"Unexpecting Medan" Top 5 Page for this destination Medan by Audrey118

Medan Travel Guide: 258 reviews and 598 photos

The arrival

Medan was a big surprise to me.
From the plane I could see that Medan is really lived up its name - it is a really flat land - hardly any slope

We arrived Medan after an hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. It was a co-sharing flight between Malaysian Airlines and Garuda, and the flight was filled with local Indonesians - some natives and also Indonesian Chinese who frequent Kuala Lumpur for shopping spree!!!

There were a handful of us in the plane, going to Medan on a business trip.

Medan is definetely not a very popular tourist spot at all. I was forewarnedby VTer Sharrie.

It is however a popular gateway to Lake Toba - which is about 3 hours drive from the city.

On arrival at the airport I was surprised by their very strict custom checkpoint. All hand luggages had to go through X-ray scan and they have the right to ask you to show them anything. The airport was nothing exciting at all - it is terribly warm and humid there, and there are lots of uniform clad people looking around for 'I do not know what'. My first impression is just not very good.

The taxi trip to our hotel was also unexpecting.

We bought a coupon at the atxi vendor and he told us to pay directly to the driver. It cost us 30,000 rupiah.

When we stepped out of the airport building, we saw no taxis. But there were lots of ushers asking if we have made hotel bookings etc. And becos it was raining, there were lots of ushers who kindly sheltered us to the cab. But to our surprise when all three of us jumped into the cab, a herd of the locals came and opened each of the passenger doors 'demanding' for tips. I was so scared I hung on to my bags so tightly. The driver just asked if we are ready to push off. None of us dared to open our wallets - for fear they may just snatch the entire wallet!!

The local scene at Polonia airport

The area of Medan Polonia airport had lots of luxury houses, some villas looking like lined on bothsides of the road. This is probably the best area in Medan.

However as we reached the city centre (about 10 minutes ride), we saw lots of mixture of architecture. Scattered here and there are medium sized buildings with one or two having glass panels - reminds me of the 1980s styled buildings in Kuala Lumpur...but there were lots of pre-war shop houses which were identical to Penang and Malacca in Malaysia.

On one day, we went to visit some clients in one of these shop houses, and you will be amazed at the volume of transactions that are carried out here.

There are lots of large scale bungalow typed buildings with fanciful in architecture. They are not tall - but looks like a block of building mainly catered for government purposes or banks etc. They all have somehow a local architecture taste which was ratehr pleasant.

You see all kinds of automobiles on the street - some looks like TUKs TUKs in Bangkok and they have really runned down mini buses they call mopen (mobile penumpang) and trishaw which are motorbike driven - quite unenvironmental conscious!!!

The city centre of Medan is pretty small, each time we ewnt to somewhere we will pass the train station, some train tracks...it is just merry go round.

We never walked anywhere on the street - our clients said that you feel like you are being trailed even if you just walked outside their office. hmhmhm

People and the Eating feast

Medan has lots of local people, who are very similar to Malays in Malaysia - they are mainly Muslims and do not eat pork.

While there are also lots lots of Chinese descendants alike VTer Sharrie - most of the Medan Chinese speak the Hokkien dialects. Frankly, if they just carry on a Hokkien conversation with me, I will think they are Malaysian Chinese in terms of twang and apperance, but as soon as they speak English or their local Indonesian - huh!!! they are trully different from Malaysians. Also noted that the Chinese descendants in Medan are miles prettier than Malaysian Chinese!!!

To my delight I discovered lots of delights in Medan - it is trully a place for feasting. If you delight in hot spicy food - oooh - this is miles more exciting than my home ground Malay food. The richness in spices and the varities is trully exciting. I will be back here with my husband!!!

And do not forget to take home lots of junk food - snacks which are so tasty i swear to buy double next trip!!!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Best Indonesian food I ever had and Junk food to take home
  • Cons:Feel terribly unsafe, you cannot walk anywhere, so you need a local driver to take u around
  • Last visit to Medan: Apr 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
  • Add to Trip Planner (?)
  • Report Abuse

Reviews (39)

Comments (4)

  • airasia's Profile Photo
    Oct 18, 2007 at 6:19 AM

    I am trying to avoid shopping at all cost when I try but fail to do so : (

  • kenari's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2006 at 6:36 AM

    heheeh whats a comment ...anyway its happen to me when i was in medan which the guy ask me 500rp for the toilet fee which i thought its a paid toilet !!!!what a fool i'm when i found out the toilet is a public toilet!!!!

  • muddybok's Profile Photo
    Feb 11, 2004 at 9:56 PM

    Hi Audrey, your Medan page is awesome. How's the KL meet?

  • daddygila's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2003 at 6:39 PM

    Medan was my gateway into Sumatra also and on to Toba. Medan itself was very unattractive.


“next stop - Stockholm and Riga”

Online Now


Top 1,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 0 4 1 5
Forum Rank:
0 4 1 2 0

Badges & Stats in Medan

  • 39 Reviews
  • 41 Photos
  • 3 Forum posts
  • 3,320PageViews

Have you been to Medan?

  Share Your Travels  

Latest Activity in Medan

Travel Interests

See All Travel Interests (4)