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Surabaya is like a bottle of wine: it gets better the more you get to know it. Give it time and you'll discover that Surabaya has many quixotic corners of interest. Its historic Arab Quarter is a fascinating labyrinth of lanes, and the city has one of Indonesia’s biggest Chinatowns and some interesting, though disintegrating, Dutch colonial buildings.

Having said all this, initial impressions aren't likely to be great. Congested with traffic and business-driven rather than focused on touristic pleasure, Surabaya isn't a pedestrian-friendly city. Just crossing the eight-lane highways that rampage through the centre is a challenge in itself, and against the calm of rural East Java, it is pandemonium writ large.

For most foreign visitors, the city is merely a transport hub. For locals, Surabaya is closely linked to the birth of the Indonesian nation, as it was here that the battle for independence began. To them, Surabaya is Kota Pahlawan (City of Heroes).

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