mardi, mars 15, 2005

Medan Visited #1

For a few days, the entries will gyrate around my series of experiences being in Medan, Indonesia, for the first time.


With the dispute between Indonesia and Malaysia on Ambalat Island, I was a little uncertain about the idea of spending a few days in Medan. Questions flooded my mind. Will I arrive home in one piece? Will they give us a cold stare upon discovering about our nationality from the way we converse? However, my worries on those issues were less than visible. It's the expectations of what the city would offer me that got me wondering. Being away to other country for the first time made me have all sorts of images that were solely based on things that are being fed to me by Lonely Planet. Only that all the images I had were about to be more than the projection of the mind.

This capital of North Sumatera Province with a population around two million, is simply chaotic. Full of vehicles that consist mainly of spedar motor (kapcai), angkot (van version of taxi), SUVs and MPVs. Talking about cars, Medan is the territory of Toyota. Every corner is filled with Toyotas regardless of models. People over here prefer driving Kijang (or Unser) than small family cars. Traffic is madness. Traffic lights are to be used when they feel like using them. The traffic patrol will be there just to observe and control the flow, should there be any minor or major accident. You may drive pass the red light as long as you don't collide with other vehicles. Traffic rules are only being put into practice when they reach the area with a warning signboard. If honking is your favorite pastime, move to Medan. Here, honking is not unusual. You won't get people chasing after you when you honk them. It's just their way to alert other road users. If your hotel is just by the roadside and you hate noises, it's advisable to get a room that doesn't face the road or you will only be able to hit the bed after midnight, the time when the town people are fast asleep and the roads are deserted.

Image hosted by

If teens in Malaysia choose mamak stalls to lepak, the youth of Medan meet their friends for a chat at warkop (WARung KOPi). As the term describes, warkop is a... warung, a roadside stall that sells mee instant, bakso and other not-so-heavy meals. The cleanliness is questionable but hey, don't we have such stalls right here???

Out of curiosity, I asked our supir about the safety level that is provided by the town. When you are clueless about the 'stability' of a new place, you can?t help yourself from generating speculation after speculation, especially after what you saw on TV (again, the idiot box is to blame). I was being assured that I can still roam (3/4) freely without much of a worry. But a fact on Jakarta made me cringe. Something that one with a cellphone should bear in mind: While in the middle of a red light, NEVER EVER let your window down and hide your precious belongings.

I decided to take a few snapshots of the town at night at the red light, when a group of kids, appeared from nowhere, surprised me by trying to talk me into buying their things. I was stunned for a split second. But then, I decided to include them in my shots and boy, how thrilled they were! Am not sure if the pictures are still in the phone but will upload them if they're still there.

By the way, in Jakarta, Should your phone ring, never let it rings for long. Better have it in silent mode if possible. Chances are, someone from outside (a thief) would detect the car with the cellphone and aim that car to rob. If he is determined, he will even go to the extent of breaking the glass and ask for the phone. Refuse to follow order will put your life in jeopardy. If you have to ignore a call, you can always give the explanation "Was in the middle of a red light" and no further question will be asked. No, I didn't make this up. Was being told by a local. When you are in a city where poverty is widespread, you have no choice but to beware. But no worry, Medan is quite a safe place to be.

Aucun commentaire: