Lasem is a special destination. The area is famous for having some of the best batik producers in Java, but somehow it is less well known than Solo/Surakarta.
Lasem batik is known for its Chinese influence. The batik uses red in the designs, and batik from Lasem commonly incorporate intricate and symbolic motifs.
Not everyone will be interested in visiting Lasem. It is hot. However, my first visit to Lasem illustrates that Lasem is not just a destination for batik lovers. Lasem appeals to lovers of history, culture, food hunters and travelers seeking genuine Javanese hospitality.
The purpose of making this article is quite simple. First, it is a means for me to reminisce about my Lasem trip. To see, again, the photos of beautiful Lasem Batik and delicious food I had during the trip (*drooling!). And to give ideas on things you can see and do in Lasem.
Where to Stay in Lasem
I stayed for two nights at Lasem. We stayed at the Fave Hotel in Rembang, about half an hour from Lasem. With a hotel chain like Fave, the good thing is that you already have an idea of the hotel quality.
Fave Hotel in Rembang was okay. However, with the location of the hotel right in front of the Rembang city square, it will be a bit of a problem for people who are light sleepers. There are several days in the week where there are parties in the square. So it will be crowded and noisy until late at night.
An alternative to Fave Hotel is Rumah Oei, Omah Idjo, and Rumah Merah. They are all located in Lasem.
So, what can we see, visit, and eat in Lasem?
These are some recommendations based on my 3-day visit to Lasem. Let’s start.
I think it is not fair to visit Lasem without stopover at a Batik factory/store/house. I am not a huge fan of batik, but I like traditional Indonesian fabrics, especially if they are made by hand, not by machine.
The batik from Lasem is like works of art. It blew my mind how pretty a piece of fabric can be. Here are several Batik houses that we visited and some thoughts about them.
Roemah Batik Lumintu
This is the first Batik house that we visited in Lasem. It was my favorite Batik house in Lasem. Maybe I fell for the pretty old home, or the gorgeous Batiks that they sell. Perhaps it was the kind hospitality of Ekawatiningsih, the owner, and her team or the lovely dinner with Latoh/sea grapes.
Roemah Batik Lumintu specializes in creating Batik Tiga Negeri. Seeing the Batik artists working on their piece, I can understand why the batik is expensive. A beautiful piece can cost as much as Rp3,500,000 per piece). I bought a scarf. I’m debating if I should turn it into a simple top or leave it as a scarf.
Batik Kresno Aji
Batik Kresno Aji showroom is a beautiful wooden house. Inside the house, you find several wooden cabinets where the batik collection is stored. Some of the fabrics have been pre-ordered, while others are available to buy.
You don’t feel like you’re in a store as you view the batik. The owner will invite you to sit on the carpet and eat some rengginang (traditional snack) and drink a coffee. As you relax, you take a batik cloth that you like and open it to view motifs. Agit, the owner, will explain the meaning behind the motive.
The batik Kresno Aji produce has a strong Chinese influence. You will see traditional Chinese imagery in the motifs, like dragons. The batik is slightly cheaper than Roemah Batik Lumintu, but I guess the process and the complexity of motifs determine the price of hand-produced batik. I bought a beautiful blue batik cloth for Rp 850,000.
Batik Semar Lasem
Batik Semar Lasem is located on the side of the main road. The store specializes in Batik Lawasan (old/used batik). There are many Batik Lawasan from Solo, Pekalongan, and other cities that you rarely hear of like Demak, Kudus, and Banyumas. I bought a nice Batik Lawasan Tiga Negeri Tjoa Siang Gwan from this store.
Batik Kidang Mas
We did not visit the Batik Kidang Mas place, but Vina and her family visited us at the restaurant at dinner and brought some examples of batik made by her family. There was one beautiful piece of batik that cost IDR 6,000,000. Ouch! *Cry.
I understand why it was expensive. It would take months to make it and a lot of talent and patience. However, they also had several pretty fabrics that cost around Rp1,000,000. If I revisit Lasem in the future, I would love to check out Batik Kidang Mas to see their batik collection.
Batik Nyah Kiok
The Nyah Kiok Batik House is in the Karangturi area. They faithfully create Batik Tiga Negeri with the motif of ‘Gunung Ringgit Pring.’ There were six ladies in the batik house when I visited. I had a friendly chat with Mbah Las. She was 70 and had been making batik for almost 50 years.
At Nyah Kiok Batik House, we saw the old house, and the Batik artists doing their work. They don’t sell their fabrics here.
I didn’t put so much faith in the culinary side of this trip. The trip organizer told us we would try plenty of local specialties. I knew a lot of the food would be a bit spicy—typical culinary of the coastal area of Java.
I was surprised by how great the food was. Here are some of the highlights of the local food that we tried during our trip to Lasem.
Soto Kebo in Kudus (Soto Bu Jatmi)
During our journey from Semarang to Lasem, we drove past Kudus. It was the perfect time for lunch. We stopped over at Soto Bu Jatmi for having a Soto (it is like a soup).
There were two types of Soto to try; Soto Kebo, buffalo meat soup, and the Soto Ayam, chicken soup. Of course, I went for the first one.
The Soto Kebo was so tasty, and the broth was very rich in flavor and a bit sweet. I did try the Soto Ayam broth as well. The taste was more light and salty and savory.
Latoh (sea grapes)
I’ve seen Latoh before, but it never crossed my mind that it would be tasty. Latoh at Lasem is served with urap, spiced grated coconut dressing, and smoked fish.
The first time I tried Latoh was during dinner at Lumintu Batik. It was delicious (I wouldn’t mind travelling again to Lasem for this and Sate Srepeh!). The food was arranged in a Liwetan style, served neatly on several banana leaves.
The Latoh was fresh and light. It was also crunchy! We ate Latoh again during our morning picnic by the Trembesi tree on the third day of our trip to Lasem.
Latoh is super tasty, but I think I am more fond of Sate Srepeh. Sate, or satay, Srepeh is a bit of a confusing dish. It is chicken satay, which is thinly cut, with a curry-like sauce. You have the satay with rice cake, bean sprouts, peanuts, tofu, fried tempeh, and clear Lodeh, which is vegetables cooked in a coconut milk broth. The tofu tasted like a Tahu Telor dish.
I know! It is confusing—so many things in a dish.
Lontong Tuyuhan is very similar to Opor Ayam, which is chicken cooked with coconut milk served and rice cake. One of the differences between Lontong Tuyuhan and Opor Ayam is the shape of the rice cake.
The lontong comes in the shape of a triangle, and it is enormous. The other difference is the soup. In Lontong Tuyuhan, the sauce tends to be spicy. It is so good!
Coffee at Adiksi Kopi
Before we headed back to Semarang, we enjoyed our lunch at Coffee Addiction. If you love coffee, visit Coffee Addiction. They take their coffee seriously, and it tastes good! I tried their ice coffee.
Klenteng Cu An Kiong
This Klenteng, Chinese Temple, is said to be one of the oldest temples on the island of Java. It was built in the 15th century. The outside of the temple looks new, with bright pink and red paint.
When you go inside, you can see that it is an old building full of unique ornaments. I couldn’t be amazed by the beautiful flooring and the painting on the walls. Mr. Gandor, who accompanied us around the temple, shared many things about Mak Co (the main deity of this temple. Also known as Dewi Samudra or Thiang Siang Sing Bo).
Lasem Doors (Chinatown/Pecinan Karangturi)
The ancient doors are another of the highlights of Lasem. You can take a walk in the Karangturi area. If you pass Rumah Merah (Red House/Tiongkok Kecil), you will see some beautiful doors typical of Lasem.
It is difficult not to love a big tree! If you are planning to visit the tree, I recommend you come early in the morning or around 4 pm. During the middle of the day, the sun is too strong to take good photos. I don’t know the exact location, but I’m sure a local guide can bring you to the tree.
The Mangrove and Salt Home Factory
We visited the mangrove for a picnic and ate Sate Srepeh. The walk in the mangrove jungle was nice. We got to see the salt factory, Gudang Garam, too!
I mentioned Rumah Oei earlier. It is a great place to stay in Lasem. Rumah Oei is a hotel, a restaurant, and a small private museum. I love the fact that a lot of local youngsters hang out at this place.
You can’t miss Rumah Merah. It is a large red building. With that said, I have mixed feelings about the place. It feels very commercial, which is not entirely wrong, but it is just not to my liking. You can visit Rumah Merah alongside the Lasem doors in Karangturi Chinatown.
Wrapping Things Up
Outside of the things and places I mentioned above, there are several places that I think would be interesting to visit as well. The sites are Lawang Ombo, Pesantren Al Frustasiyah, Omah Tegel Lasem, Rumah Batik Kidang Mas, and some more Klentengs; Bao An Bio and Gie Yong Bio.
Lasem has a lot to offer as a tourist destination. Please remember that Java coastal’s climate is hotter than non-coastal regions, such as Yogyakarta, Solo, etc. Try to visit when it’s not too hot. I hope I provided you with enough good ideas on what you can do or see in Lasem 🙂
Are you planning to visit Lasem anytime soon? Have you visited Lasem before? Share your opinion and questions in the comments below!