11th November 2011
I was a little apprehensive to visit Medan. Before the trip, my cousin sister already warned me of what happened to her friends when they visited Medan. A group of them rented a room in some cheapo budget hotel. At night, before they went to bed, they hid their phones under their beds, fearing that someone might rob them. Anyhow, their hotel room was broken into with them sleeping inside. They were aware of the thieves in their room and ransack their things and yet, they couldn’t get up! The thieves casted a spell on them! They could only get up once the thieves had left the room!
The police were of no help either. When they went to report the incident, they were faced with even more extortion! One of the guy friends almost lost his expensive watch to the sergeant in charge. Imagine, so many idiots in law enforcement! When they got to immigration, they too were subject to taunting. The immigration wanted money from them!
Geez. I prayed hard such thing won’t fall onto us when we visit this place.
We got on the earliest Air Asia flight to Medan, 7.40 am. The flight was not really full and I get the entire 3 seats to myself! So damn lucky! There were some people who came on board with very bad body odour sitting behind me. Good gawd! I am not sure WHY these people don’t take bath in such humid weather! They were a group of UNCLE golfers – all four of them.
My cousin sis, Stephy was not so lucky. She was seated next to the smelly golfer! LOL! Luckily the flight was a short one, less than an hour!
It was so damn funny to see people pre-ordered food for this trip! About 15 minutes after announcement of selling of food and beverages, the pilot announced the plane was about to descend! They basically have to shove down the food down their throat! I didn’t even manage to get a wink of sleep!
Aerial View of Sinabung Volcano
Upon descending, I saw a magnificent view of Sinabung volcano! It’s still active and admitting smoke! I got all excited and all apprehension about visiting this place somehow vanished.
The moment we got into immigration, there were two beelines. We were wondering what took the immigration so long, then we realized that they have implemented the biometric system at immigration here. We have to place both hands’ fingers – all 4 of each, subsequently the thumbs at the reader located just in front of the immigration cubicle. Then you have to look at the webcam to get your photo snapped.
We went to get our luggage and were shocked to find that, the conveyor belt delivering our bags were so short and ended abruptly! I think about 20 feet only. So, all bags which are out earlier were already scattered on the floor! We also helped to put other bags properly before our bag turned up.
Besides the immigration form, we also need to fill up a form to declare that we don’t carry any liquor or drugs or a lot of money. The best part is, if you are traveling in group, you just need to fill up one form for all, which I find rather silly. The immigration was kinda slack. Anyhow, I am glad that no untoward incidents like extorting money happening here!
We were greeted by our guide and driver – Mr Abdul Wahab. Reminds me of the names of P. Ramlee’s Bujang Lapoks… Abdul Wahab, Abdul Wahid and Abdul Wahub. Haha! But he’s not a bujang lapok, he’s a 50 year old married man with a son. He helped us with our luggage and took us to the waiting Toyota Innova. We were glad that they choose a MPV for us. I think traveling in a sedan would be less comfy.
Inside of Maimoon Palace
Our first stop was the Maimoon palace. The entrance fee is already included in our package, so am not too sure how much was it. An old man sitting there, guarding the door came to shake our hands and asked where we are from. He welcomed us to the palace.
This palace looked like an ordinary malay house to me. It was made of wood and the deco inside has some Moorish influence. The tourist place of interest was sort of deserted as there were only 2 other local visitors. They turned a room into a shop, selling souvenirs. There’s also a helicopter pad in front of the palace. Since now Indonesia is a republic, the role of the King were merely for customary purposes. The Sultan of Deli, no more stays here. But most of his descendants and next of kin are still living at the adjacent quarters to the palace. In fact, all the vendors selling souvenirs and drinks are the Sultan’s descendants as other common people are prohibited from conducting business within the palace compound.
About 200m away from Maimoon Palace is the Grand Mosque. There’s actually an underground tunnel connecting Maimoon Palace to the Mosque. However, due to bad maintenance, our guide said it’s dangerous to use the tunnel because it might collapse anytime! So, he drove us to the mosque instead.
Here, we took pictures just outside the Grand Mosque but then was gestured to go in by the man who was sweeping the floor when we approached the place. we had to pay 5,000 rupiah each as donation to enter. Then we were given a shawl to cover our heads – for ladies. I didn’t want to use them because I brought my own shawl.
Reflection of Grand Mosque
We snapped a few pictures before leaving this place. It was only 9.30 am when we finished walking about the two places of interest. Since we had a light breakfast, we ask Pak Wahab to bring us to a restaurant. He took us to this Kumango Restaurant which served really good seafood fried rice, kueh teow soup and rica-rica chicken. Rica-rica is some form of rendang and it was good!
After the late breakfast, we were on our way to Lake Toba. I read from the internet that, the road leading to Lake Toba is long and winding, so I took a few vomit bags from Air Asia airplane, just in case. Haha. Then we also bought some sweets. Pak Wahab stopped us at a rest stop and told us to buy water, go to the bathroom and do whatever we need as the journey would take 4 hours.
On our way towards Lake Toba, we passed by several small villages from Sei Rampah to Pematang Siantar. Here, they are conducting bird nests businesses too. It’s really mind boggling to see that the houses to house swallows are way bigger than human houses! Swallows are called walit here.
Paten, selling peanuts confectioneries with quirky names
We stopped by at Paten – a shop selling confectioneries using peanuts at Pematang Siantar. The names of the goods are really catchy – we have pang pang, pong pong, ping ping, ting ting, tong tong, teng teng, etc. When Pak Wahab was blabbering away pang pang, tung tung, ting ting.. we thought he has gone nuts! LOL! One box of peanut goods cost 17,500 rupiah. Don’t get conned into buying the entire set of 12 for 210,000 rupiah. We thought we got a good bargain but then 17,500 x 12 boxes would be added up to 210,000 rupiah! Haha! And we don’t even get to choose! My personal favorite is pang pang – it is peanuts mixed with corns biscuits. Simply delicious!
The journey to Lake Toba wasn’t that bad at all. In fact, we didn’t even get car sick. It might be a little jam, so it’s good to start the journey early. We were in luck because we landed at 7.35 am at the airport and were already on our way to Lake Toba during non peak hours. The best part is, since we woke up so early that morning to catch our flight, we basically dozed off in the car throughout the journey.
We stopped by Garuda Restaurant in Pematang Siantar for lunch. Here’s the spread of the food. The food here is delicious!
As soon as we reached Parapat, Pak Wahab woke us up to see the magnificent view of Lake Toba! We went “Wah! Oohhh.. oh! Wah lao!” for a good 5 minutes. It was a sight to behold!
We reached our hotel – the Danau Toba Cottage and couldn’t wait to get into our room to see for ourselves the lake up close. But then, we didn’t like the hotel because there were steep staircases everywhere! Imagine having to carry your luggage all the way to the end of the hotel, climbing 3 flights of steps! We wouldn’t mind if the steps are shallow – they were somewhat too steep and it’s definitely not an elderly friendly place! Thank God for potters! We still need to hike back up to meet at the reception for Pak Wahab to pick us up. @#$%^&*
Sunshine through the clouds.. simply amazing!
However, the view soon took away our dissatisfaction. The lake somewhat smell like the sea (reminds me of Port Weld) but the water was crystal clear and there were children fishing and clowning around by the jetty.
Friendly little friends
After freshening up, we went to Parapat town for dinner. Here, most shops closed at 8 pm so there was nothing much to see. After only walking for 30 minutes, we decided to go for dinner already since there is nothing much here to buy. We didn’t want to delay Pak Wahab’s resting time because he has driven us all throughout the journey, so we quickly had our dinner and asked him to go and take a rest. We only got to know the SEA Games had started when we turned on the small tv in our room. Live from Jakarta! Ayo! Indonesia Bisa! (On a separate note, it’s really saddening to see how our athletes and journalists were being treated over there – seriously uncivilized!)