Palembang in South Sumatra has an ancient history. From 500 till around 1400 it was the capital of the Srivijaya kingdom. This kingdom controlled the coastal and maritime region, till 1100 when the Javanese Singhasari and Majapahit Kingdoms became stronger. The Srivijaya Kingdom was finally conquered by Majapahit around 1400.
Trading contacts with China resulted into Chinese settlements in the Palembang region during that period. Srivijaya was a center for exports from South East Asia till the 18th century. Nowadays we can see still some remnants of this 1400 year old culture in the two museums of Palembang.
The Italian discoverer Marco Polo also wrote about Srivijaya when he visited the region in 1292. First there were Hindu and Buddhist religious influences, from the 13th century Islam became the dominant religion.
In the seventeenth century the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC) (Dutch East Indian Company) took over the pepper monopoly and excluded the operators of Chinese junks, who had been the most important buyers of Sumatra pepper. The Dutch fort in Palembang, originating from the 18th century, is still in use by the Indonesian army.
Besides the old Dutch fort and museum is one of the main attractions of Palembang a boat trip on the impressive wide Musi river.
In the 1910s oil was found in the region which resulted in important oilfields of the Dutch Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij (BPM) (Batavia Petrol Company) daughter company of Royal Dutch Shell. The BPM did build oil refineries at Pladju (Pladjoe) near to Palembang. Therefore when in February 1942 the Japanese invaded Sumatra there was a fierce battle for these crucial strategic high quality crude oilfields. In the 1950s the Shell oilfields in Pladju were taken over by the Indonesian state oil company Pertamina.
A completely different kind of South Sumatra experience you can enjoy in the Way Kambas elephant resort where you can ride elephants. Way Kambas Resort, about a 6 hour drive from Palembang.