Introduction

Sumatra’s second-largest city is a major port that sits astride the Sungai Musi, the two halves of the city linked by the giant Jembatan Ampera (Ampera Bridge). While these days it's just another regular large Indonesian city, blighted by traffic jams and pollution, it does have a fascinating history as one of Southeast Asia's oldest cities. A thousand years ago Palembang was the capital of the highly developed Sriwijaya civilisation that ruled a huge slab of Southeast Asia, covering most of Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula, southern Thailand and Cambodia. Few relics from the period now remain outside the city museum.

While it's far from being an essential stop, if you're passing overland through the Pasemah Highlands or Jambi, Palembang is enough off the tourist radar to give it some appeal. Food is another reason to visit, with the city’s spicy fare the subject of much debate (positive and negative) in Sumatra.