Hotel Majapahit is a majestic hotel located in the heart of Surabaya which has witnessed first-hand the changing history of Indonesia, from Dutch colonisation, through Japanese occupation right up to the declaration of independence on August 17, 1945 and beyond.
Despite it all, Hotel Majapahit still stands proudly with its authentic Dutch architecture to this day, and many tourists and locals visit the site to study Indonesia’s rich national history. This fine 5-star hotel is like a public museum, with its black and white photos and antiques on display for guests to enjoy. In fact, the moment you step through the glass doors of the hotel, you feel as though you have travelled back in time, with the beautiful Dutch architecture featuring white pillars and walls, the landscaping featuring lush green bushes and palm trees, the trickling of the water fountains and the old 60s classical music playing softly in the background. Also, if you would like to experience authentic Indonesian spa treatments, Martha Tilaar Spa is located in the hotel grounds and is open to hotel guests and the public.
The Majapahit Hotel was built by Lucas Martin Sarkies, who had the idea to establish a majestic hotel for merchants and delegates from abroad who came to Surabaya for trading purposes. The Sarkies Brothers, one of whom was Lucas’ father, were well known for building the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore and other luxurious hotels throughout Southeast Asia. The Majapahit Hotel was opened in 1910 with the name Hotel Oranje, which means Orange Hotel in Dutch. Many sources say that it was named after the building’s original colour but there is no concrete evidence because at the time, photographs could only be taken in black and white.
During World War Two, when Japan invaded Indonesia and ousted the Dutch, Surabaya was the country’s capital. To make a point, the Japanese changed the hotel’s name to Hotel Yamato, to symbolically show that the Dutch were no longer the rulers of Indonesia.
After the last remnants of the defeated Japanese imperial army had fled Indonesia at the end of the war, all Dutch prisoners who had been held in the hotel were released by the Indonesians. In September 1945, the Dutch enraged their hosts by raising the Dutch flag on top of the hotel, hence denying Indonesia’s newly-declared independence. In an effort to settle the issue diplomatically, Surabaya’s Vice Resident Soedirman, a prominent soldier of the republic and a politician, arrived at the hotel with a delegation to ask that the Dutch flag be removed from all buildings in Surabaya, including hotel. The Dutch leader Ploegman would not comply and drew a gun, and a struggle ensued. During the fight Ploegman was killed along with a member of the Indonesian delegation called Sidik. The Indonesians were further enraged after hearing this news and immediately attacked the Dutch military and internees in the hotel. In the end, the Indonesians defeated the Dutch and the Indonesian flag, made by tearing off the blue section of the Dutch flag that was previously flying, was raised on the roof of the hotel. Following this incident, known as “The Yamato Incident”, the hotel was renamed Hotel Merdeka, in English, “Hotel Freedom”.
Hotel Majapahit is a representation of the struggles and hardship which Indonesia has gone through to achieve independence and is truly a “must visit” historical site for tourists and history buffs alike.