Sumatra, the world's sixth largest island, boasts a rich and dramatic history that dates back thousands of years. I'm travels through time to mighty Palembang city, which was already a prosperous and sophisticated city over a thousand years ago when many of the great cities of Europe were still just medieval market towns.
Palembang has a rich history as the capital of the Sriwijaya Empire, which stretched from Indonesia, through Malaysia and into southern Thailand. The region still retains much of its Buddhist legacy: you can take a local ketek (speedboat) along the 200m-wide Musi to Kemaro Island with its temple and eight-storey pagoda, and at Bukit Siguntang cemetery there is a sacred hill that was said to be the birthplace of the Malay kings.
But the reason for Palembang's greatness has always been its strategic trading location near the mouth of the Musi River and, even today, the spot between the old fort and the river is the perfect place to soak up the local atmosphere. As the sun begins to set the lights flicker on along the towering Ampera Bridge, you can look down on the ranks of cargo boats on the wharf and imagine a scene that has attracted pilgrims for a thousand years... and which will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Ampera Bridge, Palembang, South Sumatra, IDN.