13th November 2011, Sunday
Our driver, Pak Wahab is very concerned for our safety. Upon reaching Medan, he warned us to be careful with our belongings and he said he would do his best to protect us. Rampant criminal activities such as snatch thefts remained a headache for the government here as well. He told us of a foreigner – a Dutch guy struggled with the thieves to get his things back and was stabbed! We could even compare Medan to Kuala Lumpur. Same same! He also kept on reminding us not to get on the becak motor as they might just take us too far away and made us pay through our nose to get back. And to avoid dark lanes behind our hotel. We were so worried that we ended sitting in our room after dinner, watching the SEA games. Haha.
So on the third day, our last day here, it was supposed to be a free and easy day till he come to pick us up at 3 pm to go to the airport, which is only 15 minutes away from Soechi International Hotel. He offered to take us around and said, it’s complimentary from the office.
Reflection of one of the many dragon heads found in this temple
After our breakfast in the hotel, excellent spread by the way, he took us to a temple nearby. We were rather surprised that there were so many Chinese here in Medan and most of them speak Hokkien! So we blended in perfectly. In fact, everywhere we go, there were Chinese speaking to us in Hokkien. Take for instance, this ice cream seller also speaks Hokkien to us when we bought ice cream from him. The durian and red bean ice cream here are delicious!
Friendly ice cream seller
After a short visit to the temple, Pak Wahab took us to buy bika ambon – famous Indonesian delicacy made of honey. The texture is like our local kueh bingka but it’s smoother and not overly sweet, which suits my taste bud well. We bought one pandan flavored bika ambon (65,000 rupiah) and one kek lapis (70,000 rupiah). The owner of this Rika Ambon is a Chinese. So we too speak Hokkien to her when buying kek ambon and kek lapis! Pak Wahab also took us to buy some fried, crispy pork skin snacks which he said, quite famous with Malaysian Chinese. A small packet of fried pork skin costs 3,000 rupiah.
He then dropped us at Sogo – the biggest shopping mall in Medan for a look see. My friend told me that, we could get cheap Polo shirts here. We didn’t shop much and we just loitered around for an hour. Then, we called Pak Wahab to take us to lunch. It was already 2 pm when we went for lunch. Pak Wahab took us to Wong Solo. The ayam bakar here is delicious! The chicken goes very well with its sambal condiment. The ayam penyet is good too.
Here are some drive by shots which sum up our trip to Medan – since Pak Wahab said it’s really dangerous to walkabout here, we better not take risks. So, I am happy to be taking photos while Pak Wahab drove by the town.
Many, many wedding congratulatory boards – the more you get, the richer you are
Red becak motor
We bid farewell to Pak Wahab after he dropped us off at the airport. Upon arriving to the departure hall, we get our bag scanned at its entrance. When we were there, a guy offering wrapping luggage service gestured at me to put my bag on the table and he went straight to tie up my bag without me asking and then handed me an invoice for 10,000 rupiah. I felt cornered! Luckily, it was only 10,000 rupiah and not 100,000 rupiah. Otherwise, I would fight it upside down!
The airport was so damn run down. There’s only one row of check in counters with no information displayed on the screens. Then the PA system announced that, there’s a delay for MAS flight. There weren’t sufficient chairs to sit down, so we basically have to stand there to wait till the check-in counters are opened. Their conveyor belt for luggage is not even working, the workers have to manually sort the bags. The check-in staff had to shout to the worker where to place the luggages. “Ini Bangkok!! Ini Kuala Lumpur! KUALA LUMPUR!!” Wah.. I am so worried that they might misplace my bag!
After we checked in, we went to show our boarding pass to the guard at the entrance to immigration but were told to pay tax first! There was no signboard telling us to pay tax! It was a lucky thing that I didn’t spend much in this trip and still have excess money, so we paid 75,000 rupiah each as airport tax.
When we enter into the immigration counter, only one counter is open. The other two were empty. It was a lucky thing that we were early so there weren’t many people.
The immigration officer didn’t even look at us when he stamped our passports. I was surprised he didn’t collect the departure card. Wonder why! It was a good thing that my cousin brother said, this is normal in Indonesia. Even in Yogjakarta, the airline staff will collect our departure cards upon boarding.
This sums up our short trip to Medan. The views at Lake Toba and Berastagi are breathtaking and magnificent. I wish they would do something about the maintenance at the surrounding area and ensure safety of tourists.
PS. I read in the news that even spare bicycles meant for cyclists for the SEA Games in Palembang were stolen! LOL! Could relate to it.. I think Selayang is turning into a mini Palembang.