We skipped the idea of visiting Berastagi and Lake Toba this year due to time constraint and my brother was reluctant to drive us there. Lake Toba roughly takes 5 hours car drive from Medan city while Berastagi is about 2 hours away.
My brother and his girlfriend had to scratch their head when we asked them to bring us around the famous landmarks or places that tourists would normally visit in the capital city of North Sumatera. The fact that they actually live in Medan and locals don't really visit tourist destinations in their own city/town, my brother and his girlfriend found my task was quite phenomenal to do - until I gave them a list of things to do in Medan that I gathered in the internet before hand for them to review. Both of them tried their best in covering the interesting destinations in Medan for us so long they were not located too far away from Medan city and still within our culinary routes.
Following are some of the places around Medan that we managed to drop by in our 4D3N trip. I must admit that we ate more than travelling around the town to see the tourist spots in Medan. (This is actually the main difference of a trip arranged by my side of family versus my husband's family. The itinerary that is designed by my family generally would be full of eating local food regardless of meal time whilst the agenda from my better half's is full of sightseeing and we just eat on time for breakfast, lunch and dinner).
MAHA MAITREYA CEMARA ASRI
The first tourist destination that my brother brought us to see was Maitreya Vihara which is dubbed as one of the largest Buddhist temples in Indonesia. Some say it's the biggest temple in SEA but I don't think so. It's a huge temple but not all places are accessible for visitors because the temple mainly functions as a place for Buddhism followers to worship and pray. As such, we just took photos mostly in front of the temple.
Maha Maitreya Vihara, Medan.
My husband was quite impressed with the dragon engraved pillars in the temple.
The dragon pillar.
There's a pretty big Guan Yin statue on a fish pond further inside the temple which visitors can take photo with. We also took photo with the Guan Yin statue as the background but I cannot post the picture here because the photos turned out to be quite dark due to back-light.
Happy Naomi playing in the bridge above the fish pond.
We also found huge playground in ship shape that Naomi had so much fun playing with as we walked back to the leave the temple. She was literally the only child playing in the playground so it was like all hers.
One big plastic ship, isn't it?
Maha Vihara Maitreya
Address: Komplek Perumahan Cemara Asri, Jalan Cemara Boulevard Utara, Medan.
KOLAM BANGAU CEMARA ASRI
This large pond full of storks in Cemara Asri residential area is probably not a tourist destination per se but it definitely caught our eyes.
Why cannot see the storks?
Unfortunately, the storks are not quite visible in the above picture that we took in hurry using a selfie stick but this pond really hosts numerous of white storks, almost creating Republic of Stork on its own. Naomi was crying in the car while we got down to take some quick pictures with the pond. However, as Naomi was screaming murder in her uncle's car, we only managed to snap like two pictures with the pond background and the storks were not clear either in the pictures. Too bad.
GRAHA MARIA ANNAI VELANGKANNI
When my brother and his girlfriend drove us further away from the city of Medan, I still had no idea where they were bringing us. All I remember was the bumpy road and endless traffic jam to get to the destination located in Sunggal.
When we finally about to reach the destination, from afar I thought we were going to see a famous Indian temple in Medan. However, as we came closer to what I thought was a typical tall Indian temple in blue and grey hues, I actually noticed crosses in the building. I shouted, "It's a church!". "Catholic church.", my brother corrected.
A church with Hindu temple architecture.
I found this church building was particularly unique as compared to other Batak style churches I saw in Medan because Annai Velangkanni shares common architecture with Hindu temples. Wikipedia tipped me that Annai Velangkanni is a Catholic church in Indo-Mogul style that is devoted to Our Lady Vailankanni, a Saint from India. This church is not only used as a praying or worshipping place but it's also a pilgrim destination for Catholics.
The moment after my brother parked his car in the parking lot, I quickly dashed to the ladies' room first because I had been holding my bladder forever during the bumpy ride. When I was waiting for the rest to get their toilet business done, an Indian guy who appeared to be the security guard came over to my brother's girlfriend and me. He handed a purple songket cloth to my brother's girlfriend while saying "Cannot wear short pants in the church area. Women must cover up and later you return this cloth to us.". When he saw me wearing short pants too, he said he'd come back with another cloth for me. Minutes later, he indeed came back to me with another cloth but to my horror, the cloth he gave to me looked more like a table cloth instead of a pretty traditional songket.
Shortly later, all of us took photos with the Church then also climbed up to the top part of the Church but didn't really enter the chapel or quiet area where people prayed.
The sky was already grey when we came to Annai Velangkanni but what a timing! Right after we took photos here and there, suddenly the sky just poured then all of us frantically ran back to the car.
Posing with the poster before the rain poured.
GREAT MOSQUE OF MEDAN
Also known as Masjid Raya Medan, the Great Mosque of Medan is one of the architectural heritages from Deli Sultanate built in the early 1900s and currently still used for daily prayers.
One beautiful mosque, indeed.
I thought it was not proper for us to enter this Mosque and take pictures of it while there might have been some people praying in the Mosque, even though someone in the street pointed to us to go inside, take a look and snap some pictures with the Mosque. I declined this opportunity and we only took some pictures of the Mosque from outside while my brother and Naomi waited for us in the car.
ISTANA MAIMOON (MAIMOON PALACE)
This Royal Palace of Deli Sultanate is a well-known landmark which was built towards the late of 1800s and a popular tourist destination in Medan. Visitors are free to take pictures around and welcomed to check out the inside the palace as well.
Maimoon Palace, Medan.
Parking fee was 5k IDR and when we were at Maimoon Palace, my brother and I were keen to take pictures in front of the palace because this palace was very crowded with visitors that day. On the other hand, my husband actually showed a strong interest in going inside the palace since we were already there.
The Royal Palace.
It was Sunday afternoon when we checked out Maimoon Palace and the premise was full of policemen. I thought public was not supposed to go there that day but apparently those policemen were just visitors or tourists just like us. When my husband saw those policemen, his first comment to me was "Wah, Indonesian policemen are so slim and fit, unlike in Malaysia." I nodded but then I doubted this. With my brother around, I told him about my husband statement. "Young police (read: just graduated from the academy)", he said to my husband. We all laughed in agreement because it all made sense. The next day, we spotted an older traffic policeman on our way back to the airport and he was rather plump.
TJONG A FIE'S MANSION
The last popular tourist spot that we visited in Medan, and the one that in my opinion was the most memorable of all, was the house of Tjong A Fie in Kesawan. Tjong A Fie was known as the wealthiest man in Medan in early 1900s, owning banks, plantations, trading companies and I forgot what else. Back then, Tjong A Fie was a prominent Hakka businessman in Medan and had a strong relationship with the Sultan and Dutch authorities.
Normally, I am not so interested in visiting Museum or old heritage house because I thought those are the kind of place that would give me goosebumps. However, since there was not that many tourist spots one can visit in the city of Medan, I agreed to visit Tjong A Fie's Mansion as per my brother suggestion.
In front of Tjong A Fie's long time residence.
The entrance fee for adult is 35k IDR/pax and while I thought we could just circle the whole house then leave the place as soon as possible, we were actually given a guided tour inside the house in Bahasa Indonesia. I think guided tour really made a whole lot difference to the visit because as we walked around the house, there was a distinct and interesting story accompanying almost every part of the house.
Just got in the Mansion.
The Mansion took 5 years to complete and it was actually Tjong A Fie's gift to his third wife who bore him seven children. I immediately noticed that Tjong A Fie was truly a very important and well-regarded man in Medan when we checked out his three living rooms. One was dedicated for meeting Sultan, one was for meeting public and the last one was for his fellow Chinese men. Regular guy would not have different living rooms to meet different kind of people, right? Also, history has it that Tjong A Fie contributed 1/3 of the construction fund of Great Mosque of Medan and donated hefty amount of money for a museum in Holland.
The open air area inside the Mansion.
My husband was particularly amazed with the architectural design as well as the thoughtful interiors and feng shui of this 115 years old historical Mansion. The attention to details of the house's interior was immaculate and almost all of the furnitures and tiles were imported from Europe and China.
The house was perfect for practising some Kungfu moves.
Tjong A Fie's bed room was nearly as big as a small house and there was a ball room and library upstairs too. The house was built on 5 hectares land and has 40 rooms in total (Surprisingly, the Maimoon Royal Palace only has 30).
Our tour guide explaining the Mansion's dining room.
Public visitors could only check one part of the house as Tjong A Fie's great grandchild currently still lives in the other part of the Mansion.
The photo gallery room upstairs.
Oh ya, there was also another family who joined us during the tour and my goodness, the man in that group was possibly the most inquisitive and borderline annoying person I had ever encountered in a guided tour - to the point that he basically gave the poor tour guide a hard time for an hour or so. His questions were relentless, not exactly polite and shot in interrogating tone like the tour guide owed him few millions Rupiah or what.
Tjong A Fie's Mansion
Address: Jalan Jend. A. Yani, Kesawan, Medan.
Farewell in the airport.
That's a wrap about my trip to Medan and I am thankful to my brother and his girlfriend who patiently drove us around the city while dutifully introducing the popular tourist spots and local food in Medan for 4 days.