Oh, yes, I'd love to share my details on my Medan trip.
So, the objective(s) of this post are:
1) To share the itinerary of our Medan - Lake Toba trip
2) To highlight the places of interest visited during the visit
3) To give approximate expenses and total damage done in Medan
4) Thoughtful tips
So, ayah did the booking on October, right after Aidiladha. We planned the trip for it has been long since the last time we spent time together.
We booked LCCT-Medan flight on the 1st November 2012. (We is also including another 2 aunties and uncles, ibu's siblings; so there are 11 of us). So excited and anticipating for good journey, unfortunately Zharif couldn't join us. So, left only 10 of us.
Our flight to Medan departed at 7.30 am in the morning, we landed at the Polonia International Airport at 8.30 am, local time. (Medan is 1 hour earlier than Malaysia, mind you). Done with all immigration and baggage matter, we headed out to look for our supir (translation : driver). So, they have Pak Adzman's name on a board, so we introduced ourselves to them and they showed us way to the car. We booked two Toyota Kijang (Toyota Innova). All save in the car, the porters who lifted our bag into the car ask for some cash. We were shocked because of course in Malaysia, we don't pay our porters. And they insisted, so we gave them around 200,000 rupiah. [Tips: if you want to avoid these porters, insist to them that you would like to handle your luggage yourself. Be firm. But of course, they find living to this services, so, it is your judgement].
From Polonia International airport, we headed to Jalan Pandak Alang (if I recalled correctly), which took about 45 minutes. One of my aunt, she has a cousin whom married to a local Medan. So, he directed us to the house that he owns in Medan, which was taken care by his sister in law. When we reached the front gate, it was so small, that only 1 van fitted to go though. But, when we reached inside, wah, besarnya rumah!!! Hehehe! We met with the family and they invited us for lunch. Like sleepy people given pillows, we ate udang sambal, ikan kecik-kecik goreng, ayam goreng, pisang and kek ambon. Thank God that her cooking was similar to Malaysian cooking, hehe! And we enjoyed the Indonesian program on the television too!
We left the house at 11.30 am and headed to our hotel Grand Sakura. We booked Grand Sakura through Agoda.com. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the hotel, our bed and room were not done. At first, we decided to wait but we can't stand the smokers in the lobby. I don't know whether it is their norm to smoke in a non-smoking lobby, but no one seem care about it. So, we told the receptionist that we are leaving and we would like to leave our luggage at the safe keeping room. [Tips : To check in the hotel at 2.00 pm so that we can avoid this waiting for the room to be prepared- episode].
So, the first pit stop at Medan was Istana Maimon. Istana Maimon is the palace of Sultan of Deli. Nothing really interesting about it but you can actually put on some of their traditional cloth and took picture at one side of the hall. The entrance fee was 50,000 rupiah for the 10 of us. I wish they have someone came up to us and explained to us on, you know, the history and all.
Next, we visited the Masjid Raya Medan to perform our solat. Seeing the kids offering slippers, waxing shoes and arranging them to earn a living in the masjid compound is actually heart breaking. We should be thankful that we are born in Malaysia where education and working opportunities are plenty.
Then, we went to Pasar Ikan for the very much anticipated activity - shopping!!! But I don't know why was I not really excited about it. I just bought a telekung (itu pun sbb tgk semua org beli telekung) and the rest of the time I was busy `entertaining' the road side sell persons. In case you have been to India or some other under privilege countries, you know what I am talking about. The sell persons will talk to you into buying their stuff, they give you cheaper price, they will follow you until you buy their stuff; that sort of thing. I guess this was my first experience going to such places, so I felt pity for them.
Tired of shopping, we headed back to our hotel for a short break. Thank God our rooms are done.
After nearly 1 hour break, we headed out again for our late lunch cum dinner. We went for our good meal at Kalasan. Subhanallah, it tasted so delicious! We really enjoyed their Minang food. The whole ten of us, it only cost 530,000 rupiah. [Tips: Please come here while you are hungry. The food is to die for].
Then we went around Medan, while most shop had closed.We stopped at one of the shopping centre, and Hazeman got me a Nike sports shoes. It cost 40% less than Malaysia's price.
Off we went back to our hotel and called it a day.
Second day. We has our breakfast at the hotel and left for Parapat. The journey took about 4 hours, one third with proper highway and 2/3 with jalan berpusing-pusing. [Tips: If you have problems with jalan berpusing-pusing, just sleep. That shall avoid vomiting episode]. Along the way, our driver stopped once at this one shop (ala, lupala nama kedai tu). It sells those kerepek, kek; you know, munching food.
We arrived at Parapat nearly to 1.00pm. Checked in at Danau Toba Cottage and Parapat is actually the town at the edge of Danau Toba. So, if you do not wish to stay in Samosir (which is the `island'), you can opt for Parapat. While we were here, we visited this one house, which was stayed by Sukarno, during the colonisation era of the Dutch. He was put under house retention. Then, we walked by the lake and some boat owners came to us, offering us boat trip around the lake. Excited, everybody gets into speed boat and we were brought along the lake. The view was to die for. Cantik sgt! Let the picture do the justice. We were brought to the batu tergantung and of course there is a story behind it. It was believed that batu bergantung was due to this kisah-kisah cinta antara dua darjat la. Too many versions of course, but the batu look like tail of a dog. There was also some fish pond, runs by the local for small industry purpose.
Later, we drove around Parapat and shopped for some souvenirs and for late dinner. One more thing that you have to bear in mind is that the food. Of course, most locals are not Muslims and it is their normal practise that whatever food that they cooked were being served until night. So, yes the hygiene issue is questionable and we were lucky that one of the restaurant in Parapat was willing to cook us fried mee for our dinner.
The next day, our drivers came at 8.00 am, right after we had our breakfast because we wanted to queue for the first ferry to Tomok and to Samosir. Alhamdulillah, we managed to catch the first ferry out and the trip took 30 minutes to Tomok. We reached Tomok at 9.00 am and went through a one hour journey to see the hot water spring. Once we reached there, there was nothing to do because none of us wanted to bath in the hot water spring. And the worst part, there was no Muslims restaurant =( We felt it was a wasteful journey and ended up, we only were able to drink soft drink. Then, we drove back to Tomok, to do some sourvenir shopping while waiting for the next ferry back to Parapat. We also went to see a Batak house at Tomok, and enjoyed a Batak traditional dance (which everyone particpated in. You should see my parents, aunts and uncles enjoyed the dance. Macam org muda, hahaha!) That night, we had our dinner cum lunch with some mangoes.
Last day in Danau Toba, we left the cottege at 6.30am because we would like to go back to Medan to do some shopping at Pasar Ikan again. On the way back, we stopped at this one Lagoon for breakfast and proceed our journey back to Medan. And again, we shopped at Pasar Ikan (we bought some materials for Zharif's wedding) and we had our lunch again at Kalasan for the last time. Before we proceed to the airport, we stopped at the Zalikha Bika Ambon, a bakery that sold Medan's famous cake, Bika Ambon. Their caked really sold like hot cakes. Keluar 50 buku cakes, 20 minutes, all sold! So, we were able to secure some, and packed them back to KL.
We reached airport at 4.30 pm, again, porters rushed to lift our beg and again asked for tips. Prior to our check in, we were instructed to pay the airport tax, 75,000 rupiah/head and then we were allowed to check in and proceed to the departure hall. Our flight was at 6.15 pm and we reached LCCT at 8.00pm.
So, overall, damage done:
* detailed - credit to ayah
But, if I was able to change one thing about the trip, I would not go to Lake Toba just to go and visit the hot water spring (kat Setapak ni pun ada, ok?). I would rearrange the trip to Berastagi. I will travel straight to Parapat, not to stay at Medan because Medan can actually be covered on the last day. Berastagi is a Cameron Highland-like at Lake Toba. 2 days after we went back to KL, I watched Air Asia trip to Medan by Memey Suhaiza and Norman Hakim, and they visited Berastagi. Berastagi is so beautiful and it is a must visit place, but we missed it.
Another thing that I must advised is traveller with toddlers. It might be slighly difficult because the trip from Medan to Lake Toba was long as such you must planned your toddlers' meal time, breastfeeding time and all properly.
So, I hope this review shall help future Lake Toba's visitors. Those who would like to share your personal experience to Lake Toba, you are welcome too!