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Jambi is a province of Indonesia located on the east coast of central Sumatra. The capital of the province is Jambi city. Jambi province is divided into nine regencies (kabupaten) and one city (kota). The population is of mixed origin with 38% being Malay, 28% Javanese, 10% Kerinci, 5% Minangkabau, 3% Banjarese, 3% Sundanese and 2% Buginese.

A visit to Jambi
Lively harbor along the Batang Hari

The modern provincial capital of Jambi consists of the old, pre-war center, seat of the former sultanate Jambi, and the new governmental centre in Telanaipura (City of prince Telanai) just west of it. The population, about 300,000 inhabitants, is ethnically very mixed: Malay, Minangkabau, Arabs, Chinese, Banjarese, Buginese and Javanese. Jambi is an important tide harbor with a growing economy (oil, wood, rubber).
A part of the population lives on rafts (just like in Palembang) on the Batang Hari near Solok Sipin, just west of the city and not too far away from the modern business district are traditional pile dwellings. On the location of the former istana, the palace of the sultan, a new mosque was constructed, the Mayang Mangurai, offers a permanent exhibition of ethnographic objects. The Provincial Museum owns a small but interesting collection of archeological objects from Jambi with several bronze objects, among them a dipalaksmi tempel light in extraordinary late Cola style (South India), found at the shore of downstream Batang Hari.
Muara Jambi

The old harbor area with it's candi and menapo (masonry temples and channels) is over 1,500 hectares and is about 26 kilometers downstream from the modern capital on the other (northern) shore of the river. This biggest archeological complex of Sumatra, with a small but very interesting museum, can be reached from Jambi by water bus or chartered speedboat.

The full size of the location and the connected river villages is not known yet. The restoration of the three most important structures - Candi Tinggi, Candi Gumpung and Candi Kedaton, the last with a core of unusual small river stones - has been completed. Under the findings in Muara Jambi is an exceptional nice Prajnaparamita statue, without head, comparable with the one in the National Museum in Jakarta from the beginning of the 13th century. Under the pressure of the ever closing agriculture the excavations and restorations continue in a race against time.

Probably Muara Jambi was attacked and destroyed around 1377. Following a legend the last ruler of Jambi, prince Telanai, got the prediction that his son would cast bad luck over his principality. Big fear got him, and when his son was eventually born, he was put in a coffin with a letter, and thrown into the sea. The coffin washed ashore in Siam, where the former ruler adopted the Sumatran prince. Eventually the young prince returned to Jambi with a big army from Siam, killed his father and looted the city.

Whether this story is true can be doubted, but fact is that Jambi was the location of the findings of Siamese bronze Buddha statues. Above all excavations in Muara Jambi showed a piece of a stone Sukhothai Buddha, which originated from the current Thailand as well.
Ahead downstream, near the mouth of Kuala Niur, a southern branch of Batang Hari, is the village of Nipah Panjang. From here, the speedboat takes you to Pulau Berhala in about 45 minutes.

This island had nice white beaches and fishing villages, which are similar with the ones on Bangka and Belitung. It's dominated by a two-hundred meter high hill, which was used as orientation point by ships for a long time; it's on Chinese sea maps from the 15th century.

Trips to the inlands

Since the completion of most parts of the Trans Sumatera highway, including a 210 kilometers long turn from Muara Bungo to the east, the pavement of 260 kilometers of the route from Palembang towards the south, the city of Jambi is not that isolated anymore. With the completion of the road from Jambi via Rengat to Pekanbaru the connection with the province of Riau is not a problem anymore as well.

Several interesting places of interest are to be found in the environment of Bangko, which is south of Muara Bungo along the Trans Sumatra highway. The village of Rantau Panjang, 30 kilometers north of Bangko, has several traditional houses, decorated with motives in black, white and red. In the neighborhood is a number of old, Islamic graves.

Just outside the mosque in Karang Berahi, about 25 kilometers east of Bangko, is an Old Malay stone inscription in Tamil Grantha writing. This dates back to the year Saka 608 (Buddhist calendar), or 686 AD. The bottom part of the stone is made into an edge. Here, the holy water for ceremonies collected, which was used by leaders afterward.

Last revised on November 03, 2009
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