29 September 2016

The Gateway To Sumatra

With A Wealth Of History, Cultural Diversity, And The Beauty Of The Natural World Surrounding It, The City Of Medan Offers A Variety Of Experiences And The Gateway To Sumatra.

Although Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia, the capital city of North Sumatra is not a tourist hotspot when compared to cities in Java and Bali. With the opening of the new, modern Kualanamu International Airport, situated just 39km from the heart of the city, Medan, which was called Deli and dubbed as Parijs van Soematra in the Dutch colonial era, is looking to change that. The city has begun experiencing a growth in tourism as people learn that it has much to offer and provides the ideal starting point for those who want to explore Sumatra.

Sumatra was one of the great islands of the Dutch colonial era and in Medan it's possible to get a glimpse into this bygone era. Worldwide real estate portal Lamudi, recognizes Medan as one of six cities in Asia to feature and preserve its colonial architectural sites. The sites include the old City Hall, the Medan Post Office, Inna Dharma Deli Hotel, Titi Gantung (a bridge over the railway), the London Sumatra building, Tjong A Fie Mansion, Warenhuis, and the Tirtanadi Water Tower. These sites are nestled harmoniously within the modern metropolis.

In addition to the colonial architectural sites, Medan has a diverse range of ethnicities and cultures. The city’s residents are Malaysian, Chinese, Javanese, Toba-Batak, Minangkabau, Mandailing Batak, Karo Batak, along with many more ethnic minorities. Medan has no single ethnic group that forms a majority. As a result of this diversity Medan has become something of a culinary melting pot. Much of the food in Medan originates from other areas: Sate Padang from the Minang people of West Sumatra and Ayam Penyet from Java have been perfected in the North Sumatran capital city. Medan offers tourists the unique opportunity to learn about the culture through the “non-touristy” aspects of their traditions.

Once the eating and city sightseeing is done, visitors can go onwards to explore the numerous areas of natural beauty within this region. A day trip to Gunung Leuser National Park, located just 86km from Medan, offers lush greenery and wildlife. In Bukit Lawang or Ketambe village enjoy an elephant trek and visit the orang-utan reserve. Just an hour drive away from Medan is Lake Toba, where the dual-colored Sibolangit waterfall at the foot of Mount Sibayak can be seen. Other places to explore include Lake Siombak or Lake Lau Kawar and Kawah Putih Tinggi Raja (White Crater).




If Java has Puncak Bogor, Lembang Bandung, and Batu Malang which become tourist centers at the weekend, Medan has Berastagi. Situated 4,594 feet above sea level this is a spot that is a must-see for tourists. Located in the Karo highlands, the town is known for its plantations and the wide variety of vegetables and fruits grown here. Beautiful views of Sibayak Mountain and Sinabung Mountain can be enjoyed here. Berastagi is three hours by car from Medan.


Lake Toba (Danau Toba) is one of the most popular destinations in Indonesia, especially in North Sumatra. The Lake, which has an area of 1,707 km2, is the largest volcanic lake in Indonesia. It’s so big that there’s an island in it, named Samosir. From Medan, it takes around 4-5 hours to reach Lake Toba.


Tangkahan is an eco-tourism village located on the border of Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra. Perched between the junction of two rivers, the Buluh River and the Batang River, Tangkahan is a fantastic place for tourists who like outdoor activities such as jungle trekking, elephant trekking, and bat-cave exploring. Tangkahan has seven trained elephants available for jungle trekking.


Located at Tonggiang village, 45km from Berastagi, at the northern end of Lake Toba, there is one of the tallest waterfalls in Indonesia. Sipiso-piso waterfall is about 800 meters above sea level and offers spectacular and fascinating sightseeing. The bottom of the waterfall is reachable by foot via steep and winding trails.




This rice cake dish is a popular breakfast choice in Medan. The dish consists of a mixture of rice cake, anchovies, sambal, beans, Medan tauco (soy paste), noodles, peanut sauce, vegetable sauce, with red and white crackers. It can also be served with egg and perkedel (potato fritters or ‘frikadelle’ in Dutch).


It is called “spagheti dari tanah Batak.” Originating from the Balige area on the banks of Lake Toba, this noodle later became a typical food of the people of Medan. The raw ingredients used to make these noodles are only sold in North Sumatra. The noodles are shaped like sticks and can be eaten with rice cake soup mix or peanut.


Soto is also quite common in Medan. There’s usually a choice of chicken or meat and the soto sauce is thick because it is cooked with freshly squeezed coconut milk. It is served with potato cakes and rich spices. Chips, potatoes, eggs, tomatoes, and onions usually accompany the soup and extra bean sprouts and rice noodles can be added.


This satay is actually derived from Padang, West Sumatra. However, the taste of Sate Padang in Medan is quite different than at its origin. The taste is more spicy with a chewy ketupat - a type of dumpling made from rice packed inside a diamond-shaped palm leaf pouch. In addition, there are several choices of meat for satay, namely beef, lamb, the stem of tongue, and scallops.


Arsik is an Indonesian fish dish which came from Batak Toba and Mandailing tribes. It usually uses common carp (Ikan Mas-Indonesian) and herbs and spices including torch ginger fruit (asam cikala) and andaliman (Indonesian: szechuan pepper). Common Indonesian spices such as shallots, garlic, ginger, fresh turmeric root and chili are also used.




Your culinary experience isn’t complete in Medan if you have not enjoyed Sidikalang coffee. The coffee originates from Sidikalang, Dairi, a cool mountain area 163km from Medan. It is a well-known coffee around the world, popular for its low acidity, full body, delicate and mild flavor, with nutty and spicy aromas. 

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