
Cirebon, also spelled as Tjirebon or Cheribon (Dutch), Charabom (Portuguese) or Cerbon (Sundanese) is a city in West Java province, Indonesia. It is located on Java Island’s Northen Coast, approximately 297 kms from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The city lies right in the heart of major road on the island that stretched from West to East. The name Chirebon comes from the word “chi” means water or river and “rebon” means shrimp.In accordance with tis name, abundance of fresh water shrimp can be found in local rivers.
Based on old manuscript written by a Hindoo monk who travelled across Java and Bali in the 16th century, Prince Bujangga Manik, the city was founded in the 13th century by Ki Gedeng Alang-Alang as part of the biggest kingdom in West Java at the time, the Padjajaran Kingdom. The name Cirebon also mentioned in the journal of Tome Pires, a European explorer in the 16th century.The seaport of Chirebon, was one of the most important harbor and main entry to the fertile Java Island
Prince Cakrabumi, the Moslem successor of Ki Gedeng Alang-Alang set up a rebel against the Hindoo Padjajaran Kingdom and built a new Sultanate with Muara Jati as its capital.Under his reign, Chirebon’s influence stretched far into South East Asia. For 2 centuries afterward, the throne to the kingdom was passed from generation to generation peacefully. However, in 16th century, following Dutch invation, the tension between powerful kingdoms in Java Island increased and so did the contest for power amongst members of Cirebon royal family. Cirebon was divided into three small sultanate the Kasepuhan, Kanoman and Kaprabon each led by a sultan. In the 18th century, worsened by the Ducht’s “devide et impera” strategy, the Kanoman Sultanate is further divided into 2 sultanates, the Kanoman and the Kacirebonan.
In the 20th century, following Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch, Cirebon was made the territory of Indonesia.
What to see
You can enjoy historical trips around the city, have a culinary adventure, buy art and craft as souvenir, and enjoy the region’s natural beauty
There are 4 palaces for 4 sultanates in Cirebon, Kasepuhan and Kanoman that are now open for public, Keprabon and Kachirebonan Palaces. The largest, oldest and also the most beautiful is the Kasepuhan. The architecture is a mixture of European, Chinese and Arabian. It also holds the largest historical collection including a famous royal carriage known as the “Singa Barong”. Impressive collections such as old gamelan orchestras, traditional fabrics, and royal weapons are also displayed in the Palace.
The second biggest Palace is the Kanoman, only walking distance from the Kasepuhan, this palace is also used as museum. The architecture and collections are very much the same with the Kasepuhan. A traditional market known as the Kanoman Market can be found at the entrance of the palace. It is an interesting experience to walk through this market and find a lively local atmosphere. The other two palaces are relatively small and look just like ordinary old houses.
Old City of Cirebon
Besides the Palaces, there are many historical buildings scattered around the
Other places worth seeing are many old “Indisch” styled buildings that lies from the centre of the city to the north. Among them are the Town Hall Building, Bank of Indonesia, British Amerian Tobacco Office, Post Office, Santo Joseph Church, Rail Station and many others.
Most notable places of natural beauty found in Cirebon are:The Sunyaragi Cave, a wide peaceful park with scattered Hindoo styled buildings, the Darma Dam, that offers beautiful lake scenery and Plangon Park, the forest of the monkeys.
Cirebon has many traditional cuisines. One must-tried dish is Jamblang Rice. Wrapped in teakwood leaf, this is steam rice served with several assortments. Other delicious cuisines are Lengko Rice, rice served with bean sprouts, fried tofu and fermented soybean cake; traditional curry known as Empal Gentong; Tahu Gejrot, fried tofu topped with red sugar; Docang, rice cake served with sour vegetable soup and Kalong satay. Kalong in local language means bat, but don’t worry the satay is not made of bat meat, instead it is made of cow meat.Cirebon is also known for its variety of shrimp-made products such as crackers and shrimp paste. The shrimp paste smelled not very nice, some people might not like the smell but it tasted delicious Other must tried crackers are Mlarat, crackers made of tapioca flour fried in hot sand; Intip, the rice crackers and Klitik, crackers made of corn.
The most famous souvenir of Cirebon is Batik Trusmi. Trusmi, a village 5kms from the city is the centre of local batik production. Batik is a traditional colorful piece of textile paint with fable or natural motif. In traditional Javanese culture batik is an art full of life philosophy.Other interesting souvenirs include glass painting, Cirebon Mask and Rattan craft. Cirebon’s glass painting had been known since 17th century.
How to get there
You can get there by bus or train from Jakarta. The later is more recommended. The train ticket from Jakarta to Cheribon is only around USD 5 – 8. It will take about 4 hours ride. Upon reaching Chirebon, you can see paddy field from your train window, strected as far as your eyes can see.