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Medan now a whole lot closer, thanks to Firefly

Saturday December 6, 2008

Story by FAZLEENA AZIZ

IF you are planning a trip to Medan, Indonesia, remember to say Horas, a popular phrase among locals that is widely used to express good wishes.

It can be used at the beginning or at the end of a conversation as well as during bargaining.

Horas is also a greeting frequently used in everyday life by the Batak people from North Sumatera. Medan is the home of the Batak people and the capital city.

It is a place with majestic views, rich soil and lush greenery with a population of 2.5mil people.

The city also has a mixed community with a large number of Chinese andsome Indians.

Medan’s most popular tourist spot is Lake Toba, a supervolcano located about 170km from the city.

Getting to Lake Toba will take about five hours on a two-way winding road through various districts and villages.

Those who would like a nibble can stop at Paten to get local snacks known as Teng Teng or Tung Tung.

From Parapat town on the shores of Lake Toba, a 45-minute boat ride will take visitors to Samosir Island, a centre for the Batak culture and people.

To get up close with the Batak, a trip to Kampung Ambrika and Kampung Tomo gives tourists a glimpse of how they had lived 500 years ago.

According to Medan tour expert Sudy RJ, the Bataks are known for their wood works.

“A common feature seen among the Batak is the lizard, which is believed to be a protector against bad things.”

“You can see the lizards in their wood works and homes. The Bataks like to live in the highlands and usually you would see the women working the fields.”

“The like to use black, white and red colours, a combination said to bring strength.”

Sudy said that back in the day, it was an honour for the Bataks to have 17 sons and 16 daughters.

Berastagi is another town with many colourful fruit and vegetable market. It is famous for its passion fruit, which can be found at the local market.

The main attractions of the town are an active volcano – Gunung Sibayak – and its hot springs.

A view that can not be missed is the Sipisopisa Waterfall near Togging Hill. The majestic 120m cascade is a breathtaking sight that is popular among tourists.

In another four years, people visiting Lake Toba can look out for the Taman Simalem Resort.

The resort is located 45 minutes away from Berastagi.

It will offer a golf course, park, convention centre, cafes, zoopark, jungle trekking, camping ground and agrotourism opportunities.

Those seeking an adventure can opt to go rafting at Sungai Bingei in Langkat.

It has a grade 2-3 international river classification with many rapids and guides will accompany groups of five down the 3km course.

However, visitors will need to stop at Kampung Namutating to get their gear and take a bumpy ride on a lorry to get to the rafting starting point.

Medan city centre has a very modern atmosphere with many shopping complexes like Sun Plaza, Medan Mall and Medan Fair Plaza.

For bargains, head to the Pasar Ikan to get colourful handmade embroidered materials, sarong, batik, curtains, bed spread, head scarves and telekung.

Prices there are negotiable but shoppers need to be aware of what they are buying and always check their bags.

There is a variety of Indonesian and Chinese food in Medan but, for Muslim travellers, look out for the B1 (for dog meat) and B2 (for pork meat) signs before entering the restaurants.

There are several historic places such as Maimun Palace, where the royal family still lives, and the Great Mosque or Masjid Raya built by the Sultan of Deli in the hear of the city.

Over at Merdeka Walk, people can chill out until midnight and eat at the various cafes and restaurants.

Flying to Medan is now more convenient and easy from Subang airport with Firefly.

The journey takes about one hour and 15 minutes on Firefly’s ATR72-500 aircraft.

The inaugural flight to Medan from Subang saw Selangor Tourism Action Council chairman Datuk Subahan Kamal and his entourage from the Malaysia Tourism Office landing at the Polonia Airport on Dec 1.

Subahan was greeted by Firefly managing director Eddy Leong.

Representatives from the North Sumatara Tourism Board in Medan, Malaysia Tourism Board, North Sumatra Chamber of Commerce and the governor of Medan Syamsul Arifin SE also welcomed the team from Malaysia.

Leong said that there has been a lot of interest among people from Malaysia.

“Medan is a popular destination and now with the flight from Subang, it is nearer and the cost is lower.”

“The response has been good, the volume of passengers is about 70% to 80% on weekends and about 60% on weekends,” Leong said.

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