Saturday, November 12, 2011

Indonesia -- Day 3 Yeah! Medan, here I am !!

I checked in for my Valuair (VF)  flight at the Jetstar (JQ) counter.  Jetstar, the low-cost carrier which is owned by Qantas, is the owner of Valuair too.  Once I found that out I was much more comfortable using Valuair.  The flight from Singapore (SIN) to Medan (MES) is one hour, flying due west.

Valuair (For Purchase)  Menu -- specifically the top left offering

The flight was uneventful but the VF plane was old with very tight seating.  There was a quick drink service followed by a snack, a red bean paste stuffed bun, which wasn't that bad.  They also had a menu in the seat pocket for longer flights.  Judging by the items offered I don't think they have to worry about it being used often.

Medan's Polonia Airport

Upon landing at Medan's Polonia Airport we stopped on the airport tarmac. We all disembarked onto the tarmac through the front and back doors.  Then we were directed to board what I am sure was the oldest bus in Indonesia, to take us the 400 metres to the international airport entrance.  Yes, that is correct, approx 400 meters to the airport entrance.

FYI: For a Muslim country, I find it ironic the airport is named after a country associated with Judaism.  Medan's Polonia airport's name is taken from the plantation area owned by a Pole, Baron Michalski in which it is situated. Polonia originates from the Latin name of the country of Poland.

Arriving in Medan

In the air coming into Medan Polonia Airport

Entering the "terminal" is like stepping back in time. Honestly, my first thought was that I was now starring in a Hollywood movie.  The room is painted two-tone brown, is showing its age,  and has military guards standing around.  Since I was a foreigner, I was pointed too and told "Over There" and the guard pointed me to the left corner of the room.  It was then that I remembered that you need to obtain a Visa-On-Arrival (VOA) for Indonesia.  

I walked over to the left corner where there were two offices which were separated by a 6 inch wall with a pass through.  The VOA fee is  $250,000 rupiah (rp) or $25 USD.  This is cash only, in the exact amount as there is no change given. I gave the woman the required Rupiah and my passport.  She looked at my passport and accepted my money, then gave me my passport and a slip of paper back. I was then motioned to turn around and walk two feet to the left. In this second office I passed my passport and the slip of paper over and a guard added the full page visa and stamp to my passport. 

You come in right over the city, so low you can see the people in the local market. Medan, Indonesia

Once you have received the visa you then walk over to the foreigner lineup to pass customs. Your passport and visa are stamped again and then you can proceed to collect your luggage. You can't get lost as there is only 1 large room and 1 baggage belt.  You then pass another screening before leaving the airport. Outside the airport is like arriving in the Shark-tanks of Mexican airports. Instead of a bunch of timeshare sellers there are a ton of Taxi driver/hacks trying to bring you to your destination/hotel via their cousins house/store etc. If you do not have a pre-arranged transfer then you are much better to haggle first. I would also recommend that you get an approximate idea of where your hotel is and the cost to get there before you arrive.

I had a prearranged transfer so I walked directly outside looking for my name or Adventures Abroad written on a sign.  I didn't see anyone right away so I pulled my luggage and myself out of the way and up against a pillar.  A few minutes later a lovely gentleman came over and asked if I was with Adventures Abroad.  This was Morris, our local guide.  He explained that the flight had just showed "Arrived" now, and that he and his driver were in the local cafe having a coffee and asked would I like to join them.  So off to the coffee shop we went. 

Medan, is at the northern end of the island of Sumatra. It is the fourth largest city in Indonesia and the largest Indonesian city outside the island of Java The island is predominantly Muslim, especially the northern province of Aceh, which even has levels Shariah Law enacted. Aceh and Sumatra itself were the hardest hit in the 2004 Earthquake and ensuing Tsunami.  It is figured that approximately 170,000 Indonesians were killed or went missing in the disaster, and approximately 500,000 were left homeless. 

Now I have been to Indonesia before, specifically Bali, about 10 years ago.  That trip, and specifically Bali, in no way prepared me for the "reception" that I received from most Indonesian men throughout this journey.  I'm not a supermodel, nor do I have to wear a paper bag when I go out but in those 10 years I have gotten married, had 2 children, and again a "bit" if weight.  I wasn't expecting to be noticed in anyway.  
Instead I did get quite a few looks.  This may have been because I had a tank top on, or because I am milk bottle white in my regular life, or the fact that I am taller and wider than most Indonesians.  I wasn't sure why just yet.

After Morris, the driver and myself finished our coffee we left for the hotel.  Today was the tour arrival day and everyone was to meet at the Tiara Hotel and Convention Center in Medan.  The Central Business District (CBD) where the hotel is located  is about 5km from Polonia airport.   The Tiara Hotel was lovely. Very nice rooms, very large, comfortable beds. I had a view to the back of the hotel. 

Tiara Medan Hotel

After I was checked in and dropped my stuff in the room I went back downstairs to meet Morris.  Earlier I had asked Morris to show me where the local liquor store was so that I could pick up some local Bintang Beer.  He said that he would bring me to the local store before he went back to the airport to pick up the other traveler's who would be joining me.  A one litre of Bintang Beer ranges from 22,000-30,000 RP ($2.50-3.50 CAD) depending on where you buy it.  It is a light colored lager with no harsh aftertaste.

Bintang Beer ... YUMMY !!!

I relaxed in the room for a while and had a few Bintang before getting ready for dinner and meeting the rest of the group.  I met my fellow travelers over a buffet dinner in the hotel.  Dinner was good but nothing to write home about. At 830pm I was exhausted and went back to my room to get ready for the next morning and the start of our tour of Sumatra.

The view from my room watching the tremendous thunderstorm.  Tiara Hotel Medan.

The poor man who spent most of the VERY EARLY morning cleaning up the rain.
 The view from my room at the Tiara Hotel Medan.

If you would like to visit Medan and/or Indonesia then
please contact me at Adventures Abroad or by phone 1 800 665 3998

Quote code AANK for a special discount.

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