If you’ve been to Surabaya, you’ve probably heard about its sister city, Malang. It is only a 30-minute drive away from the center of Indonesia’s second largest city, so it makes sense that the same language is spoken and the culture is similar.
What’s unique about Malang, however, is how it is enriched with culture, considering it is only a satellite city of Surabaya. I spent two weeks here, and the first thing I noticed was the architecture of some of the buildings. So, I did a little digging and found out that they were influenced by the Dutch. That should come as no surprise, considering the 350 years of Dutch occupancy in Indonesia. Yep, you read that right, three and a half centuries.
I searched through some of the oldest and most historical tourism spots in Malang, which date back to the mid 20th century, and found these four places you should definitely visit while you’re in town.
Before you come to visit Malang and start your own little adventure, you’re probably thinking about where to stay and give your adventurous-self a rest at night. Hotel Tugu is one of the most popular national hotel chains in Indonesia. You’ve probably seen them in other tourist hot-spots like Bali and Lombok. But this particular Hotel Tugu in Malang is their first ever.
The name “tugu” is derived from the city landmark standing right across from this hotel and the name of the street itself. The “tugu” marks the center or the heart of the old Malang City, where everything evolved around. It is still one of the busiest points of Malang, and you should visit this area, especially in the evening when the city lights beautify this area.
Hotel Tugu Malang is known to have hosted every president of Indonesia whenever they visit this part of the country. Room amenities and hotel facilities are surely some of the reasons, but its antique collection is probably why this hotel is so famous. In fact, they claim to be one of the best and most unique hotels in the world.
Hotel Tugu Malang offers eight types of rooms, the cheapest being Superior Deluxe at around 1 million IDR (approximately 66 USD) per night. The most lavish room would be the Apsara Residence. This large room has its own private spa and an antique canopy with a large outdoor tub surrounded by a garden. This one costs around 14 million IDR (approximately 928 USD) per night. I’m guessing that’s the room that has hosted the presidents of Indonesia.
Mmm… bakso. This is one of, if not THE most favorite Indonesian dish among locals, especially in Malang. This dish contains meatballs, sometimes tofu, and Malang’s specialty: fried dumplings and spring rolls, all in one bowl of bone marrow soup. Mmm… I’m getting hungry just by describing the dish to you!
The first thing you would notice from this eatery is its unique location: it is right by the railroad tracks. Yes, eating bakso here will make not just your taste buds tremble with good food, but your body as trains come passing by. Anyone up for adrenaline as a side dish?
If you’re specifically looking for taste, Malang has many other bakso restaurants. But if you’re looking for a unique historical experience, Bakso Presiden is worth visiting. Because of its popularity, this place is always packed with customers, so you have to be patient while standing in line and waiting for your food to be delivered to your table.
How much you have to pay for your meal depends on what you choose to put in your bowl. There are items you can choose from, such as minced beef meatballs, beef sirloin meatballs, fried dumplings, and more. Each item is approximately 10,000 IDR (approximately 0.7 USD). People usually get up to five items in their bowl, but there is certainly no limitation to how much you can get. Just fill those bowls up!
Bakso Presiden is located on Jalan Batanghari. If you’re having trouble finding it, just ask around. Considering how popular this place is, most people in Malang know where to find it. The restaurant opens at 8:00 am and stays open until after 9:00 pm. However, if you want to have more options, I suggest you come around noon before they run out of those popular items like Malang special fried dumplings and fishcakes! Beat the lunch rush—arrive at around 11:00 am—to get a good seat and faster service.
First opened way before the independence of Indonesia in 1945, Hok Lay diner still has its original building and architectural design. You would notice this as you compare this building to any surrounding it. This place serves plenty food influenced by Chinese cuisine, but the most popular thing on their menu is Fosco, a chocolate milk beverage served in old Coca Cola bottles that are no longer produced by the Coke factory. This creamy goodness costs only 10,000 IDR (approximately 0.7 USD)!
Like most eateries in Malang, Hok Lay is open every day. Business starts at 9:00 am, but it temporarily closes just after lunch time to reopen in the late afternoon, around 5:00 pm. Then it stays open until 8:30 pm. I recommend that you come in the late afternoon to enjoy some “lumpia” or local fried spring rolls to accompany your chocolate beverage.
It is located on Jalan KH Ahmad Dahlan, not far from one of Malang’s central areas, or “alun-alun.” Its location can be difficult to find after dark, so I suggest you drive slowly as you get to this street. However, if somehow you missed it, it’s easy to turn back around since it’s located on a two-way street and there’s enough room for more than one vehicle to pass.
Last but not least is the bakery Toko Oen. As soon as I stepped inside, it felt like being taken back immediately to the Dutch Colonial Era, well, at least from the stories I’ve heard told for generations. The decoration screams Dutch architecture: from its high ceiling to its leaned-back wooden chairs and round wooden tables, not to mention the place’s name itself which is written using the old-Indonesian spelling of “u.” This kind of spelling is known as the Dutch-era spelling to most Indonesians.
To add more Dutch-influence into this eatery, the menu is in both Bahasa Indonesia and Dutch. Plus, the waiters and waitresses wear a uniform from the 1930s. It’s as if they came out of those old photographs that are on the wall at Toko Oen!
As written in big, bold letters on the building’s wall, this place was first opened in 1930. It was originally just a bakery. Today, it serves a wide variety of food and beverages. I recommend that you order their bestsellers: ice cream dessert with the Dutch specialty Klappertaart cake on the side! That will cost you around 60,000 IDR (approximately 4 USD).
Toko Oen is located on Jalan Jenderal Basuki Rahmat, right in the center of Malang City, the “Alun-alun.” It is open at 8:00 am and closes at 9:30 pm. However, if you want fresh buns and cookies, I recommend you that you come in the morning.
Pieces of Indonesian history
Besides their specialties, these places are worth a visit simply because of the fact they are still operating after decades. They are also, arguably, the most popular in town. So, when you’re in the mood to explore Malang’s history, do spend time at these places to get a little bit of piece of Indonesian history.
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