Less than 100km west of Semarang, the sleepy, steamy coastal city of Pekalongan is known as Kota Batik (Batik City) throughout Indonesia. The one outstanding sight is the Batik Museum. It houses one of the world’s most important collections, including many antique pieces, in a stately art-deco structure, the former old city hall. Here you can check out Pekalongan’s unique batik style, which is less formal, more colourful and more innovative in design than those in Central Java, with apparent influences from China, Arabia and Europe.
The lanes along Jl Blimbing in the north of the city form the city’s venerable Chinese quarter, with pagodas and old terraced houses. To the east, Jl Patiunus and the streets leading off it make up the Arab quarter, another good area for batik. Not far to the south is the town’s main batik market, Pasar Banjarsari.
You’ll find budget hotels opposite the train station on Jl Gajah Mada, including Hotel Damai. For more creature comforts head to Hotel Dafam Pekalongan.
Pekalongan is located on the main Jakarta–Surabaya highway and train route. The bus terminal, 4km southeast of town, has frequent buses to Semarang (normal/air-con 21,000/30,000Rp, three hours) and Cirebon (36,000/46,000Rp, four hours). Train tickets can be hard to find on the busy nothern coastal route, so book ahead.