Saturday, 13 April 2013

Sumatera Utara Part 1: Medan, Exploring the Sleeping City

Medan... Finally!
After a journey of two hours and a half from Berastagi, we were finally in the city of Medan. As the fourth biggest city in Indonesia, Medan is also synonym to traffic congestion problem. We were trapped in the traffic for about half an hour before arriving at the Danau Toba International Hotel.

Route Not Taken
I've been arranging itineraries for Medan prior to the trip, including Maimoon's Palace, Masjid Raya of Medan, Tjong A Fie Mansion, etc. However, it later occurred to us that the two-day trip in Medan demanded both of us to trash the itinerary out of the window and get to know Medan, up close and personal. 

My wife said, "Let's just... walk."

So we checked in, had light lunch, freshened up, and headed to the main road. 
Where to go? 
We didn't know and we didn't plan at all.
Hopeful tuk tuk drivers, honking at us, left us with frustration as we refused to engaged in any tuk tuk services. We decided to explore the city of Medan by foot. Google map was saved into my Samsung Notes, so that we would be able to return to our hotel by midnight.

Buildings in Medan

The Sleeping City
We believe that Medan is a busy city, given it is the fourth biggest city in Indonesia. But perhaps due to the fact it was Christmas eve, majority of its inhabitants chose to leave for their respective kampungs to celebrate with beloved families, that Medan became a sleeping city. In some parts of the city, I could literally lie down on the road. 

Based on our observations, it was pretty obvious that most buildings still retained the Dutch architectural design including the Post Office of Medan. 

Pajak Ikan Lama
Pajak Ikan Lama. Also known as Pasar Ikan (The Fish Market). Yeah, it doesn't make any sense. You can never find any fish sold here. It was not a wet market. Rather, it was a market where they sell cloth, woman's praying attire (telekung), laces, tudung,  t-shirts, souvenirs and other stuff. There was not label whatsoever, you have to go figure, like what we did. Thanks to the non-updated google map. Well, getting lost in the city was actually the interesting part.

This was where we spent some money to buy souvenirs from Medan for our beloved family members. I was a little bit frustrated with choices of souvenirs in Medan for lack of variety. Since the weather was hot and humid, we did not spend that much time in Pasar Ikan Lama. And we did not bargain that much as we should, actually. 

Route to Pajak Ikan

But there was a persistent seller who offered to sell a bunch of fridge magnet for IRD 100 000. I negotiate for IRD 50 000. I know I cut it half price, because I did not intend to buy at first. I merely said, I do not have IRD 100 000, but I do have IRD 50 000. He followed us from one stall to another, and as we went deeper inside, his offered price went down from IRD 100 000 to IRD 70 000. I still said no. Finally he gave up and said, ok sir, please IRD 50 000 "I need to make a living."

So I bought the souvenir from him. I took a while to reflect the incident. Bargaining is a must. But do it fair and do it just. After all, I earned a lot more than him in my country. It doesn't kill me if I decided to give something a little bit more to people like him.

Sign Board of Merdeka Walk
Merdeka Walk
I was told by many people to drop by at the Merdeka Walk for a wide range of restaurants. I did. Once at night. Once during the daytime. Indeed, there were many choices of food and restaurants. It was a happening and crowded place, nonetheless, I did not experience difficulty in searching for seats in any of the restaurants. 

Sup Buntut

My wife suggested Sup Buntut where it sounded to me like bontot (butt) - The Soup of the Butt?? Gila ke?

Only later it occurred to me that Sup Buntut is the Soup of Tail. She said, Sup Buntut is one of those things you should try when you are in Indonesia (alongside with Teh Botol). Served with a plate of rice, I found Sup Buntut to be a nice meal to have for lunch. 

Nearby recreational park

At the back of the Merdeka Walk, there was a recreational park, located intended to be one of the nearby local attractions. Even though half of the place was still under construction, major recreational facilities were fully maximised by the friendly local people. 

Flower Billboards
A common signature available in Medan would be the flower billboard, advertising and wishing almost for everything - congratulating for school graduating, wedding etc. These billboards were lined up along the street almost every part of the city. Some consisted of fresh flowers while others were fake ones, nevertheless, each one of them were cute and adorable. 

Flower billboards

Indonesian Movies - Habibie & Ainun and 5 cm
There are few points to consider in appreciating the values and culture of a particular country. And there is no other place for us to appreciate the culture and values of Indonesia better, but here in Indonesia, by watching the local movies in the local cinema. 

To me, Indonesia has a better set of movies lists compared to my own country, Malaysia. No offense, but it is indeed true. Our country need to learn lot of things from Indonesian movie makers. For two consecutive nights we spend our times watching two Indonesian movies, namely Habibie & Ainun and 5 cm at a nearby cinema, Cinema 21. From my observation, local cinema would opt to prioritise local movies compared to foreign movies, and the cinema would be full house most of the time. And the love for their country was sincerely portrayed in each of the movies.

Habibie & Ainun
A story of the third President of Indonesia, Rudy Habibie and his late wife, Ainun, purely and majorly from the perspective of their love story. From the point where they first met in school, until the last breath of Ainun who passed away because of sickness. 

5 cm
This movie instilled a strong desire for me to travel to Java, specifically Mount Bromo and Mount Semeru (the highest peak in Java) by portraying the magnificent natural beauty in Indonesia. Adapted from a novel by Dhonny Digantoro, about love, friendship and dream. Okay, I am sharing a favorite quote from this movie:

"...yang kita perlu sekarang ialah cuma kaki yang akan berjalan lebih jauh dari biasanya, tangan yang akan berbuat lebih banyak dari biasanya, mata yang akan menatap lebih lama dari biasanya, leher yang lebih sering melihat ke atas dari biasanya, lapisan tekad yang seribu kali keras dari baja, dan hati yang akan bekerja lebih keras dari biasanya... serta mulut yang akan selalu berdoa..."

"Mimpi-mimpi kamu, cita-cita kamu, keyakinan kamu, apa yang kamu mau kejar, biarkan ia menggantung, mengambang 5 cm di depan kening kamu, jadi ia akan nggak jadi pernah lepas dari mata kamu, dan kamu bawa mimpi dan keyakinan kamu itu setiap hari, kamu lihat setiap hari, dan percaya bahwa kamu bisa..."

Both movies. Magnificent. Period.

Final Day in Medan
We stayed in Toba International Hotel, which I consider to be one of the lavish hotel in Medan, and they provide free shuttle service to the nearby Polonia airport. We checked out shorty before lunch hour and left for the airport. 

It was a wonderful stay in Medan.

Until we meet again, 

Hairi Tahir

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2 Nukilan:

Amrin Salim said...

I Think there is a little mistake about the name of province...actually Medan is part of North Sumatera ( Sumatera Utara) not West Sumatera (Sumatera Barat)..overall it's a nice story...

Hairi Tahir said...

Hey thanks a lot for pointing that one out. And thanks for dropping by :)

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