Medan 5 days itinerary

Medan is a bustling city, being the third largest in Indonesia. Prices are cheaper here than in Jakarta and Surabaya, so if you want a cheap getaway, Medan fits the bill.

Here is an important travel tip for Medan – use Grab for cheap and efficient transport around Medan (should apply to all Indonesian cities as well). For a six-seater car, it cost only 15 to 20k (S$1.50 to S$2) for travel within Medan city, which is quite affordable. For a normal sedan, it is even cheaper.

Grab is the no brainer choice to arrange for your airport transfer, costing less than 150k (S$15) for a six-seater, plus 15k for toll. The journey takes almost an hour. Here’s how you can use Grab upon your arrival – when you exit the airport terminal, go to the parking area A (Parkir A) on the right. The Grab cars are all just waiting there. Book a car and proceed to look for the car when the driver confirms the booking.

There is not much to see within Medan itself. If you’re into history, you could visit the Tjong A Fie Mansion and the Balai Kota Lama (Old City Hall). The largest shopping malls are Centre Point, Sun Plaza and Plaza Medan Fair. Centre Point is the newer mall and i think it has too many familiar looking shops (from Singapore and Malaysia). There is a huge Batik Keris shop though, which is nice for grabbing Batik clothing. Sun Plaza and Plaza Medan Fair are both owned by Lippo Malls, so you get many of the same shops at both malls. If i were to choose one between the two, i would go for Plaza Medan Fair. Albeit looking a little tired, it is slightly bigger, and it appears to be where locals shop.

Here are places where you should probably visit to shop for stuff to bring home:

Bika Ambon

Bika Ambon is the famous cake from Medan, and obviously they do it best. There are many sellers of course, but you can’t go wrong with Ahun. They also sell Kueh Lapis Legit (thousand layered cake).

Ahun
Super moist and fragrant. The taste of spices is quite strong though.

Batik

Batik comes in a wide price range. There are the ones you could wear at home – you will find them at Pasar Petisah, which is a local market for low-priced wares. If you looked up Google Maps, you will find quite a few shops just south of Medan train station also, selling low to mid priced Batik.

There is the premium quality one – Batik Keris at Centre Point and Batik Trusmi just outside Sun Plaza. The mid-ranged one – Batik Semar and low to mid-ranged Batik Tusta at Plaza Medan Fair.

It’s interesting that the Solo Batik style seems to be more popular in Medan.

Coffee, Tea and Kerupuk

During my 5 days in and around Medan, the coffee i tasted were all quite good. No wonder Sumatran coffee is world renowned, and it’s even better when you get it fresh from the source. I wanted to buy green coffee, but no information on such is available. I wanted to go to Sidikalang to search for coffee plantations there, but the driver was not so willing to go there due to poor road condition and long distances. In the end, i bought roasted whole bean coffee as i would normally do when in Indonesia.

You’re spoilt with choice when shopping for coffee beans in Medan (as compared to say Jakarta). You can get them at any supermarket. I felt the Brastagi Hypermarket has good choices, though they don’t come cheap.

Part of the selections from Brastagi Hypermarket

Our driver took us to a specialty shop called De room, and it had a very comprehensive collection of coffee from all around Sumatra, with good prices too.

De room
My loot. Clockwise from top left – Kopi Luwak, Karo, Sidikalang, Taman Simalem Organic, King Jantan, Sidikalang, Coffee Lintong and Peaberry Gayo of Aceh

You can also get tea leaves and Kerupuk from the same places.

Moving on to the itinerary.

Day 1

On our day of arrival, we went to quite a few places, including Petisah market, Koki Sunda restaurant, Sun Plaza and Ucok Durian.

Koki Sunda, as the name suggests, is a Sundanese restaurant. Being a franchised restaurant, you can’t expect fine dining quality, but the overall experience is positive.

From Pasar Petisah, we hopped on a beca to get to Koki Sunda, just for the fun of it. We were charged tourist prices, but, nevermind.
Comfortable interior
Pretty good Sate
One of their specialty items – fried beancurd, and this one has a prawn embedded

We went to Ucok Durian just to check it off the to-do list. It is where you eat expensive durian (by Medan standard). At 100k (S$10) for the large sized durian, it is expensive, because the durian seed is so huge relative to the amount of flesh. The worst part is, the durian was warm (like it was cooked), which made it feel it was not fresh. Simply cannot be compared to Malaysian durian.

Mountain pile of durians
Not very nice looking
The mannequin that is a must to have a photo taken with
An army of workers disecting the durians and collecting the presentable bits into boxes and the non-presentable bits into a pail for further processing

Having just durians for dinner wasn’t exactly satisfying enough, so we chose a random restaurant around the area – Chillax, which turned out to be quite good. What’s more, the steaks were under 50k each (S$5)!

Bee Hoon Spesial – loaded with various ingredients
Tenderloin
Sirloin

Day 2

The journey to Berastagi was a puke inducing one, making Berastagi a compulsory stop to shake off the nausea. We had lunch at the driver recommended place, Puncak restaurant. According to the driver, not many choices here. Probably true.

Just for the sake of resting, we did a bit of sightseeing at the St Francis Assisi church, one of the many churches built in the fusion style marrying Batak and western architecture.

St Francis Assisi church
Batak house next to the church. Took a glimpse inside, it was a non partitioned space with 4 fire pits, probably meant for 4 families

The Pasar Buah (fruits market) was also a convenient sightseeing spot in Berastagi, where you can sample a wide range of local produce.

I found the roof very captivating
The stalls were indeed selling mostly fruits
Giant sized yam, a testament to the fertile soil the people have been enjoying

We arrived at Sipiso Piso waterfall before 5pm, yet it was getting dark already.

First glimpse of Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world
Sipiso Piso waterfall

The only logical place within the vicinity to put up for the night was Taman Simalem Resort. It doesn’t come cheap, but at least the service level more than met expectations. It gets really cold at night.

The Waterfall Lodge was built next to this pleasant looking stream
I supposed this was the “waterfall”. Artificially created by diverting the stream.
The weather was appropriate for growing all kinds of pretty plants

Day 3

You definitely have to see the lake in good weather.

A majestic sight
You can spend a good half an hour just to take in this sight
Coffee planted as a showcase for visitors at Taman Simalem Resort. The altitude and weather is perfect for growing coffee.
Enroute to Parapat, the driver brought us to Bukit Indah, which is mostly for taking selfie/wefie. You do have to pay for using each and everyone of them.
The view towards Samosir island

The driver took us to Hotel Singgalang in Parapat for lunch, thinking that we would prefer to stick with Chinese food. I was more keen to try the local food actually, but we settled for Hotel Singgalang anyway. By the way, you might be interested to know that the Batak people enjoy dog meat, and such eateries are marked with a signage with the label B1.

Fried Kway Teow, quite decent actually
Nasi Goreng Spesial. Looks good, tastes good.

We took a ferry to Tuk Tuk on Samosir Island. Tuk Tuk is full of guest houses, and you can actually stay in a Batak house if you like.

I guess you couldn’t say you have been to Lake Toba if you haven’t taken a ferry
The guest houses on Tuk Tuk
I’m guessing this is a tomb, in front of a Batak house
Serenity
Just a simple house
Look ma, no hands
Boys taking a bath in the lake (i saw one of them using shampoo)

Day 4

This reminds me of the pointed structures often seen on temples in Thailand
Peace and quiet in the morning
Idyllic looking, but somehow i didn’t want to remain at this place for long
Probably the only Batak house on the lake front that is owner occupied
Market at Parapat

We began our way back to Medan, stopping for lunch at Siantar. Although i wanted to go to Cafe Kok Tong, my idea was again override by the driver, who wanted to stay safe, and he brought us to a Chinese noodle house. Maybe he had too many customers previously who couldn’t get used to the local food. Oh well, Mie Pansit Awai was not bad. Mie Pansit is basically Wanton mee. I also tried the coffee (both black coffee and with condensed milk), which the driver said would have been the same as what Cafe Kok Tong serves, and i think it pales in comparison to Malaysia kopi.

A popular eatery in Siantar for sure
Mee Goreng spesial
Mie Pansit. The amount of lard used took me by surprise.

Back in Medan, we went to Bika Ambon Ahun and De room to grab those stuff we were going to bring home. Dinner at Restoran Garuda turned out to be the best meal of the trip. Finally, good tasting authentic Indonesian food! Don’t miss this restaurant if you’re in Medan!

Minang or Padang food. Every dish tasted so good! And they were not very spicy. Most of the customers came for takeway food.

Day 5

Did last minute shopping at Brastagi Hypermarket. Final meal of the trip at Restoran Jimbaran. While it was not bad, it was a little pricey, and there were too many flies. They were daring enough to take a dip in your drink!

Balinese ambiance
The signature dish – Kambing-kambing fish grilled in house specialty sauce
Udang Galah
Genjer, a nice vegetable dish we have not tried elsewhere
Grilled brinjal. Garuda’s fried brinjal was far better
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2 thoughts on “Medan 5 days itinerary”

  1. Hi there,
    May I have your driver contact no for brastagi and parapat trip. May i know the charges your trip to medan. Thank you

    1. Hi Linda, I went with Yoga. You can email them for a quote. The rates differ depending on whether you choose the all-inclusive package (i.e. parking, petrol etc.), and the rates for rental from Medan are more or less the same.

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