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Medan Travel Tips

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Medan Old Post OfficeMedan Old Post Office
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Medan is the third biggest city in Indonesia and the biggest in Sumatra. It was founded in 1590. At that time, it was simply called Kampung Medan, or Medan village. The actual site where the village was founded is at the confluence of the Deli River and Babura River. The area around Medan is called Tanah Deli, or Deli Land, and it is here that the Kingdom of Deli was established. This happened when Sultan Iskandar Muda of Acheh sent his warrior Pahlawan Laksamana Khoja Bintan to Medan to be his representative. Up till then, most of the inhabitants of Medan are the Karo Batak people, the same still inhabiting the highlands around Berastagi.

Vihara Gunung Timur, MedanVihara Gunung Timur, Medan
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Places of Interest in Medan

Although the Dutch had been governing Tanah Deli since 1658, Medan only began to enjoy significant development when the Dutch began to clear vast tracts of Medan land for the planting of tobacco from 1860s. Medan was made the capital of North Sumatra in 1915, and was conferred city status in 1918.

Today Medan is the third most populous city in Indonesia after Jakarta and Surabaya. The name came from the Karo Batak word meaning "to get healthy", although it is translated into Indonesia to mean "battle field", because the forces of Acheh and Deli went to war over Medan. Medan has a sizeable Chinese population, particularly the Hokkien who often have ties with the Chinese people in Penang and Phuket.

Medan at nightMedan at night (26 April, 2006)

One of the most prominent person in Medan's history is the Hakka tycoon Tjong A Fie who happened to be the nephew of the equally illustrious Cheong Fatt Tze of Penang. Also making their presence felt is a sizeable Tamil population, often called the Keling people.

Although Medan has seen significant development in recent years - it is one of the richest cities, with one of the strongest economy and highest per capita income in Indonesia - there is still a number of heritage buildings that are worth in Medan.

Shri Mariamman Temple, MedanShri Mariamman Temple, Medan
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Getting there

Most tourist arrive in Medan at either the Polonia International Airport or the Belawan Sea Port.

By plane
There is an international departure tax of Rp 100,000. Airport security is lax, with frequent cases of passenger's luggage being rummaged and items missing. Do not leave anything valuable in your luggage. A taxi to city centre will cost you Rp 20,000 from the taxis near the exits. Taxis close to the terminal will want to charge you Rp 40,000. If you are bold enough to take the bus, it will only cost you around Rp 3500. Airlines serving Medan includes AirAsia, Firefly, Garuda, Kartika Airlines, Lion Air, Malaysia Airlines, Merpati, SilkAir, and Valuair, among others. By ship
Ferry services connect Medan with Penang, operated by Langkawi Ferry Services. Contact: +62-61-4521666/4527555 in Medan; +60-4-2642088 in Penang.

Getting Around

If you are a free independent traveler, you can take the becak (trishaw) or taxi to get around. That, in addition to walking, which isn't the most convenient option as the city is quite spread out. Becak might be quite slow, as it is literally man-powered, so taxis may be your best bet. Express taxis always use the meter. For the non-meter taxis, rely on your negotiation skills and pay around Rp 20,000 to go anywhere within the city. When picking taxis, it is better to do so at a reliable place, such as from a big shopping mall. That way, you are less likely to be fleeced.

Tjong A Fie Mansion at nightPeople having their dinner on the street in front of Tjong A Fie Mansion at night (30 April, 2006)

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