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