After eating a bowl of noodles and drink for lunch, I decided to tried out the famous Red Mango Yogurt which my friend is so crazy about. There were a few customers at the shop even during lunch hour as compared to the Es Teler 77 outlet where I had my lunch. The shop signage states that it is USA’s best non fat frozen yogurt, so hopefully it taste good. My first reaction when I saw the prices listed on the menu board was that the food here are really expensive.
I ordered the green Avocado yogurt with fruit and nuts toppings. The cost of this yogurt ( see photos ) was nearly RP60,000 for a cup of yogurt. The yogurt taste creamy and it is in fact quite solid and firm; unlike some yogurts that melts in your mouth the minute you eat it. I liked the yogurt taste but I felt that it is too little. Perhaps for the price of nearly RP60,000, they should give a bigger portion of yogurt – perhaps 2 scoops served in a better cup. The toppings was nice but nothing fantastic about it.
The Red Mango store which I visited was a small outlet with limited seating capacity if you compared it with KFC or MacDonald. But it was sufficient because really there were not many customers even during lunch hour. In fact, there were still many empty seats available. Perhaps that goes to show that not many people would want to pay such a high price for this food. In fact, the noodles and drink that I had in Es Teler 77 was almost the same price as this cup of yogurt. Well if Red Mango can do a promotion on one flavor each month with a lower price for their yogurt, I would definitely com back for more.
I had decided to stay in Grand Aston City Hall hotel so that I could feel the experience of staying in the newest 5 stars hotel in Medan. This hotel is well located just opposite the famous Merdeka Walk – which is a good place to try out the different food and dine outdoor. Nearby this hotel is the Bank Indonesia office, a beautiful mosque and rows of shops along a busy street. I had booked their deluxe room and asked for a king size bed and I was pleasantly surprised that they allowed me to check in at 11 am in the morning.
Security at the Grand Aston City Hotel hotel was quite tight. The cab driver whom fetched me there had to stop his vehicle for inspection before driving to the entrance of the main lobby. Outside the glass main entrance, my luggage and myself had to undergo a metal detector scan. Next to the rows of elevator, there was a security guard standing there; and I had to tap my room card in order to access to the specific floor which my room was located. I am quite pleased with this tight security features implemented by the hotel.
The deluxe room was spacious and the floor was laminated wood. Apparently everything in the room looked new and fresh as the hotel was relatively new as well. I liked the clean and bright bathroom. The only minor disappointment was that there was no bath tub. The king size bed was very firm and there were plenty of pillows placed on the bed. The firm mattress was one of the best I had every slept among so many hotels I had checked into. The small working desk was sufficient for me to do some reading but I noticed that it was not made of strong solid wood where you can sit on it. The LCD TV was large and there were sufficient variety of international channels to watch. Other things include a mini fridge, a small kettle, complimentary mineral water, tea and coffee bags and slipper. The window of my room was directly facing the famous Merdeka Walk – this place comes alive during the evenings.
I didn’t have time to enjoy the facilities such as the swimming pool and the Gym because I was out from the morning and coming back late in the evening. I will try it out the next time I come back to Medan on a more relax schedule. Breakfast was served in the restaurant called the Spoon Dining Coffee shop which was spacious and neat. The spread of the breakfast was sufficient and there were plenty of choices of food to choose. But I felt that the restaurant staff was not pro active enough to top up coffee and tea and clearing plates. In fact during this breakfast meal, I had to clear the used plates and filled up the tea myself – hopefully they can improve on this service.
Yes I intend to come back to Grand Aston City Hall Medan on my next trip and spend more time enjoying the pool and the food in the restaurant. If you are keen to view more photos of this hotel, please go to the image gallery of my website. All the photos that I took in Medan are placed in under the Medan category.
I visited a Buddhist temple while I was in Medan as it was recommended by my driver. He told me this temple is called the Maha Maitreya Temple and many visitors would flocked to this temple for prayers and sightseeing. He mentioned that even Muslims came here to visit this temple for sightseeing and photo shoots; and my driver is also a Muslim. This temple is located inside a residential area; and you have to pass through a gated entrance manned by security guards before entering the residential area. Once your vehicle passed through the guard house, there are many beautiful homes – mostly bungalows and rows of shops nicely lined up on the clean street. My driver told me that this residential area is called North Boulevard street and the people staying here are mainly rich Chinese.
The Maha Maitreya Temple is a huge temple, the building is very wide; and I saw four stone lions sculpture guarding the entrance of this temple. This temple seems to be very well maintained; almost in mint condition. My driver parked his vehicle underneath a tree and sat down on a bench to chat with another driver; while I proceed to check out this beautiful Buddhist temple. The pillars that were part of the foundation of this building were decorated with beautiful cravings of dragons – what a beautiful art piece. The main hall in the temple was very spacious and deep. As I was standing outside the main hall preparing to take off my shoes, I saw the statue of Buddha a distance away.
During my visit on a weekday afternoon, the Maha Maitreya Temple was almost deserted and peaceful. Inside the hall, the atmosphere was peaceful and serene. I saw devotees kneeling down and praying to Buddha. There were many pillars in the hall and this place was naturally cool. Outside the hall, I saw paintings, a children playground, another building next to the playground. And on the other side, there was a beautiful garden, a small stream filled with fishes, bridge, beautiful plants and sculptures. It was a nice place to sit and relax. It must be quite costly to build such a beautiful temple.
I was glad that my driver brought me to the Maha Maitreya Temple as it was definitely a worthy place to visit while in Medan. If you are planning to visit this place by cab, make sure that you asked the taxi driver to stay and wait for you, as this place is remote and there are no cabs around. Bring a bottle of mineral water as Medan can be extremely warm during the day.
One of the most memorable place that I had visited during my trip to Medan is the Tjong A Fie Mansion which is located in Jl. Jend A Yani, No. 105 Medan. This grand Mansion was built in the year 1895 – more than a century old and a charming historical site in Medan. The entrance fee to this Mansion was Rp75,000 per person which I felt was relatively expensive as compared to the admission price of museums in similar country liked Malaysia. Perhaps one of the reason for the high cost was that there was a personal guide in the Mansion, who would explained the history of this Mansion as I walked around viewing the exhibits.
Tjong A Fie was a successful businessman who had built a successful business empire; and at the same time contributed his time and money to many charitable acts in Medan. I think his guiding principle in life was best summed up in his quotes ” There on the earth where I stand, I hold the sky. Success and glory consist not in what I have gotten but in what I have given.” This Mansion was his residential home and visitors can see a variety of exhibits – old furniture, his bed, tables, dinning area, grand living rooms, old photos, beautiful teapots, lots of antiques, etc. The entire Tjong A Fie Mansion is only 2 storeys, but it is very spacious. There are 35 rooms in the entire Mansion and I liked the beautiful decorative high ceilings and large wooden windows. The structure of this Mansion seems to be a blend of Peranakan, traditional Chinese and European architecture styles combined into one.
I spend about an hour during this visit. I continued to walked around the rooms of the this Mansion after the young guide had completed the guided tour. I could sense that I had too many things to see and to little time to do it. So if you want to visit and view each exhibit in more detail, try to plan for a 2 hours duration for this place before moving to your next appointment. I think this Mansion would be great for those newly wed couples who wish to take photography shots – it would be very memorable indeed.
Anyway, I would be putting up more photos of the Tjong A Fie Mansion in the Image gallery of my site at Indonesiapics.com – do make time to visit this place if you are someone interested in antiques, historical sites and cultures. This place is within the city of Medan, so irregardless of which hotel that you may be staying, it is convenient to reach here by cab.
I was told that when I am in Medan, Sun Plaza is the mall that I should visit at least once. It was opened in the year 2004 and it is still the largest and most luxurious mall in Medan. I took a cab to this mall from my hotel and arrived at about 10 a.m. Surprisingly many shops were not even opened yet at this hour. So I took the opportunity to browse around the empty shops, noting that the walkaway was spacious. Sogo is the anchor tenant for this shopping mall. You can enter into Sogo department store from almost any level in this shopping mall. The other anchor tenant is Hypermarket which is a well known supermarket chain in Indonesia.
It seems that there are an abundant of food outlets in Sun Plaza. There is the food court, A&W, KFC, Pizza Hut, Nelayan, Ayam Penyet Ria ( one of my favorite), Es Teler 77 ( delicious noodles), Red Mango frozen yogurt ( nice but too expensive) and many coffee joints. I liked the food court because it is spacious and clean. Food variety are plentiful because there are many individual food stalls operating there. The best way to enjoy is to buy one small portion of food from different food stalls and try it out. During lunch hour, the food court was crowded; as many office workers would be here to take their lunch.
Sogo at Sun Plaza occupies the most retail space in the Sun Plaza Mall. In fact, Sogo is located almost on every floor and it provides a one stop shopping concept for the whole family (except food items ). But I find the the prices of certain clothes and shoes in Sogo were rather steep as compared to similar merchandise that I can buy in Singapore. Many of the branded products that I saw in Sogo, I can find it too in Singapore and Malaysia – and they are less expensive in these 2 countries. So hopefully Sogo could readjust its pricing policy on the products, if they are keen in attracting more tourists here for shopping in their store.
The Hypermarket is located in the upper floor of Sun Plaza and it is a nice supermarket. However the size of this supermarket is smaller than their other branches in other parts of Indonesia where I have been. The selection and variety of food and sundry items here are sufficient to satisfy the average household family. One thing I noticed was that certain areas in this supermarket was rather warm – so was the air -conditioning faulty or was it not turn on? I came to this supermarket twice during my stay in Medan and I felt warm and stuffy in some areas of this store. This is a good place to stock up on your food, drink, toiletries if you are staying in Medan for a few days.
For those who are seeking some entertainment, there is a cinema, Time Zone and Himalayan games centers for young adults and kids. There is also a popular book store called Gramedia, where you can buy books, computer accessories, stationery, gifts, etc. One of the nice feature about this shopping mall is that there are benches located on every floor for the shoppers to sit and rest their feet. The Sun Plaza is a spacious mall and you could easily spend half a day here without feeling bore or hungry.
I read some comments in the travel forums that there is no taxi stand in this mall. This is not correct. There is in fact a taxi stand right outside the main entrance of this mall. Just outside the glass door of the main entrance, there is a small signage for Taxi and you can see a guy standing there with a walkie-talkie ( handheld transceiver) who can help you in getting a cab. The condition is that once the booking is made for a cab, the minimum charge would be Rp25,000 irregardless of the distance. For example, if the meter in the taxi states Rp15,000 upon arrival at my hotel, I still have to pay the drive Rp25,000. But if the meter states Rp50,000, then of course I have to pay the cab driver Rp50,000. I would also normally tip the taxi drivers because most of them are helpful and courteous. My view is that if I am going for holiday, I am not going to fuss or waste my time hunting for a cab outside the mall just to save a couple of dollars – whatever it is, it is an individual choice; as there is no right or wrong way on how you want to spend your money.
Do visit Sun Plaza Mall when you are in Medan. It is a refreshing change after visiting so many old malls and old buildings around this city. It is also a good place to recharge and get away from the smoke, dust and congested roads. Most of the shops should be opened by 11.00 a.m and it is a good place to get a sumptuous lunch – the variety and choices of food here is really amazing.
I will be adding more photos of Sun Plaza Medan in the Image Gallery of my website at – Indonesiapics.com
I wanted to visit the famous Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni, which is a Catholic church located in the outskirt of Medan city. The easiest way to travel would be to book a taxi to take me there. The problem with Medan is that it is quite difficult to find a proper taxi – the ones that use meter; whereas pirated taxi are plentiful. In some hotels such as Swiss Belinn Medan, I could not find Blue Bird or Express taxi outside the hotel – I wonder where they had gone? Anyway, once you have booked a taxi to this church, it would be advisable to ask the cab driver to wait for you for about 30 minutes at the compound of this church ( extra charges of course ); and thereafter you can take the same cab back to whenever is your next destination. The reason is because this church is located in the middle of nowhere. The church is surrounded by residential homes along a narrow dirt road – so be warned and be prepared.
The Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni is one the most bizarre church I have even visited in my life. When I step out of my taxi and stared at the building, I thought I was visiting a Hindu or a Chinese cum Hindu temple combined into one. Couldn’t really make it out that this tall structure building is a Catholic church – and I am truly amazed and loved it! It is a church dedicated to the Holy Mary Annai Velangkanni or Our Lady of Good Health who appeared in Tamil Nadu in India in the 17th century.
On the ground floor of this church building is a community hall which is for activities held in this church. The prayer hall is located on the 2nd storey level and to reach it, you just have to walk the gentle spiral slope. Before you enter the prayer hall, all visitors have to take off their shoes. There are 2 large statues on the balcony itself – the statue of St Paul, the Apostle of nations and St. Francis Xavier, the Apostle of Asia welcoming visitors into the prayer hall. The prayer hall is well decorated with paintings, art and shrine and very peaceful too. I saw many young students sitting on the bench at the time. In front you can see the Lord with the words – ” Come to me, all who laboured and are heavily burdened, I will give you rest.” Very meaningful words and very peaceful environment; and so I did sat down and rest; together with the many young students sitting on the bench.
I understand that the church has its own spring water which was discovered at the Altar of the Marian Chapel. I am not sure whether they allow visitors to collect the blessed spring water in a bottle – do asked the staff when you are there. The Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni is really a must visit place in Medan. Do make the time and effort to see this unique church. Not only it is beautiful, the prayer hall is also a peaceful place to rest and sort out your thoughts or problems. And don’t forget to make a donation at the donation box ( any amount) – though it is a voluntary act, but I felt that it is the right time to do.
For those interested in viewing more photos of Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni, do check it out at the Image gallery of Indonesiapics.com
While I was shopping with my friend at Sun Plaza. we decided to try out the Ayam Penyet Ria restaurant at LT4 ( which is Level 4 ). There were numerous food outlets in this shopping mall and it would take me days if I wanted to try them all. The Ayam Penyet Ria has a few restaurants located in Singapore and many of my friends are crazy over this food. Personally, I am not so keen on deep fried food, be it chicken, beef or seafood. But my friend had never eaten Ayam Penyet or smashed fried chicken before, so I decided to let her have a go on this food. By the way, Sun Plaza is the most modern and popular shopping mall in Medan. If you are a food lover or enjoy shopping, this is the place to visit while you are in Medan. I will be writing a blog on this shopping mall later on.
My order for that day was 2 Ayam Penyet – Rp29,000/2 sets, 2 Nasi putih ( white rice ) – Rp13.636/2 sets, 2 Teh Botol ( Indonesia No. 1 Ice Tea ) Rp10,908 for 2 bottles and lastly one bowl of Soto Ayam Ria – Rp 13.636 So the total cost of this meal for 2 persons inclusive of tax was Rp68,999 or US$7.80 which was reasonable. The same meal if you ordered it in Singapore would definitely cost much more. The food arrived at our table in about 10 minutes and the restaurant was not crowded at that time. The staff were courteous and efficient and overall the restaurant was clean and spacious.
The ayam penyet was placed on a round bowl on top of a banana leaf. Included was a slice of deep fried beancurd ( tahu goreng ) and fermented beancurd ( tempeh ) raw peppermint leaves, a slice of cucumber, small portion of boiled cabbage and not forgetting the blacan chilli. There is also a small serving of a slice of lemon with another type of strong, pungent spicy chilli. The ayam penyet was covered with layers of fried batter bits which actually taste good.
The chicken was non oily and slightly dry and it was a small chicken drumstick/ thigh. The chicken serving was rather small as compared to the chicken portion in KFC. Separating the meat from the bones was an easy task and when I dipped the chicken meat onto the blacan chilli, it was a mouth watering sensation – delicious. The other chilli that was served with a slice of lemon was really too strong for me – it had a very strong spicy, tangy and bitter flavor. The soto ayam was good – it consists of vermicelli, eggs, vegetables and thin slices of chicken. The gravy of this soto ayam was not too sweet, not oily and not so spicy; and it goes well with the white rice.
On my next try to Medan, I will come back Ayam Penyet Ria restaurant again to try their gado gado and oxtail soup as well. As for the ayam penyet – smash fried chicken, it was delicious but the chicken portion was rather small. Well, there are many other food in the menu that I can order if I am still hungry. To be fair, for the price of less than Rp15,000 for a set of ayam penyet, the serving was reasonable.
I stayed in the Swiss-Belinn hotel in Medan a few days ago while I was in Medan Indonesia. This hotel is on Jalan Surabaya and it is not far away from the Polonia Airport in Medan. It took about 20 minutes by taxi to reach this hotel from the airport. I was charged Rp55,000 for this taxi trip after booking it at the taxi counter at the airport -which I felt it was quite expensive. The Swiss-Belinn stated in its website that it is a 3 star international hotel; but in my opinion I would only give it 2.5 star at most and I would shared the reasons for this rating.
Swiss Belinn hotel is located in a minor road and surrounded by rows of shops in front and at the back of the hotel. Many of the shops were run down in appearance and were used by traders dealing in hardware, machinery, food and sundry businesses. The back of this hotel was more interesting – there are many rows of food outlets in a small narrow road shared by pedestrians and vehicles. Many of these food stalls were selling Chinese food such as duck rice, chicken rice, pork, noodles, pastries, etc.
The hotel seems to be popular among budget travelers and the reception area seems to be always crowded with people sitting around the rows of sofa bench provided at the lobby. I saw bus load of tourists coming down from the bus and walking into the hotel with their tour guide. I booked the standard room and was given the highest floor ( 9th floor if I could recalled correctly). To take the lift up to your room, you need to scan the magnetic card on the scanner and pressed the desired floor level – which was good for added security. Just beside the lift was the hotel restaurant where breakfast would be served. One good feature was that there was a 24 hours convenient store located near the lobby; where I bought some beers and snack during the night.
The standard room was compact, spartan but clean. I am rather amused to see that the floor tiles of the room was black and the entire bathroom is black. The black floor and wall tiles in the bathroom created a very dark atmosphere when I was inside it. And to make the matter worse, the lighting on the ceiling of the bathroom was very dim. The hotel should seriously consider using a higher watt light bulbs to enhance the lighting condition – perhaps a 15 watt energy saving bulb for the shower area and another 15 watt energy saving bulb near the basin. Every time when I entered into the bathroom, I felt that I was entering into a cave.
Though the room was compact in size, it was sufficient for 2 persons. There was a kettle and 2 bottles of mineral water provided but there was no mini fridge. The brand of the LCD TV was TCL – a China brand. This LCD TV was acceptable except that you have to put up with distortion in the sound system. The air conditioned system was not strong enough; making the room rather warm. The setting of the temperature would always reset itself to its default temperature no matter how many times I tried to reset the temperature. The walls and door of the room was not thick enough to isolate the noise coming from the next room or the corridor. In fact I could listened to the conversation of people talking right outside the common corridor. This hotel provides very minimal toiletries – so do bring your own personal toiletries set. For the queen size bed – it was clean and comfortable. There were 2 clean pillows provided.
I had booked their Ramadhan package which includes 2 complimentary free dinner. I went to tried out their dinner with the initial impression that the dinner buffet spread would be a limited spread of food available. Actually the spread of food given was good but the problem was that all the food was cold. The rice, fried noodles, vegetables, meat, etc were all cold. I brought this to the attention of a lady staff in the restaurant. I told her that food should be served at in warm temperature and they should used a warmer to heat up all the food. She just listened, smiled and then walked away. Had I know that the food were cold, I would have taken my dinner at Sun Plaza where I was there before returning back to the hotel.
Then in the morning, I walked into the restaurant again for breakfast. I told myself that if the food was cold again, then I would skipped breakfast. Fortunately, the breakfast turned out to be all right. The rice, vegetables, meat, noodles were all served hot. I liked the fish crackers which I think was delicious. The tea was slightly weird in taste and diluted – perhaps they were using some local tea. Overall the breakfast was good considering that it is a budget hotel.
One of the problem that I encounter while staying in Swiss-Belinn Medan was transport. It was hard to get a taxi just off the street. You could get pirated taxi just outside the hotel who would quote you a much higher rate – so you have to bargain but the taxi driver may not be interested in your reduced rate. There were pedicabs just outside the hotel and you need to fixed the rate with them before proceeding to your destination.
Overall, the condition of the room was all right. Improvement should be made on the lighting in the bathroom, air-conditioned settings in the room and transport availability for customers. If you are keen in viewing more photos of this hotel, go to my website at Indonesiapics.com and proceed to the photo gallery section. I would put up more photos over there.
I was told by my friend that I should find time to visit the Ucok Durian store while I am in Medan. It is the most famous durian shop and even the bellhop at the Grand Aston City Hall hotel told me not to miss trying out the durians. So with all the hype about this durian store, I took a cab from my hotel to Jalan K. H. Wahid Hasyim No. 30/32 which is the location of this durian shop. I was told that there are 2 outlets for Ucok durian and this particular outlet opens for 24 hours daily – just liked Seven Eleven convenience store. The journey took less than 20 minutes depending on traffic condition.
My first impression of this Ucok durian store is that it was a no frill, simple and messy shop. Durians were piled up all over the frontage of the shop and the workers were busy sorting out the durians. Cheap looking tables and plastic chairs were placed all over the entire shop. On the table is a tissue holder that holds a toilet roll and a metal bowl with clean water to wash your hands. There were also small plastic cups of mineral water on the table for customers. As I sat on the plastic chair, I saw that the road outside the shop had quite a heavy traffic flow; so noise and dust was inevitable.
A staff from the Ucok durian store came to my table and asked me how many durians I wanted. I told him 3 durians and the taste of the durian should be sweet and bitter. You can actually request for the type of durian that you want. If you are unsure, just let them pick the durians for you. I saw him telling his staff to pick 3 durians from the large pile of durians that was piling up on the floor. He came with 3 durians in a plastic square container and opened up the fruits. The durians looked good and creamy and he stood there opening up the durians as we ate. If the durian was in bad condition, it would be replaced immediately at no cost.
Ucok durian from Medan differ in taste from the Malaysian durians that I had eaten frequently. My friend said that she still preferred the Malaysian durians, as it was stronger in taste as well as smell. My opinion was that durian from Medan had a milder taste and smell. The sweetness and bitterness of the durian was less distinctive than the Malaysian durian. It was still a delicious durian to eat and it has more flesh too. After eating the Ucok durian there wasn’t much lingering smell on my mouth and hand – which was good as I was going for another appointment after this durian feast.
And talking about the cost of eating Ucok durian as compared to Malaysian durian, the Ucok durian in Medan would beat the Malaysian counterpart hands down. It only cost Rp25,000 for one medium size quality durian. That works out to be US2.80 as compared to US$8 for an average quality Malaysian durian. Will I come back to Ucok durian store on my next trip to Medan? Definitely YES! The next time I would probably skip lunch and eat 2 durians instead. The durian shop is crowded in the evenings and on weekends, so if you intend to cut the queue, it would be better to go there in the afternoon.