Everything you Need to Know about Malang

Malang, the second largest city in East Java, is known for its cooler temperatures, beautiful surrounding countryside and attractive streets lined with historical buildings. Set on the Brantas River, Malang is a lively trade centre and a popular destination for visitors, with vibrant markets, parks and Dutch colonial buildings to see. The Dutch used it as a holiday escape, and a number of the mansions, government buildings and churches they built still remain standing today

Malang's history stretches back to ancient times, with the oldest records of the city dating back to the eighth century, when it was then the capital of the Kanjuruhan and Singhasari kingdoms. Several Hindu temples and relics including the Singosari Temple from the 12th century are scattered throughout the city.

Today, Malang is a thriving cultural centre with its own unique character. Identifying themselves as the Arema culture, Malang residents take great pride in preserving and performing their traditional music, theatre and sports activities. Outside the city are some stunning mountains and national parks for nature lovers to explore. Within easy reach is East Java's main port city, Surabaya.

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Malang Attractions

Malang's historical downtown is best explored by foot or becak (tricycle carriage). Ijen Boulevard is lined with lovely examples of Dutch colonial architecture, and a whole day could be spent visiting the Brawijaya Army Museum, Immanual Catholic Church and the city library found along here. Balai Kota (City Hall) is another historical building with an interesting blend of Dutch and Indonesian architectural styles.

Visit the Mangun Dharma Art Centre to learn more about traditional East Javanese art forms including dance, batik, shadow puppetry and carving. The Hotel Tugu Malang is almost a museum with a big collection of antiques and local crafts on display for visitors. Another popular cultural attraction is Senaputra Park, with traditional East Java dances every Sunday at 10am (in dry season only) and Wayang Kulit shadow puppet shows on the last Wednesday of every month, starting at 10pm.

Singosari Temple (Candi Singosari) is a well preserved temple built during Hindu kingdom rule in 1300 A.D. Nearby are the bathing pools at Ken Dedes, built by the royal court of the first king of Singhasari. Klenteng (Chinese Temple) is still a place of pilgrimage today for devotees of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.

Purwodadi Botanical Gardens, about 20 km north of Malang, features the Baung waterfall and a large variety of native and exotic plants.

Malang Restaurants & Dining

Malang is known as a place to enjoy fresh local cuisine, including some delectable dishes that are unique to the city. Some of the favourite dishes to sample at the local markets and warung (food stalls) include fried village chicken (ayam goreng kampung), Malang-style meat balls (bakso malang), grilled corn on the cob (jaung bakar), and fresh apples picked from the surrounding highlands, particularly the green manalagi variety.

Malang's most famous night market is on Jalan Merdeka, open every Saturday. Another busy night market is Jalan Agus Salim, where you'll find fantastic beef onion rice soup (nasi rawon) and bakso malang.

Some other top spots for inexpensive local fare include Bakmi Gajah Mada for East Javanese noodle dishes, Ingill's with a range of Javanese cuisine, Warung Pojok for spicy peanut-sauce salad (rujak) and Warung Subuh for a variety of cheap, tasty meals.

The Martabak Cairo cafe features kopi jahe, a local brew infused with cloves. Toko Oen restaurant has a range of western and Indonesian dishes to enjoy in a historic setting. For a special evening out try L'Amour Fou at the Hotel Tugu Malang, with French and Italian dishes, live music nightly and cocktails in a chic, candlelit setting.

Malang Nightlife

Malang nightlife is a lot more low-key than the hectic scenes of Jakarta and Kuta Beach in Bali, but there are a number of places to enjoy an evening out. Warung Shanghai, inside the Hotel Tugu Malang, is rich with ambiance and history, having been reconstructed from a simple warung owned by a Babah Chinese and his Batavian wife. Its style is reminiscent of the warung coffee bars found along Batavia harbour in the early 1900s, decorated with antiques and photographs from the era. Cocktails, wines and light meals are served. Hugo's is a popular night spot featuring live bands and DJ music.

Regular dance performances, art exhibitions and other cultural displays are featured at the East Java Cultural Building (Taman Krida Budaya). The striking peak-roof complex also hosts many local fairs, festivals and concerts throughout the year.

Malang Shopping

Malang is home to markets galore, which are lively and fun places to explore and pick up some real bargains in the process. A camera is a must! One of the city's most colourful markets is the Birds and Flowers Market (Pasar Senggol), chock full of exotic bird species, orchids and other flowers, plants and decorative items for gardens. Pasar Besar is a big central market teeming with local goods, while Pasar Bunga is a flower market best seen in the morning. Pasar Kebalen is a busy evening market. Two major Sunday morning markets are held at Gajayana Stadium and Velodrom Sawojajar -- very lively places with innumerable local products for sale.

A handicraft centre worth checking out is the Handicraft Centre of Kendedes (Pusat Kerajinan Kendedes), which features a range of handmade goods including clothing accessories, wooden crafts and handbags, all made with local natural materials like cassava or potatoes. Gorgeous ceramics including finely-crafted earthen pitchers can be bought and observed in the making at the Ceramics Centre workshop. The Onyx Shop at Tlogomas sells souvenirs made from onyx stone.

Kayu Tangan Complex is a modern shopping complex with clothing, batiks, electronics and souvenirs for sale.

Malang Activities

Malang is set between the highland areas of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park to the east and the Gunung Arjuna-Lalijiwo Reserve (Arjuna Mountain) to the north-west, giving hikers and nature lovers a great choice of areas to explore. Mount Bromo is a volcano of unearthly beauty, its entire top having been blown off centuries ago. Hike around the edge of its crater and see the sulphurous smoke belching from Bromo's core.

The summit of Mount Arjuna, a dormant volcano, is reached on a two-day trek, or less experienced hikers may stick to the hiking trails. On the way to Mount Arjuna is the pretty hill station, Batu, a rich agricultural area famous for its apples and hot springs.

Wendit Swimming Pool, about 10 kilometres east of Malang, features a natural spring water pool that many locals believe is a true 'fountain of youth'. There are also several spa-massage centres around Malang, with Nuansa Fajar, a blind massage therapist training centre, the most well-known.

The beaches of Balekambang, Ngliyep and Sendang Biru are popular day-trip destinations close to Malang, with fine sands for relaxing (swimming is not possible), stunning coastal scenery and a few offshore islands to visit. Karangkates Dam Recreation Park is a nice spot for strolling and canoe trips.

Malang Information

Regular bus service connects Malang to Jakarta and Surabaya. The 90-kilometre trip to Surabaya takes two to three hours via the Surabaya-Gempol highway. Malang's major bus terminal is Arjosari Station in the north part of the city.

There is an overnight train service between Jakarta and Malang, and several trips a day to and from Surabaya. The Malang Train Station is in a central part of the city, making it a more convenient arrival spot compared with the bus terminals, which are on the outskirts.

If you do arrive by train, be sure to stop and take a look at the Struggling Monument (Monument Juang '45), built in honour of Indonesia's war of independence in 1945.

Malang's Abdul Rachman Saleh Airport has several daily flights connecting it to major centres across Indonesia, including new flights direct to Bali launched in March 2011 by the carrier Wings Air.

If travelling by air in Indonesia, expect to face delays and other difficulties, and it should be noted that some of the local carriers have less-than-stellar safety records. Online air ticket booking is still in its infancy here, so it's best to check with local travel agents for flight information and reservations.

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