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    Tropical Storm Tour: Sumatra Part 2

    Wednesday, August 5, 2015
    Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

    Some photogenic rust in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Some photogenic rust in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Following a really long and exhausting day of travel yesterday, I slept soundly for a good 10 or 11 hours! Peeling myself out of bed around 11:30 am, I headed outside in the early afternoon to see if my debit card would work, as I’ve never used it outside the U.S. before. (I had read that very few, if any, places in Indonesia accept traveler’s checks anymore.) So, I walked around the corner from the Gandhi Inn, where there’s a whole block chock-full of banks.

    Wild in the streets! A tiger-striped electrical box in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Wild in the streets! A tiger-striped electrical box in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    At the first one, the withdrawal limit was only 1,000,000 rupiah, which is $74.00. I wanted to withdraw several times that amount all at once to avoid a bunch of fees from my bank back at home. A really smiley, helpful young lady who worked at the bank in Medan pointed me toward another across the street with a larger withdrawal limit. The only problem was their ATM machine was down. Doh! The ATM at the next bank I tried couldn’t contact my bank. Finally, the fourth one in yet another bank ended up working after several attempts typing my way through a bunch of onscreen commands with the help of a security guard and another customer. At least I was able to withdraw more all at once than at the first bank, which will reduce my bank fees by at least 50%.

    An unintentional art installation in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    An unintentional art installation in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Next, I headed out for a walk a mile or so away to see the Mesjid Raya Al Mashun, the main mosque in town. Even though I had a map of Medan dialed up on my iPod touch, which I consulted often, I still managed to get lost in the maze, which was buried under the haze of a smoggy sky. The fact that most intersections in this trying town were not posted with street signs did not help at all. I couldn’t even find my way a half mile over to Jalon SM Raja, the street the mosque is on! Also, since 90% of the sidewalks were all blocked off with motorcycles, cars, market stalls and other random objects, I was forced to walk out in the street with vehicular traffic whizzing by mere inches from my body. We’re talking cars, trucks, becaks and massive motorcycle hordes–all flying in every direction, kicking up dust within a strangling shawl of stifling heat.

    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    After proceeding in circles for an hour, I had to ask several locals for directions back to the Gandhi Inn. To the first-time visitor, the city of Medan itself is a truly bewildering and unwelcoming place. Back at the Gandhi Inn, the owner offered to have his personal driver whisk me down to the Mesjid Raya for free, which was really super nice. After a harrowing ride down there, narrowly missing motorcycles every step of the way, we pulled up to the mosque, where I spent 15 or 20 minutes checking out the place and snapping a few pics. “First opened for prayer in 1909, stunning tiles, stained glass, marble and some fine stone and wooden carving adorn many of the surfaces of the structure of the Mesjid Raya. Interesting to note is that many of these materials were imported from such places as France, Germany and Italy. It’s a particularly beautiful mosque and if you plan to visit any mosque in Indonesia, this is a good one.”–Travelfish

    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Mesjid Raya Al Mashun in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    On the way back to the Gandhi Inn, the inevitable finally happened: a motorcyclist’s shoulder impacted the driver’s side rear view mirror and rotated it forward. Luckily, nothing got broken, and the driver was able to snap it back into place. The motorcyclist didn’t even stop, he just sped away. Back on Jalon Gandhi, I walked a few doors down to a restaurant, but all they served was seafood. Luckily, I managed to get a plate of vegetables and rice for lunch there. Later at the Ghandi Inn, I discovered that their menu–like most places pretty much everywhere–contained almost all meat all the time, as well. Much deliberation ensued between myself and three of the teenaged staff about which dishes were vegetarian, which caused one of the girls to laugh super hard. I’m not sure why, but it made me laugh, too. We finally figured out that I could eat mie goreng Gandhi, which was noodles, eggs and fried rice. I also ordered some French fries, which was hilariously listed as “fried fries” on their menu.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

    One response to “Tropical Storm Tour: Sumatra Part 2”

    1. Louise Balma says:

      Sounds like you would never rent a car and drive it around that city…crazy how the guy hit the car and just kept on going. Stay safe my friend.

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