Saturday nights are fun in the port capital of Java
I don’t think I’ve ever been stared at as much as when I unwittingly walked into a fenced-off compound on the outskirts of Surabaya, a port city in Eastern Java one Saturday night. Having only just arrived at 9pm – and having to leave again the next morning at 6am – I only had a few hours to meander about and see what Surabaya kids get up to on the weekend.
I stopped at a mall and chewed the fat with some girls, eating ice cream and taking stupid photographs. Then I spotted a load of bikes in the distance, all parked outside the gates to some wide open space. As I got closer there were a ton of people milling about. It was a pretty good atmosphere. I worked my way through the crowd that had formed at the gate, the only foreigner in sight – people not quite knowing what I was doing there. Hell, I didn’t even know what I was doing there – but that’s half the fun of travelling on your own. You end up in all kinds of random situations.
Inside the compound, kids – most were about 17 or 18 tops – were speeding about on motorbikes, doing tricks, drag racing and practicing ‘stoppies’ (nose dives). Their favorite game seemed to be speeding as fast as they could towards a brick wall only to put the brakes on in time, go up on the front wheel and see how close they could get without crashing. A few times sirens could be heard in the distance and when they sounded a few people bolted, but the majority stayed. While this kinda stuff is illegal, I reckon the police over here probably turn a blind eye to it.
After I left the compound I walked a few blocks back towards the train station and heard loud bass coming from a large building across the street. The building looked unused – partially derelict and definitely not in its prime. Part of the roof was missing for a start, with huge steel girders on show. The rusty gate to the building was ajar so I just stood there for a minute looking in. An Indonesian guy saw me and came over. “Hip hop bass party,” he told me. “You coming in?” So I did. Inside there was a crew of people hanging about: huge speaker stacks, CDJs, decks, synths, touch pads. They seemed to be doing a live set together. The place was heavily graffitied and there was live art going on. No one was drinking – just hanging about chatting as if this was the most normal thing in the world.
I only had a few hours in Surabaya – can’t even really say I scratched the surface. I’ve no idea what the ‘touristy’ stuff to do there is, but I don’t really care. The stuff I stumbled across is why I love travelling: meeting new people, just hanging out with the locals. It just shows you what you can find if you’re curious enough to look.
I stopped off in Surabaya for a night on my way to Bromo the next day. A train from Yogyakarta takes four hours and costs roughly 100,000 rupiah for exekutif class. If you do end up staying there yourself, I recommend a budget place called Loxy Inn. The owner bent over backwards trying to help me find some info on how to get to Probollingo the next morning, even driving me down to the train station at midnight to see if there were there were any tickets. (Alas, it was closed but it all worked out in the end. I left Surabaya on a train at 9am the next day.)