Monday, July 16, 2012

Semarang - Lawang Sewu

“Lawang Sewu” is the perfect name for this historic landmark in Semarang, as far as name goes. There is nothing figurative about the meaning of the Javanese name which means thousand doors for there are indeed that many a door in this complex. However, if you find the name interesting, wait until you read about its colourful history.

Lawang Sewu

There are two main buildings in the complex, with the first one, building A, completed in 1907 and the remaining by 1919. Originally constructed for the purposes of the national railway of Dutch East Indies, it served as a prison during Japanese Occupation in 1942. During this dark period of time, many Indonesians were victims to the Japanese’s tortures and died in the basement of the building.

Isn't the name befitting with the many doors in the buildings?

When the war was over, the complex was took over by the government and remained in dilapidated condition until renovation took place a few years back to cash in the influx of tourists arrivals in Central Java. When we were in Semarang, only building B was opened for tour while building A was still under renovation. We were told that a few months later, building B will be closed for its turn in reconstruction while building A will take over the function as tour ground.

One of the many compartments/items on display

 The appeal of the structure lies on its unique Dutch colonial architecture, with its white façade as well as its numerous doors. But the main attraction, I believe, is the haunting the building often associated with.

There are tales of sightings of headless ghouls roaming the complex by visitors and also of the spirit of a Dutch woman, said to be committed suicide in the structure. It is nothing out of the unusual with these rumours for such a historic building, especially one of dark time and the connection to the Japanese during the occupation. Apparently, the basements of the buildings are the scariest for that was where the tortures and the imprisonment were done.

The basement where the torturous scenes happened (have to use flash 'cause too dark)

I was told that there was once a group of reality show in Indonesia came to do a shooting on the ground and one of the contestants was left in the basement on her own and apparently, she saw something. The whole fiasco in turn made Lawang Sewu an attraction not to be missed when in Semarang.

Be it for the haunting scene or the striking structure, Lawang Sewu deserved to be in the spotlight and preserved for future generations. Colonial structures don’t come by much often these days and tall, generic buildings will soon take over the skyline. Without these heritage landmarks, there will nothing left to distinguish one city from another.

A beauty, indeed


Sharing is caring. A word of advice and a piece of information.

Entrance ticket to Lawang Sewu is priced at Rp 10,000 (RM3.50, more or less) per person and you have to hire a tour guide at a price of Rp 30,000 (RM10.00, plus minus) as you cannot enter without one. Once you have enough of the building, you can walk to the roundabout located opposite the complex where the Tugu Muda monument stands. Erected to commemorate the deaths of the warriors fought in defending Semarang from Japanese, Tugu Muda is definitely worth a glimpse.

Tugu Muda

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