Belawan Travel Blog› entry 22 of 56 › view all entries
Belawan serves as Medan's primary seaport and is a regular stop on Indonesia's Pelni ships. It also serves as the drop off for a high-speed ferry from Penang across the Strait of Malacca in Malaysia. I came to Belawan for this very purpose of getting the ferry to Penang (for a visa run) and back. I later found out in the news that I was on the same ferry as a small group of al-Qaeda operatives that the local officials were tracking from Malaysia to Indonesia. They subsequently lost them (and a few months later Bali was bombed). Aside from lack security at the port, at least at this time, the port facilities are severely lacking in any comfort. Belawan town itself has little to offer visitors aside from a small market and a few roadside food stalls. I visited a friend of mine whose family lives here. The conditions were truly squalor. His village sat on top of a cesspool where both the drinking water was drawn from and the hole-in-the-floor-of-the-house toilets emptied into. What seemed like hundreds of dogs ran around the muddy village, but it was a Christian settlement, so seeing (and hearing) the unique way they worshipped was interesting.