Stormy Sumatra and wailing Imams

Medan Travel Blog

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Shaving during another power cut

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Juliana (Russia)

Sumatra is one of the Worlds largest islands and provides a fair share of Indonesia's revenue from logging and oil. A major problem arises with the fact that the pro Java government invests little of this money back into Sumatra and we got our first taste of this within an hour of been in the country as a power failure sent the city into blackness.

Having thankfully paid for a motorised rickshaw to take us to a hotel, we were just in the nick of time to get our bags through the door before the heavens opened and the rain came tumbling down. Storms and rain are something else that Sumatra is also famous for. Once settled in, i decided that i looked way too much like a hobo and after a nice cold shower (hmmm) pulled out my shaving kit.

Mesjid Raya
Half way through and already struggling with a small bucket of cold water in my hand and stood in front of a mirror in the bedroom, my plight was worsened when we had the blackout. Not to be hampered by such a minor point, i dug around blindly in my bag and eventually found my head torch. With its assitance, i was soon freshly groomed and ready to go out into a very dark Medan! I discovered when i returned home some hours later that i still had patches of hair around my face in random places, but what can you expect under such conditions :)

Ramadan is a month long Muslim festival and during this period all good Muslims are expected to fast between dawn and dusk and thus the night time becomes extremely active, with people trying to get a good serving of food down their necks! As a result there was a huge night market set up, running down one of the main streets just outside of the Grand Mosque (Mesjid Raya). Julia and I decided that we would give the street food a test run and it wasn't too bad, until the bill came. At this point the girl told us that she had taken it upon herself to put things on our plate that we hadn't ordered and thus we had believed came as part of the meal. She insisted the chicken didn't come with the noodles normally and also decided to up the price of the drinks. I left a little more than what we were originally quoted and walked away. It was reassuring to know that Sumatra would be as full of scams as the rest of Indonesia had proved!?!?!

Im not quite sure what time i woke up on Saturday, but i can confirm it was still dark outside. Been situated on the doorstep of a mosque was clearly not a wise choice if you wanted a sleep in, as the Imam began his calls for prayer somewhere between 4am and 5am. After eventually falling back to sleep there was then the problem that the airport was pretty much in the town centre! On a map it looks about 1km from the main shopping district and early morning landings soon began shaking the building. Its actually quite a sight, to see a huge plane skimming the rooftops and i am at a loss to guess which bright spark sanctioned the planning permission for the airport in its present location. Its a disaster waiting to happen - watch this space.

Our day was spent wandering around the central area of the town, but there really isn't a great deal in terms of tourist attractions within the city. Its main use is a jumping off point to other destinations around Sumatra and also for the ferry to Malaysia. Our motive to be here was the former and on Sunday we caught a Bemo to the bus station and from there headed south to Parapat, a small town on the shores of Lake Toba.

almond72 says:
Watch out for fasting month (Ramadan or Bulan Puasa) - no food on sale in the streets from daylight till evening. Your only rescue would be McDonalds / KFC with curtains drawn. Jakarta & Surabaya is not affected so badly.
Posted on: Jul 24, 2009
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Shaving during another power cut
Shaving during another power cut
Mesjid Raya
Mesjid Raya
photo by: inikeke