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From the pages of Monocle: In the slipstream -- Surabaya

High-rise construction sites provide a backdrop to Dutch colonial buildings in central Surabaya. (Photo by Muhammad Fadli)

On a sunny Sunday in Surabaya, crowds of people are enjoying a day off in Taman Bungkul, a compact but verdant park in the middle of Indonesia's second city. Since this is the middle of Ramadan, the vendors manning the food stalls are waiting until nightfall to sell bowls of rawon, Surabaya's famous black beef soup, and rujak, a sweet-and-spicy fruit salad. Later in the evening, on the Jalan Yos Sudarso thoroughfare, families can be seen queuing to get into Zangrandi, an ice-cream parlour that has been serving its popular tutti-frutti since it was opened by an Italian family in 1933.

ORE founder Alek Kowalski with his wife Dewi and daughter Hamida (Photo by Muhammad Fadli)

     As Jakarta's pollution and legendary traffic jams become increasingly unmanageable, people are looking east to Surabaya. The pace is far more relaxed and the cost of living is estimated to be 25 per cent cheaper. Since 2010, Surabaya has changed dramatically under the leadership of mayor Tri Rismaharini, Bu (Mother) Risma, as she is known. She is up for re-election in December; such is her popularity that rival parties may not even put up a challenger. There are progressive social policies: free education up to high school (not something any other Indonesian city offers) and the bold decision to shut down Dolly, the biggest red-light district in Southeast Asia.

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