Words: Aulia R. Sungkar Photography: Suwandi Chandra
Jetstar Asia Magazine, June 2013
Enthusiasts of art-deco architecture, foodies and nature lovers will find the charms of Indonesia’s third largest city well worth exploring
FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Alongside the modern infrastructure that Medan is building to propel the city forward, you can still find traces of Dutch colonial history.
Stay: Emerald Garden Hotel is truly an old hotel with a new look. Nestling on Yos Sudarso Road, one of the city’s addresses with art-deco architecture, the newly revamped hotel serves up a genuine welcome and warm hospitality.
Eat: Go to Ahmad Yani Street not only for heritage Dutch colonial buildings, but also to visit Tip Top, the city’s oldest restaurant, which was established in 1934; it still maintains its art-deco exterior and interior and has classic Indonesian-Dutch dishes on the menu. Nasi goreng Tip Top is a must-try, as are the restaurant’s homemade cakes.
Do: Across the street from Tip Top, is the former residence of Medan’s founder, Chinese tycoon Tjong A Fie. He started building his 6,000 sq m two-storey European-Chinese mansion in 1895 and completed it in 1900. Another landmark worth the visit is the 122-year-old Maimun Palace, originally known as Sultan Palace,built by a Dutch architect incorporating Dutch, Islamic and Malay cultural touches in a European style. About 200m from the palace stands The Grand Mosque, North Sumatra’s biggest mosque, which was built in 1906.
Food is one reason travellers visit Medan, as the city offers an endless gastronomic adventure with its tempting local dishes.
Stay: Hermes Palace is a great yet affordable place within a stone’s throw of the city’s culinary hub. The hotel serves complimentary breakfast on the rooftop so guests can enjoy the city view at the same time.
Eat: Sinar Pagi Restaurant is arguably the most famous place for soto Medan (the local soup with a choice of beef or chicken) — but it’s always sold out by 3pm. Chinatown offers a laid-back outdoor culinary experience with a delectable array of food stalls along the street. For semi-fine dining, Cin Yen is one of the best restaurants; its peanut butter prawn, steamed chicken in Thai spicy sauce and Vietnamese salad all come highly recommended.
Do: Stroll along Merdeka Walk, Medan’s iconic square. In addition to the many eateries, restaurants and cafés, you can expect to be entertained by outdoor dance performances or live bands. You’ll also find shops selling souvenirs and knick-knacks.
A two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Medan takes you to an unspoiled jungle resort, home to Indonesia’s largest loquat farm and North Sumatra’s largest passion fruit farm.
Stay: The development of the 206-hectare Taman Simalem Resort is still very much a work in progress, but you can already choose between lodges with a view of the magnificent Lake Toba, private campsites or villas in the jungle.
Eat: Nothing can beat the tranquil moments at Kodon-Kodon Café, a restaurant at the resort designed with gazebos overlooking Lake Toba. Pair its oxtail soup with martabe (a homemade cocktail that mixes passion fruit and Dutch eggplant); it’s a good combination.
Do: The resort’s vast green surroundings offer activities that allow you to escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Trekking is one of the favourites. On the way back to Medan, you should visit a pagoda in Taman Alam Lumbini (Lumbini Nature Park). Built to replicate Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, Medan’s glorious golden pagoda is surrounded by palm trees and a chocolate plantation.