A Traditional Javanese Wedding And My Favorite Hotels In Surabaya

I got to visit Surabaya in November 2015, and I fell in love with this Indonesian city (the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta). I got to attend Ayu’s traditional Javanese wedding – which was an eye-opener – and I also had the privilege of having my pals take us around the beautiful, though very hot, city. 😀

First… the wedding:

traditional javanese wedding

I’m with the gorgeous bride, Ayu, whose name actually means “beautiful”. How apt!

I’ve never attended a wedding that’s not held in Singapore, prior to this, so it was truly a privilege to have been invited to observe the ceremony. I say “observe” because I could hardly understand a word the officer was saying as he rattled on so quickly, though he did crack many jokes and imparted lots of marriage advice to the newly-weds. I was told that one piece of advice to the husband was to not expect/initiate intercourse when one’s wife is menstruating. 😀

* the officer is the one holding the marriage certificate *

Javanese wedding

In the picture above, the bride’s father (seated next to the officer) is holding the hand of the groom, and some sort of vow is taking place. Apparently, there are two parts to the ceremony: to be married under the law, and to be married ‘under religion’ (the bride’s father entrusts his daughter to the groom who promises to take care of her, etc).

Surabaya wedding

The duration of the ceremony depends very much on whether the officer is talkative or not. LOL. This one made us stand around for about 45 minutes before the ceremony was wrapped up.

While Ayu used to be a model, she is now a makeup artist. She didn’t do her own makeup for this ceremony though, as it’s rather elaborate. In her shoes, I wouldn’t either. Not when I have to wake up so early in the morning.

I really adore the headpiece – here’s the view from the back:

Javanese bride

And there’s something awesome about stealing one of these Jasmine flower ends from the headpiece:

javanese wedding culture

Apparently, if you manage to steal one without Ayu noticing (Look over there, Ayu! There’s a bird!), you’ll find your true love very soon! However, as you can already guess, there was no need for me to resort to such thievery. Haha! But it’s pretty cool eh? In other cultures, we toss flower bouquets and force our single and unwed friends to catch them. Here, only those who so desire will go ahead and take the initiative.

And oh! I was rather amazed at the bananas outside the wedding venue too. Lots and lots of bananas, which symbolize fertility for the newly-weds:

Javanese wedding custom

There was also an exchange of gifts during the ceremony. In transparent-top boxes were a handbag, shoes, toiletries, a red bra(!), the Qur’an etc. These items signify the groom’s commitment to providing for his bride’s every need. I nearly got teary-eyed hearing this part explained to me, only to get a bit giggly again at the sight of the box containing the fiery red bra being passed from relative to relative in order to reach the front of the room. 😀

It was definitely an eye-opening experience I won’t forget 🙂

And I do wish the couple decades of wedded bliss, filial children and successful careers!


If you’d like to head to Surabaya, here are some nuggets of information that might interest you:

The time in Surabaya is 1 hour behind Singapore’s. The currency exchange rate in November 2015 was S$1 : 9660 Rupiah.

While the taxi we took to the airport (on the way back) cost 64,000rp, it cost us 145,000rp from the airport to the city via airport taxi (Bukti Sewa Taxi – Rahayu Transport). Choose Blue Bird taxis if you’re out and do keep small change in your wallet as taxi drivers in this country tend to keep the change without you asking them to, no matter the amount. It was quite a culture shock for me, especially when I visited Jakarta. The driver pocketed some S$20+ in change.

We flew to Surabaya by tigerair – no hiccups, and it costs just S$257.56 for return tickets for 2! Juanda Intl Airport T2 (which is new) has very clean toilets. However, the city has lots of mosquitoes, especially in vehicles like taxis!

[ I love the wide open space in the airport ]

Surabaya Juanda Airport

[ Was shocked to see a horse go past our taxi ]

Surabaya roads


Surabaya Hotels We Stayed In

Surabaya is one of those places where you can get a stay at a luxury hotel without paying exorbitant prices. We stayed in three different hotels over 4 nights, and here’s the pricing (all inclusive of breakfast)…

[ Sheraton $112, Crown Prince $77, ibis styles $49 ]


It’s interesting how taxi drivers pronounce the word ‘Sheraton’ as ‘Share-rah-thorn’. If you have trouble communicating with your driver that you want to go to Sheraton Hotel, just tell them to take you to Tunjungan Plaza which is linked to the hotel.

Sheraton in Surabaya has all the prestige but doesn’t quite live up to all my expectations. For one, the armchair in the room was old and worn. And after we had checked in, we received a call up to the room asking for my handphone number, email and home address. Not cool. They had also initially wanted a deposit of some 500USD. We gave them 500,000rp.

What’s good though is the provision of 4 x 330ml bottles of water within the room.

Sheraton Hotel is pretty close to Pasar Genteng. It costs 12K by taxi, while the return trip cost just 7K. The market is HOT HOT HOT though – bring a handheld fan or a towel if you must. The place is good for purchasing local snacks. [ The taxi base fare is 7K ]

  * award-winning hotel *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers awards

* the room *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers

* the bathtub in the pretty big bathroom *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers bathtub

* toiletries and 2 of the 4 water bottles *

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers toiletries

[ Their rather large gym ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers gym

[ Pool Bar ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers poolbar

[ Pool – quite deserted, just the way I like it ]

Sheraton Surabaya Hotel and Towers pool


In terms of cleanliness, this hotel needs to work on their pillowcases and bedsheets, really. But what is really awesome here is the breakfast spread! OMG! Share some pictures with you in a bit.

Crown Prince took just a 200K deposit. And if you book a club room, you get free afternoon tea from 530pm to 730pm – it’s a really limited selection so I wouldn’t bother again next time. And there are only 3 drinks in the free minibar: coke, pocari sweat and Vit C. We did have 2 free in-room snacks though.

[ I really prefer clean and spotless sheets and pillowcases! ]

crown prince surabaya

crown prince surabaya minibar

Breakfast: The banana cake in the top left corner is AMAZING!!! I had more than 3 servings, I think 😀 😀

crown prince surabaya breakfast

I love the fruit, porridge, veggies. OMG.

crown prince surabaya breakfast

There’s an egg station too! So, because the food is great, I can forgive all else.


My one biggest regret on this trip is not staying a couple more nights at ibis styles. It’s so clean and colorful (so me!) and the bed is super comfortable! Too bad we had an early flight out. Love love love that the hotel prepared a breakfast takeout for us: Choose from noodles, rice and bread.

* Yup, surprised by breakfast takeout! *

ibis styles packed breakfast to airport

[ The quirky and colorful reception area ]

ibis styles surabaya reception

[ The room with the super comfy beds ]

ibis styles surabaya

[ Everything is colorful. Everything! ]

ibis styles refreshment

ibis styles bathroom

ibis styles surabaya washbasin

I’m definitely returning to ibis styles again the next time I visit Surabaya. Apparently, there are many ibis hotels there, but this one is pretty new. I highly recommend it!


It’s pretty weird how 3 people from Surabaya (they now reside in SG) have spoken to me, and 2 are SHOCKED (frankly, appalled) that I like their city. Their complaints: “It’s so hot! There’s nothing to do in Surabaya! It’s boring!” Only 1 person agreed with me that the food is fantastic – the sole Indonesian language tutor at Indo Slang. I guess we sometimes have to see our own city with new (tourist) eyes, and then we begin to appreciate it more. After all, Singapore can be said to be pretty boring too. Malls tend to shut by 10pm… or rather, sales assistants lock up the cash registers around 9.45pm, and there’s not much of a ‘nightlife’ to speak of, right? But there’s so much to love too.

I really do like this Indonesian city. It also does not have traffic jams a la Jakarta. So what’s there to dislike about it? 🙂 Go check it out soon! 🙂

And in upcoming blogposts, I’ll share about the food places my Indonesian pals took us to, and the malls we visited, etc. Stay tuned!