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Contents: Index[] Berastagi[] Bukit Lawang[] Lake Toba[] Aceh[] Bukit Tinggi[] Sibolga[] Batam
Changing money, shopping malls, sight seeing, getting away, hospitals, consulates

Map of north Sumatra

Satellite map of Medan

pulau Weh

Pulau Weh and north Sumatra


The Capital of North Sumatera Province and the largest city in Sumatera with a population of around 2 million. Many travellers stay around the Grand Mosque, or Mesjid Raya, where there are a number of budget hotels as well as star rated ones. The Mosque, one of Indonesiaís largest, was built in 1906 in the Moorish style. Remember if you want to look inside to dress respectfully, no shorts or bare shoulders, take your shoes off before you enter. Maimoon Palace is also open to the public.

Medan does not get very good write ups in some guide books and many tourists donít think of staying very long, but it can be a fun place. It has bars with live music, cinemas, discoís, you can go 10 pin bowling, play pool, swim, or take a city tour. Itís also the best (and at 30 cents US per hour the cheapest) place to catch up on your e-mail or surf the web.

If you find yourself stuck in Medan for longer than you wanted and are bored, you could try The Library, an excellent collection of reference books and novels, including many classics in English. Tourists can join, taking two books for a deposit of Rp 25.000 each book. Or if you want to be entertained and educated at the same time, you could visit the Indonesian Palm Oil Research Institute at Jl. Brigjen Katamso 51, Medan. Everything you could ever want to know about palm oil production, cloning, eco pest control (breeding owls to control rats) and the dozens of uses the tree can be put to, from furniture to fuel and compost to cosmetics. Drs. Is. Witjaksana speaks good English and is happy to show you around. Tel (061) 762466

A cheap, pleasantly cool afternoon can be spent at the picturesque swimming pool at Danau Toba International Hotel for around a dollar, and their popular Tavern Bar in the evening for live music, or you can go to one of the shopping mallís cinemas, where many of the Western worldís latest releases are being shown.

But if you really have to get out of the city for a day - go to the beach. Pantai Cermin is just one hour, or 45 km north. Take the Sumbar Jaya bus from Amplas bus terminal to Derbaungan city, (Rp 3.000) and a blue mini bus to the beach. (Rp 3.000) An easy day trip.

The Medan Tourist Workers Association (MTWA) at Jl. Sisingamangaraja No 76 can organize a city tour which takes in all the sights or can be tailored to suit your wishes. They can also arrange transport to any destination or organize jungle trekking, including the 3 day trek from Medan to Berastagi. They can also help to sort out any problems you may have.

Bechaks waiting outside Deli Plaza, Medan. High view of road outside Deli Plaza, Medan. Medan Road.

Changing Money

Current inter-bank rates: British Pound[] US Dollar to Indonesian Rupiahs.

The Rupiah has been hovering around 10.500 to the US dollar through November. However, the currency is still volatile and you are unlikely to get the rates quoted in newspapers and on CNN unless you use your credit card. Some ATMís will charge a fee of Rp 25.000 per transaction if the ATM does not represent your own bank. Cirrus and BNI are two of these. Some of the best places to cash money in Medan are the Bank Buana Indonesia, Bank Lippo, Bank Bali and the BII. One of these will generally have the best rate in town, but money changers are often very competitive. As rates change daily you may find it difficult to change money at banks before 10.00 am, or until the new rate comes in. At some, money can only be changed between 10.00 am and 12.00 noon. All the banks are walking distance from The Grand Mosque.

If you are changing cash rather than travellers cheques you may find that even slightly soiled, creased, or stapled notes are not acceptable. Cash, if clean, usually gets a better rate than travellers cheques. Rates will generally be better in Medan than elsewhere in Sumatera.

Tourists can open bank accounts with Rp 100.000. This will give you an ATM card which you can use at many outlets in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia with a limit of Rp Two million per day, but you may have to wait about a week to ten days for your card.

At the BNI, you can have 3 types of account. Savings Account. In Rupiah. Passbook, ATM card. Account earns interest. Deposit Account. In Rupiah. Deposit for one month minimum, with a roll over. Account earns good interest. Dollar Plus Account. Cash remains in Dollars and earns interest, but you cannot withdraw dollars. You can withdraw Rupiah at today's rate or you can transfer money out of the country still in dollars. However, you can only draw cash at the branch where you open the account, so is only useful for people who want to stay in one area for a few months.

Coral reefs and sea turtles at Pulau Weh. © Imtiaz Dharssi
Shoal of box fish Imtiaz snorkelling
Surgeon fish
Powder blue surgeon fish
Coral reef Gapang bay
Moorish idol
Chevron butterflyfish
pulau Weh pulau Weh
Lined butterflyfish
Trigger fish
Sea turtle

Medanís Shopping Malls

There are a number of A/C shopping malls and Plazas in Medan, all have ATMís, supermarkets, shops and western fast food outlets like McDonalds, KFC and Dunkiní Donuts, but many offer entertainment as well.

Berastagi, lake Toba and Sipiso piso waterfall. © Imtiaz Dharssi
Sinabung volcano Sibayak volcano
Berastagi Sipisopiso waterfall
lake Toba

Sight Seeing-in Medan?

At first glance, Medan appears to be busy, noisy, polluted, and not a place to stay, but there are several places which are worth a look or a photograph or two. The Military Museum at Zainul Arafin St. has lots of old cannons and guns, including weapons used in the War of Independence, and paintings depicting struggles against the Dutch. Just a few hundred meters further on is the Hindu Sri Marriamman Temple, built in 1884 and devoted to the goddess Kali. This typically colourful and elaborate temple is Medanís oldest and most venerated Hindu shrine. Remember to remove your shoes before entering, and keep quiet inside the temple grounds.

The Sri Marriamman Temple marks the beginning of the Indian Quarter, the Kampung Keling, the largest of its kind in Indonesia. Curiously, this quarter also houses the largest Chinese Temple in Sumatera, the Taoist Vihara Gunung Timur (Temple of the Eastern Mountain), which, with its multitude of dragons, wizards, warriors and lotus petals, is tucked away on tiny Jalan Hang Tuah, 500 meters south of the Hindu Temple.

Maimoon Palace was built in 1886 and is open to the public. The Palace, the impressive, ornate, black domed Mesjid Raya or Grand Mosque, (built 1906) and Taman Sri Deli (garden) are historically all part of the same complex.

The Museum of North Sumatera at 51 Jl. H. M. Joni (open Tue to Sun, 8.30 - 12.00, and 1.30 - 5.00), was established 20 years ago to present and preserve the natural and cultural history of North Sumateraís ethnic groups. Like most provincial museums in Indonesia, this is large, informative, well laid out and inexplicably deserted. The concrete reliefs on the museumís facade depict a couple dressed in traditional costume from each of the areaís ethnic groups. Inside is the history of Sumatera from pre-history to the present day. Highlights include a couple of Arabic gravestones from 8 AD and a number of ancient stone Buddhist sculptures found buried under Medanís Chinatown district.

There is also the Crocodile Farm, Asam Kubang Village, 10 km from the city centre, with 2.000 crocs of different species, open from 9 am to 5 pm. And then there is the Zoo, three hectares full of animals, with traditional shows given on Sundays, but both the Zoo and the Crocodile Farm may have limited appeal to many westerners.

Medan Architecture (by Chris Rudland Wood)

To the first time visitor, Medan can appear as an uninteresting city of tin roofs and gaudy shopping plazas, but to those with some enthusiasm for exploring where they are, there are some wonderful examples of Dutch architecture and Art Deco buildings. Constructed largely during the mid nineteenth century, these buildings are a testimony to the wealth generated by the plantations owned by the colonies. The Central Post Office and Grand Mosque are obvious examples of this, but many others are hidden in back streets and in the outer city suburbs. Unfortunately, many of the original facades have been covered with later ones, but the original design can often be easily seen. Architectural evolution can be traced over this period through the many different buildings scattered around Medan. Many buildings have become derelict, vandalized, or abandoned, but by searching the back streets you are rewarded by fascinating glimpses of the past, - a cosy bungalow, a disused warehouse, unique to this period of Dutch occupation. Some of the best areas to find these buildings is around the central city area of Balai Kota, and out towards Kampon Keling and Medan Baru. The wealthy estate owners had fine houses built around Polonia (where the airport is), and their management and employees in the Silalas area. Many of the former estates close to the city still have the workers houses, either long buildings sectioned off for separate families or neat rows of semi detached bungalows. These are now privately owned and usually occupied by the Melayo peoples, who originally lived in the area before it was cleared for plantations. The best way to see this architectural heritage is by bicycle or motor bike.

Photos of orangutans at Bukit Lawang and Leuser national park. © Imtiaz Dharssi
Leaf monkeys Orangutan climbing tree Orangutan mother and baby
Bukit Lawang Orangutans on feeding platform jungle
Waterfall at Bukit Lawang Orangutan at Bukit Lawang Bohorok river and jungle

By Local Bus from Medan to....

Hospitals & Clinics

There are good, reasonably priced hospitals (Rumah sakit) in Medan, one of the most popular being The Saint Elisabeth Hospital, 7 Jl Haji Misbah Tel. (061) 545158 or 544164.

Gleneagles Hospital at No 6, Jalan Listrik provides first class health care at Singapore standards. Tel 4566368.

The Klinik Spesialis Bunda, a 24 hour clinic at Jl. Sisingaramgaraja No 17 which has good facilities and specialist doctors.

Klinik Mata a little further up the street toward the water tower, No 10/23 specialises in eye problems.

There is a Special Clinic for sexually transmitted diseases - the Materna Klinik, Jalan Teuku Umar No 11, Kampung Keling, Medan. 24 Hour testing and treatment for men and women. One Hour Analysis. Tel 4514222

General Consulates

AUSTRALIA Jl Kartini No 32, Medan. Tel 455780 - 324520

BELGIUM, BRITAIN. Jl Kapt. Pattimura No 459, Medan.Tel 82105259

FRANCE  Jl Karim MS No 2 Polonia, Medan. Tel 4566100

GERMANY Jl Karim MS No 4, Medan. Tel 4537108

JAPAN Wisma B.I.I # 5 Jl P. Diponegoro No 18, Medan. Tel 4575193

MALAYSIA Jl P. Diponegoro No 43, Medan. Tel 4531342 - 535271

NORWAY, DENMARK, SWEDEN, FINLAND Jl Hang Jebat No 2, Medan. Tel 4553020

NETHERLANDS Jl A. Rivai No 22, Medan. Tel 4519025

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