The Ampera Bridge has become the most famous icon of Palembang, which is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia and in the past was the capital of the powerful Sriwijaya Kingdom between 670 and 1375.
Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra Province, however, is currently mulling over a greater icon than just the Ampera Bridge, which was constructed in April 1962 and stretches 1,177 meters in length and 22 meters in width.
The administration of Palembang is set to develop the Musi River tourism on the similar lines as Thailands Chao Phraya River, or even transforming it into "the Venice of Indonesia."
The city will send a team to Thailand to learn about how the fellow ASEAN member state managed to develop and promote Chao Phraya River as a global tourist attraction, Sudirman Teguh, an official of the Palembang administration, said recently.
"We will adopt Thailands methods because both Palembang and Thailand have similar aspects to offer in terms of river tourism," he added.
Palembang city is currently trying to promote Musi River - the longest river in Sumatra stretching over 750 kilometers - as a tourism icon, in cooperation with state-owned enterprise PT Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC).
PT ITDC has considerable experience in tourism development and promotional activities, including in Nusa Dua, Bali, and Mandalika, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.
The company will bear the expenses to develop tourism along Musi River. It plans to construct a five-star, 20-storey hotel near the river, which will cost some Rp200 billion .
Musi River is expected to become the first tourist attraction of its kind in Indonesia.
Earlier, Indonesian Tourism Promotion Manager in Singapore Sulaiman Shehdek had urged the Palembang administration to promote an iconic tourist destination in its city.
"Palembang has a lot of tourism potential, including religious sites, authentic culinary specialties, shopping centers, and sports activities. The city could also claim to be the Venice of Indonesia. It is all up to whatever creative ideas the city administration can develop," he remarked recently.
By having an iconic destination to promote tourism, Palembang will be known across the world, particularly in the Asian region, Shehdek affirmed.
The city has hosted a number of international sport events, but the number of visiting tourists is still inconsequential.
Less than one thousand tourists from Singapore visit Palembang annually, despite the existence of direct flights from Singapore and Malaysia, according to the tourism ministry official.
Besides, Palembang shares a historical familiarity with other Asian countries, considering how its population comprises people of numerous races such as Chinese, Arabs and Malay.
In the middle of Musi River, there is a unique isle known as Kemaro Isle, where there is Chinese temple. It honors a legendary love story between a Chinese prince, Tan Bun Ann, and a princess of Palembang, Siti Fatimah.
Moreover, Shehdek suggested that the Palembang administration intensify tourism promotional activities by establishing a board for this purpose.
Some 3 million tourists visit South Sumatra every year. This year, the province has set a target of attracting at least 5 million.
While some 35 percent of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia are attracted to its natural landscapes, 60 percent prefer its culinary specialties, and religious and historical sites, and only 5 percent visit for special events such as festivals and exhibitions.
The Musi River is also known to have numerous species of fish that attract foreign researchers to study them.
There are 221 species of fish in the Musi River, one of which is the famous belida fish that is almost endangered.
South Sumatras waters comprising 11 rivers and 49 creeks, with a total length of 920 kilometers, are recorded as the largest inland waters in Indonesia.
Since March this year, three researchers from Japan in coordination with the Water Fishery Development Center in South Sumatra have been studying the diversity of various fish species.
Spokesman of the Marine and Fishery Office of South Sumatra Province Galamda Israk recently stated that the presence of researchers from Japan in Palembang is a positive response from academics to the establishment of the largest fishery development center in the ASEAN region.
"General Water Fishery Development Center is the only one in the ASEAN region, although it has not yet been opened, as it is still under construction. In future, several other researchers will join the research center," he affirmed.
According to Israk, the fishery development center indirectly increases the fishery potential in South Sumatra, which has inland water areas reaching 2.5 million hectares, including the Musi River and its tributaries, swamps, and lakes.
He said the administration fully supports the programs undertaken by the research and development center by providing an area of 1.6 hectares in Jakabaring.
Moreover, there is also a famous ecotourism attraction in Palembang called Punti Kayu ecotourism forest and recreational park, which is located in the heart of the capital of South Sumatra Province.
Visitors can learn about the various types of flora and fauna found in the urban forest, Antoni of the Punti Kayu ecotourism forest, stated in Palembang, recently.
Outbound activities such as flying fox, elephant rides, and boating are also available in the park, he added.
By paying Rp20 thousand for an entry ticket, the visitors can enjoy the 50-hectare urban forest, which also has a swimming pool and a lake.
Last but not the least, Palembang is also known as the city of "songket," the beautiful gold-thread woven fabric, and delicious "pempek" dumplings made of fish and sago that every visitor should buy. (Antara)