:: Bengkulu, the Fabulous of Heritage City ::

 “…cut-off from its neighbors by the Bukit Barisan range, Bengkulu remains Sumatra’s most isolated province-and nothing much seems to have changed here for years…”           

Lonely Planet, 2007 edition

Dutch VOC medals for local chief in Bengkulu
Dutch VOC medals for local chief in Bengkulu

A citation from Lonely Planet book about Bengkulu above could make my heart sank and lazy to visit one of the provinces in west coast of Sumatra. However, passions for exploring Sumatra, at least its provincial capital, strengthen the intention to keep visiting Bengkulu, moreover its capital. Bengkulu city or Bencoolen, identic with Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, a lieutenant governor of British Empire which ruled the west coast of Sumatra since 1818-1824. Previously, this rich region in nutmeg and pepper, has become a nightmare since the murder of the British resident for Bengkulu (as same as governor level) Thomas Parr, and his assistant Charles Murray, 11 years before the arrival of Raffles. Raffles is not just a skillful in art of military, but also a genius person for understanding local culture and science. He is fluent in Malay and has a certain amount of trace memory in this archipelago, such as the discovery of Borobudur, expedition around Sumatra which recorded by William Marsden, the discovery of the Bunga Bangkai flower (gigantic flower in the world) with botanist Dr. Joseph Arnold, develop villa resort Pangkal Balam (30 km to the north of Bengkulu), built Bogor Botanical Gardens, and several historical record such as History of Java.

I.    First Day

Coast of Malbro Beach
Coast of Malbro Beach

I went to Bengkulu through Lubuk Linggau, South Sumatra at 14.00 PM via travel. I prefer Lubuk Linggau than Palembang since the distance only about 109 km from Bengkulu and also adjacent to my office area. The trips taken 4 hours pass the snaking road and beautiful area around Curup until Kepahiang. However, my uncle said, we have to careful in Kepala Curup. Once, this area is quite thick with crime figure, either by now.

I arrived in Bengkulu at 17.00 PM and stay at Dena Hotel (Fatmawati Street) around Simpang Lima Boulevard. Well, just a place for sleep and save the electronic goods, for me is enough. Moreover, the position of Dena Hotel is strategic to go anywhere, even on foot though. The first objective is the Sport Center in Pantai Panjang area, only 1.5 km (based on map information) from hotel and just walks away. There is a festival named as Festival Pantai Rafflesia and the selection of Bengkulu Bujang Gadis (Boys and Girls) 2013. However, since there are storm and heavy rains in the festival arena, around 21.00 PM I ran straight to the hotel. Unfortunately, the second day trips, was not according to plan.

II.   Second Day

Rain lashed since 22.00 PM until 16.00 PM at the next day. I fell asleep and did not realize there was a small earthquake in the midnight. It is useless, just due to the rain, Bengkulu’s time only spent in bed. So I pull out the blankets, took a bath, and immediately walked out to several interesting places in the city, although the rainfall is still dancing in the sky.

Bung Karno’s Exile House

Fatmawati Airport, Padang Kemiling
Fatmawati Airport, Padang Kemiling

Bung Karno or Soekarno is an Indonesian national hero and famous figure until now. He was first Indonesia’s president from 1945-1966. During Dutch occupation, he has been exiled into Bengkulu, where the remains house still standing now. Bung Karno’s exile house is located around 1 km from Simpang Lima Boulevard towards Soekarno Hatta Street. In this place, there are large collection of books, a Bung Karno’s bed (there is a mystical rumor side about this bed), bicycles, and old wells where the water is still there. Currently, this house being renovated, however it opens for the public. Formerly, this house owned by Chinese merchants who are contracted by the Dutch as an exile place for Bung Karno. But, in this place also, his love with Fatmawati (will became first lady) blossomed.

Thomas Parr Monument 

Thomas Parr Monument
Thomas Parr Monument

One night, two days before Christmas in 1807, a group of Malay civilian came to Mount Felix and raided the residence of the Resident Thomas Parr (now turn into the governor’s palace). They are led by Depati Sukarami, Depati Lagan, and Depati Pagar Dewa claim revenges the resident atrocities toward Bengkulu people. In this incident, Thomas Parr and his assistant Charles Murray killed. Several years later, to commemorate the tragedy, the British colonial government established the Thomas Parr Monument about 170 meters from Fort Marlborough or on A. Yani Street, Kampung Melayu, Bengkulu. Currently there are project of local governments to beautify this building by creating an underground tunnel that connected with Mount Felix. Unfortunately, these plans have been abandoned and remains construction worsened the monument.

Masjid (Mosque) Jamek Bengkulu

One of the architecture heritages from Bung Karno during his exile and it located in Soeprapto Street, Bengkulu or about 1.5 km from Fort Marlborough. Originally, it was founded by Daeng Makulle, a dato’, leader, and trader from Bugis in the 18th century. To strengthen the building construction, Bung Karno redesigned this masjid. This masjid jamik perhaps not as big as in other areas, but it is comfortable and convenient, because it is located in the midst of the economic heart of Bengkulu.

Second day trip is enough, and it’s time to take a rest for the third days trip. Before walk back to the hotel, I also tasted Satay Padang in traditional food court at Brokoto Market or Barukoto. This place is just in front of Thomas Parr Monument. The satay looks like was named “Padang”, but seemed to have mixed with local tastes rich pepper and nutmeg, so it feels warmer in the chest. Quite as heated when drizzle approached.

III.   Third Day

Praise to Allah for Bengkulu’s sunny sky, its coming back to wander again. This time I was accompanied by Mas Deky from Bung Karno’s Exile House as a partner traveler. Actually, his parents came from Wonogiri, Central Java and he has stay for long time in Bengkulu. Walking with British and Dutch tourists are a common thing for him. One that I remember from him, he suggested heritage trail by walk on foot, since Bengkulu can be surrounded within one day. Out of curiosity, I follow his advice.

Hamilton Monument

Approximately 0.5 km from Bung Karno Exile House, we were welcomed by Hamilton Monument in Teluk Segara district. Designed as obelisk shaped, this monument was established by British colonial government to commemorate Cpt. Robert Hamilton, a commander of British infantry who slain by Bengkulu’s people during riot in 1793.

British Cemetery

British Cemetery
British Cemetery

Leaving Hamilton Monument, we walked about 100 meters and turn it into an alley toward the British Cemetery. How pity that this cemetery complex mixed and surrounded with local community infrastructure. And of course it reduces the impression and sacredness from cemetery. However the cemetery is well organized and ordered. There are about 15 tombs in this cemetery area, ranging from 1775’s to 1940’s. There is also a chapel behind the cemetery, and it reminds me with the cemetery around Edinburgh, Scotland which is completed with a chapel on the outside.

Malbro Beach

Only about 300 meters walk from British Cemetery, we came into Malbro Beach, where the beach is the continuation of Panjang Beach and Tapak Padri Beach. It is quite fun here, because the waves are relatively calm amongst a coral reef. Besides that, it is also crowded with fishing activities, ranging from tidying up the nets, marinate fish, and repair the boat.

Fort Marlborough

Gate of Fort Marlborough
Gate of Fort Marlborough

If Jakarta has Monas, Surabaya has Tugu Pahlawan, Bukittinggi with the Jam Gadang, then Bengkulu has Fort Marlborough as the landmark. This fort is the second largest British fortress in Asia after the fort Goa, India. To build it, British government mobilized Sephoy infantry unit from Nepal and the people of Bengkulu itself. Meanwhile, the fort name was taken as an honor to one of the British military commander, the Duke of Marlborough. In 1714, Joseph Collet moved the center of British forces from Fort York to this fort. The fort formed as pentagon-shaped, in which at the ends, equipped with surveillance bastion to secure sea lanes as well as hinterland. Joy and sorrow passed in this fort, from conquered twice by Bengkulu’s warrior, fluttered during Sir Stamford Raffles reign, occupied by the Dutch VOC, until retaken again by Indonesian military unit. That said, Bung Karno had interrogated by Dutch government in this fort, shortly after Adolf Hitler invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. They were asked him to set up a memorial, but Bung Karno refused and just put three bricks in front of the fort.

Hamilton Obelsk
Hamilton Obelsk

Inside the fort, also buried Resident Thomas Parr and his assistant Charles Murray as the main victim of Mount Felix tragedy in 1807. The reason to bury them inside the fort was to protect their body from the angered people of Bengkulu who still hate them and swore to ruin their graves. The fort scene is beautiful and worthy incorporated as a cultural heritage that should be protected. For British and Dutch tourist, this fort has its own memory when they visit.

After visited Fort Marlborough, my next destination was the Fatmawati Airport in Padang Kemiling which is located 30 minutes from downtown. Yes, I had to end my exploration in Bengkulu city on the third day. There are still many places I want to visit so, especially witness Raflessia Arnoldi bloom, sunrise on the Dendam Tak Sudah Lake, wandering Lebong Highland. Moreover the people are

friendly, polite, and shows welcoming attitude. A unique things was, the people are quite orderly in traffic (as long as I stayed there, those people so rare breakthrough the traffic light when red sign appeared). One time, as long as Allah gives me strength, I’ll come back and trying to date again with this marvelous heritage city.

IV.   Having Fun Cost

Herewith I share having fun cost (that’s my idiom regarding travelling cost), including relish one of favourite pempek (local food which made from fish mince combined with flour) in Bengkulu, Cek Toni’s Pempek. There is also local famous syrup, most of tourist buy this and pack into another city, Kalamansi Orange Syrup.


Cost Type

Cost in Rupiah


Travel Lubuk Linggau-Bengkulu via Toyota Avanza  Rp                   70,000


Dena Hotel (2 night via Agoda) @ Rp. 200,000 per-night  Rp                 400,000


Public transport when needed (only 3 times) @ Rp. 2,500  Rp                     7,500


Satay Padang Brokoto with bottle tea  Rp                   18,000


Simpang Lima Meatball with bottle tea and crackers  Rp                   18,000


Pempek Cek Toni  Rp                   25,000


Kalamansi Orange Syrup  Rp                   35,000


Bengkulu-Jakarta Ticket by Garuda  Rp                 600,000


 Rp            1,173,500
Pempek Cek Toni
Pempek Cek Toni

Those cost above probably a little bit expensive than backpacker travel. However, since I want to enjoy relaxed condition after working in site, those cost still reasonable. Someday, if you want visit Bengkulu, don’t forget to taste waved pempek in Cek Toni, Satay Padang with Bengkulu recipe, pindang (fish fresh soup with spice, unfortunately I didn’t try this), and so on.

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