Note from The North

A mountain view
...of either Mt. Sinabung or Sibayak... I am bad at Geography

Hi Earthlings,

And Happy February to us all. I hope this is going to be a good month. We have Chinese New Year. We Have Valentine. What could go wrong?

A little glimpse of my recent trip to North Sumatra. This was my first business trip. I was flattered that my boss gave me the opportunities to travel along. Must I repeat, this was my first business trip ... and I screwed. I almost missed the morning flight because I overslept! Out of many weekdays I have successfully gotten up early, then why did I have to oversleep during one of the highly important events in my life! (aside from wedding, childbirth...) I was so frustrated but I managed to get to the airport on-time. But the mishap was not over yet, aside from the shitty procedure to change my SIM card and bad telephone connection, I didn't know that I had to fly all the way to Medan to see a typo-error on a big presentation screen. I felt like committing HaraKiri. My self-esteem was and is still at the lowest. I was like... seriously, typo? WHY? 

Overall, it is a nice trip and I managed to make the best time out of it.

Since I have been doing research about North Sumatra and Medan, I would give few tips for travel-souls out there. Because I personally think and suggest that North Sumatra has a potential to be a tourism destination in Indonesia. It might be less-hyped than Bali or Jogyakarta, but you might surprise how rich the culture and the nature are.

What to do?

Many domestic tourists seek gastronomic adventure in Medan. The city itself has a diverse mix of population therefore the culinary is varying. Ranging from regular Indonesian meal like Ayam Penyet or Pecel Lele to the city's specialty, notably Dim Sum in Nelayan Restaurant. You can find this restaurant franchise in any shopping mall in Medan. For Asian Tongue, no food tastes bad here in Medan. I make sure of it. Medan is also famous for their desert shops. I cannot remember the name of the shop, but it started with "T"... darn and another famous local desert/food chain called "Fountain". I like the vintage decoration that they maintain. My friend said that the restaurant was established long before she was born and it was opened the time her parents were still in school. I admire how Medan local businesses survived from time to time. Although my hometown, Palembang, and Medan share a similar demography, but business in Medan is growing better. I did not know that "Fountain" and "Nelayan" are a local-established business until my friend mentioned it, because they look so well-established at the first glance. There is also one warung or one small shop that sells Soto Medan named "Sinar Pagi". During this trip, I did not have time to check out. Soto is a common Indonesian food and it has variety in every region. And Soto Medan Sinar Pagi is just delish!

You can travel around the city. Hop on to one mall to another ; Or visit a traditional market which is still muddy but exotic ; Or visit historical building; Or you can drive away to Sibolangit and Berastagi for many exciting activities.

Sibolangit and Berastagi are known as family recreation areas in North Sumatra. Medan family like to spend their weekend gathering with friends and family members there, it is not an uncommon getaway to do.

Sibolangit has less attraction than Berastagi. However, the town is much more chiller because it has less development. The only well-developed properties there are the resort that I stayed in, called, "The Hill" and a theme park called "HillPark." I did not get to visit the theme park but it is pretty tiny, but good enough as an addition to the surrounding recreation.

While Sibolangit is suitable for those who are looking for some tranquil relaxation, Berastagi has more attraction to offers. Try to travel along the city and look for the traditional markets. You might find blossoming colorful flowers and exotic fruits that they plant uphill on the Karo Land.

Some pretty flowers...

Pasar Berastagi or The Berastagi Market

Make a short-trip to Gundailing Peak on Berastagi. The entrance is at the right when you enter the town. Admission fee (I cannot believe they charge admission fee for something so simple) is Rp.4000 which value is less than one American Dollar. You can either ride a horse and visit some orange and strawberry farm or just chillax in the local, straw-roofed cafes along the road. Just be careful not to trip yourself because the road is very steep. 

Tired Rani....

Short-story about the horse I was riding in Gundailing. I have read many animals being mistreated in Indonesia and I can say that I saw it with my own eyes. The mistreatment that I watched might be not as cruel as what some workers did with Australian cattle as reported but it was not pleasant to watch animals being stroked. I noticed that most of Indonesian are bad in taking care of other creatures, because as humans, they cannot even take care of themselves. This female horse I was riding named Rani. I do not know whether how that is normally Rani worked from day to day, but she looked pretty tired and I felt guilty for making her so.

The ride costed about Rp.100.000 an hour, I didn't guess whether it was scam or what, but yeah it was pretty okay. The air was nice and Rani thankfully, she did not have a fuss with us. The driver mentioned that they kept the male horse locked for breeding and horse-racing and they have few little ponnies too. 

One of the unique thing in North Sumatra is the architecture. You might find building with sharp-edged roofs which is a signature style here in North Sumatra.

One of monuments in Berastagi with signature-styled roof

How to get there?

Many international and domestic carrier operates daily flight to Medan. It is 2 hours and 30 minutes long from Jakarta, while you can reach Medan from KL/Singapore in less than an hour. My flight was only 45 minutes, and it is always departing/arriving 10 minutes early from schedule. You can pick any carrier you wish, low-cost such as AirAsia, Citilink (domestic), Lion and Sriwijaya Air or regular carrier like Garuda Indonesia, MAS and Silk Air. International routes most-served are from/to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. There are also direct flight from/to Penang and Hong Kong if I am not mistaken.

From Medan, you can spend your time around the city or you can take 1 to 1,5 hour ride to Sibolangit, a destination uphill, where you can enjoy a good view with chill temperature. Or maybe drive away to Berastagi town, which is just 30-minute ride from Sibolangit or 2-hour drive from Medan. Arrange the trip by visiting travel agents. It is not hard to spot them in the city. Simply look for counter that hangs a banner featuring a van destination lists. I am not sure if you are used to browse transportation this casual, but this is mostly how we do it in Indonesia. They would rent you a van or arrange the whole transportation for you.

I see many foreign tourists travelling around town and cities, therefore getting-there-wise, it should be no problem and safe.

Where to stay?

We stayed one night in Sibolangit, where we did the presentation and settled all the works. We stayed at a nice and chilly resort called, "The Hill." It was the only resort accommodation in Sibolangit. There are some bungalows around the town if you are looking for budget stay. Although I am not sure whether the bungalows are catering enough for travelers  but the resort that we are staying in is not pretty bad. It is just that I am confused why would they place plastic chairs inside the room.

In Berastagi, you can find more established accommodations, I am referring to real hotels. The quality might be just 3 stars or less, but it is pretty good. You can also find some budget hostels.

While in Medan, it is not hard to find accommodation ranging from 5-star to budget. JW Marriot, Swiss-Bell and Grand Aston are very pleasant hotels to stay in.

I am personally staying in my relative's and friend's houses.

What to get?

There are plenty of t-shirt souvenirs and keychains, but in my personal opinion, they suck. Since, I am a sweettooth and so are my friends and families.

Usually, I bought Bolu Gulung Meranti, which is the best Swiss-roll in town. Although it is not really made in Switzerland, but it taste so good. Just like Burger King, you can have the roll whichever you want it to be. Chocolate-sprinkles on the outside, or cheese in the inside, or otherwise or just simple blueberry jam. Other food/specialty souvenirs that travelers normally pack are Sirup Markisa/Terong Belanda , a syrup made of Passion Fruit or an exotic locally-breed fruit named, Terong Belanda, I do not know how you call it in English... maybe, Dutch Eggplant?!

The Dutch Eggplant,
Dutch = Belanda
Terong = Eggplant,
...just kidding, they probably don't have this in The Netherlands either

The fruit itself taste sweet and sour and yet so exotic. Or you can pack up Wajik Berastagi which is a sweet, sticky brown rice for snacks or dessert... and it is really delicious.


Popular Posts