Colours of Old Town East, Surabaya

Pink and grey shutters.

Across the Kali Mas (Mas River), East of the Jembatan Merah (or Red Bridge), sits a different world altogether from the one the Dutch lived and worked in. Here, there is a sort of dignified stillness and anonymity, associated with two immigrant peoples – the Chinese and the Arabs – who functioned in a social space entirely their own.

It being the festival of Idul-Fitri when I shot these photos, many of the shops and residences were shuttered for the weekend. Ironically, this resulted in me taking some of the best shots of my trip. I hadn’t wanted to shoot the obvious – most notably the religious landmarks these quarters were centred around. Instead, I chose to shoot something a little more quotidian.

The one thing that struck me most about Old Town East was how colourful it was. A certain Meditterranean aesthetic dominated, characterised by bright colours juxtaposed against white (faded to grey) facades; and this surprising surfeit of colour made my walk through the area a delightful journey of discovery.

This gallery presents views from three parts of Old Town East – the old Port of Kalimas, with its pnisis boats; the Arab Quarter of Ampel; and finally, Chinatown, situated along and around Jalan Kembang Jepun.

In putting these shots together, I am inspired by the work of travel writer, Tim Hannigan, who has lived in and written about Surabaya. My matter-of-fact photography pales in comparison with Mr Hannigan’s wondrously evocative accounts of wandering through the Old Town. These brilliant accounts can be found here:

Pnisis at the old port of Kalimas.

Warehouse, Kalimas.

Dutch godowns on the Western shore, Kalimas.

Chinese-style warehouses and residences on the Eastern Shore.

Lighthouse tower (?), Kalimas. Notice the mosaic of a fish and crocodile to the lower left of the tower.

Becak and bright colours, Kalimas.

Blue and mauve, Ampel.

Shades of green, Ampel.

Shuttered storefronts, Ampel.

Traditional Malay-style balcony on the second floor, Ampel.

Lime Green grills, Ampel.

Motorcyclist, Ampel.

Dilapidated facades, Ampel.

Another dilapidated facade, Jalan Kembang Jepun (Chinatown).

Bright pink shutters, Jalan Kembang Jepun.

Contrasted against grey, Jalan Kembang Jepun.

Bright Blue, Jalan Kembang Jepun.

Blue-green washed gray, Jalan Kembang Jepun.

A colonial-style building in Chinatown, with lions at the front door.

Scattered throughout Chinatown are these traditional style houses.

Here’s another one.

Warehouses in Chinatown.

Apartment blocks from the ‘50s and ‘60s, Chinatown.

Traditional shophouse architecture – found all over the Malay Archipelago – in Chinatown.

Traditional ornament, on the façade of the Han Ash House, Jalan Kembang Jepun.

Juxtaposition of the old and the new, Chinatown.

Another instance of graffiti art, actually along Jalan Jembatan Merah (Old Town West), but whatever.

PDF: Gallery IVB – Colours of Old Town East (3.8 MB)

NEXT MONTH: Bangkok, Thailand and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
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