Category Archives: Transportation

Bandara Polonia Medan – Medan Airport

The Bandara Polonia Medan or Polonia Airport in Medan is the airport that served International and domestic flights in and out of the city of Medan. When my plane landed on the airport, there was no aerobridge available. So to alight from the plane, everyone had to use the stairs to walk down to the tarmac of the airport. Then the passengers had to walk from the tarmac to the arrival hall. The arrival hall reminds me of the time of old airport that was built in the early 1980s – small, very simple and basic facilities. I had read that Medan is currently in the process of building a new airport for their city, which is definitely the right thing to do.

You have to walk on the tarmac from the plane to the arrival hall.

The Customs and Immigration clearance in the Polonia Airport was surprisingly quick and efficient. There is a counter specifically for those passengers who need to purchase Visa on arrival and then a few counters opened to clear the immigration process. There were some passengers who needed to have their fingerprints scan on a compact scanning machine; and there is a camera mounted on each immigration counter to have the photo of travelers taken. The whole process of immigration clearance took less than 15 minutes and I am out of the airport arrival hall.

The arrival hall at the Bandara Polonia Medan

The conveyor belt for the luggage is a very short one. Do pick up your luggage as quickly as you can and do not allowed any stranger to help you with your luggage. Just hold on to your luggage and walked to the custom clearance counter where your luggage would be scanned in the machine. After I had walked out of the arrival hall, I had to face a continuous harassement by touts. These touts would asked me where I am going and do I need a taxi? I simply walked to the nearest cafe and sat down for a drink. It gave me an opportunity to observe the entire area outside the arrival hall and at the same time enjoying a delicious avocado fruit juice or called apokat juice in Indonesia.

The Polonia Airport in Medan is an old airport with basic facilities.

There is two ways to take a cab from the Polonia Airport in Medan to the city. First, I had a choice to take a taxi by going to the taxi counter outside the arrival hall and the charges was steep for a ride to my hotel in Jalan Surabaya – which was Swiss Belinn Medan. I was quoted a fee of Rp55,000 and was non negotiable. The second option was to walk out of the airport itself and go to the Petronas Petrol staion. Do not walked directly to the Petronas Petrol station as it is fenced. The easiest way to walk was from the entrance and exit point for vehicles at the airport, the Petronas Petrol station is on the right. Over at this Petronas petrol station, there were a couple of Blue Bird taxis which runs by meter parked there. However, if you are carrying heavy luggage or with children; it is advisable not to walk to the Petronas petrol station as the traffic in Medan is notorious. For myself, I choose to pay at the taxi counter Rp 55,000 and board a designated taxi. The reason is that the savings of only Rp25,000 if I do not used the taxi at the airport was not worth the time, effort and risk. Besides, when you use a meter taxi, the taxi driver could easily bring you in a merry go round just to cloak the meter higher.

This is the Petronas petrol station which is just outside the airport. If you want to save money by not taking the taxi from the airport, just walked to this petrol station and you can board a Blue Bird taxi over there.

For departure from the Bandara Polonia Medan, just inform the taxi driver whether you are going for international or their local domestic flight. The cab driver would then drive you to the correct gate. For international, it is Gate 1 if I can recalled correctly. It is advisable to check in early as the departure hall is again basic and messy. Again there would be a few people approaching you asking to see your passport – do not hand it over to them. There was a guy who was persistence in asking me details about my destination. I simply ignored him then he walked away reluctantly.  Do not give money to anyone in assisting you to pay the airport tax. I sat at the departure hall for an hour, as I was early and the booth for Valuair was not opened yet. The touts are those guys from the counter that provide the service that laminates and secure luggage. During the one hour sitting at the departure hall, I saw 2 guys from the same counter that secures luggage harassing passengers. I saw vulnerable passengers handling cash and passports to them. I do hope that the Medan airport officials would kicked out these touts from the departure hall if they are serious about promoting Medan as a tourist destination.

Outside the arrival hall of the Polonia Medan Airport. There are many touts out here, just ignore them. Taking a taxi from the airport is more costly, but it is relatively safe. Just book a taxi from the taxi counter.

Airport tax for international departure from the Polonia Airport in Medan is Rp75,000. Go to the check in counter first to get your boarding pass and check in your luggage. Thereafter, turn around and there is a small counter opposite the rows of  airlines check in counter. Walk to the counter and you can see a notice been pasted on the window of the counter – that it is an counter for airport tax and the tax rate that you have to pay for International and domestic flight. Just queue up at the counter and when it is your turn, hand over your travel document and money to the staff. The counter staff would paste a airport tax sticker at the back of your boarding pass and hand back the travel documents back to you. After this, you are good to go – just need to clear the immigration and customs and later wait at the departure waiting area for your flight.

The Medan city center from the Polonia Airport Medan is just about 15 minutes away. However the notorious traffic jam on the road is what makes a simple trip becoming a time consuming journey.


One of the small cafe in the Bandara Polonia Medan that served hot meals and drinks. It is a nice place to relax and have a cold drink – as Medan is a very hot and dusty city.


This is the Apokat drink or avocado with chocolate drink which I ordered at the cafe at the Polonia Airport Medan.



Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal in Batam

The Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal in Batam is located in Batu Ampar and it replaces the old ferry terminal which is very run down. If you are going to Nagoya town, the Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal will be the nearest terminal to the town center. It takes less than 15 minutes (depending on traffic condition on the road ) by cab to reach any part of Nagoya. Currently it seems that only WaveMaster is the only ferry company operating in this terminal. The return trip from Singapore to Batam is $48/- inclusive of all taxes.


From Singapore to Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal, the journey is approximately 45 minutes. It is a relatively smooth ride. On a major public holiday, do go early to buy your ferry ticket as it is sold out quickly even though there is a departure every hour from Singapore. Once you have arrived at the Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal, the arrival hall is quite small. But the clearance of immigration was fast and less of a hassle as compared to the same from Singapore. Right after you have clear the immigration, straight ahead you can see a small money changer store. The exchange rates are displayed on the electronic board. There is very little to do in within the new ferry terminal itself. To catch a taxi, just walk out of the main door and turn left – you will see a taxi booth. Taxi ride to Nagoya town is about RP40,000. You pay the taxi driver upon arrival of your destination.


There is a complete new development outside the Harbour Bay Terminal. The nearest new hotel is just a walk away – the Harbour Bay Amir Hotel. This is a relatively new hotel that has good potential once development is completed around the ferry terminal. There are many shops that are near the ferry terminal. But most the shop houses are empty as it is not tenanted yet. The new Harbour Bay Shopping Mall is just outside the main road, but it is not ready yet. Hopefully this new shopping mall will be ready by 2010. Upon completion, the new Harbour Bay Shopping Mall will be the newest mall in Batam.


There are plenty of shops outside the departure hall of this new terminal. You can see the Polo shop, coffee joint, a new fun and game shop for kids, and many food joints. Inside the departure hall, just simply present your ticket and passport to the Wavemaster staff at the booth and you will be issue a boarding pass. The departure gate is just a short distance away. On the whole, the experience on using Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal is a pleasant one. The custom clearance is quick and getting to town is also fast as compared to other ferry terminals in Batam.


I have also written a blog on the Sekupang Ferry Terminal in Batam. The link is below –

Sekupang Ferry Terminal in Batam

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Train Trip from Bandung to Jakarta

Most people who are going to Bandung and back to Jakarta would normally travel by road. It is after all very convenient ever since the toll highways were opened; cutting down the traveling time. Bandung can also be accessible by train from Jakarta from the Jakarta Gambir train station.

I took a train back from Bandung to Jakarta Gambir Station in order to try out this service. I must say that I did find it enjoyable and without much hassle. The train service is run by P.T. Kereta Api (Persero) and the train station in Bandung is located at lcoated at No. 1 Jl. Stasiun Selatan, Bandung. It is near to Mutiara Hotel, approximately 10 minutes walking distance. However if you are staying in other hotels in Bandung, just tell the taxi driver to send you to the train station. Just tell them – Kereta Api station – they will get it.

I bought my train ticket from the adjacent building from the train station. It is a low green color building and near the main entrance of the door, you can see the words – Pusat Reservasi Tiket. Just go in and proceed to the counter. Tell the counter staff that you wished to buy a train ticket to Jakarta. I bought the Executif ( Executive ) class ticket. It is slightly more expensive, but there is air-conditioned and better seats. There are a number of departure times for you to choose, and the journey to Jakarta will take about 3 hours. Remember to book your train ticket in advance, so that you can be assured of a confirmed booking.

The train station is a huge compound with a big car park space in front. It is a dull low rise building. Just walked in, avoid the touts and give your train ticket to the staff near the entrance and just proceed to walk into the gate. After getting in, find a empty bench where you can sit and relax. If you are hungry, there are a number of food outlets that sell food and drinks. And remember to check in at least one hour before the train departure time. If you are staying far away from the train station, do make allowances for traffic congestion on the road. The train does not wait for you if you are late.

There are quite a number of kiosk selling magazines and newspaper too. So if you want something to read while traveling, there are a wide selection of materials for you to choose. The name of the train that I took was called – Argo Gede. If you are not sure of which platform to go for boarding, you can ask the staff or just show them the ticket. The boarding platform is opposite the waiting area where you are resting /seating on the bench. It means that you need to walk across the railway track to the boarding platform.When the train arrived and ready for boarding. Just present your ticket to the staff, and walked towards your appropriate cabin and seat number. The coach & seat number are also indicated in your ticket. Put your luggage on the luggage compartment on top, take your seat and just enjoy the ride. Do not lost your ticket, as you will be asked to present your ticket to the staff for checking when the train moves off from the Bandung train station.

You will also be served with a complimentary light refreshment consisting of a small cup of mineral water and 2 pastries. However if you are hungry, just wait a while. The staff will come into the cabin with trays of food – fried rice, noodles, fish and chips, etc. Just take what you want, the train’s staff will come back later to settle the bill with you. At that time, I had already bought donuts from the Dunkin Donuts outlet at the train station and a bottle of mineral water. So there was more than enough food for me.

The real joy of the train journey was getting to view the objects and landscape throughout the 3 hours journey. You will get to see slums, thick vegetations, hills, rice plantations, tall buildings, roads, etc. There is beauty and ugliness, light and darkness ( when it is in the tunnel) and there are moments of serene peace and chaotic disorder. In other words, a world of contrast will unfold before your eyes in this train journey. Which is why it was a memorable trip for me and I really would loved to take the train again.

The train stopped at a few stations before finally arriving at the final Gambir train station in Jakarta. So remember not to alight at the wrong station. One important clue I can give to identify is that the Gambir train is on elevated ground and it is also the final station. So if you see the train moving up on an elevated track and slowly coming to a halt, you should be near Gambir station. However if you are not sure, just ask the local people sitting around you or the staff.

After alighting from the train, make sure that you have taken all your belongings and walked towards the escalator that is going down. Walked out of the entrance and you will see lots of people and strangers shouting at you – “taxi, taxi”. You can choose to ignore them and head straight to the taxi stand. Get a ticket from the staff, pay a nominal service fee and she will show you the taxi. Remember that there is a minimum charge of RP20,000 if even if the destination is nearby. However, when the meter shows an amount above the minimum charge, the meter rate will apply.
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Sukarno Hatta Airport – Link Railway System

The recent floods in Jakarta had caused havoc in the city of Jakarta and also lead to the closure of the Sukarno-Hatta Airport. The closure was due to poor visibility as well as floods on the toll highway leading to the airport. The local administration has decided to built a link railway system from the city to Sukarno Hatta Airport at a cost of RP3.6 trillion rupiah or approximately US$396 million. Perhaps this flood was a blessing in disguise. The local administration now realized that things are so bad that an urgent solution is needed to fix this problem.

Sukarno Hatta Airport is located in the Banten province about 20 km west of Jakarta. For access to the airport, one must travel through a toll highway. However, part of this highway cuts across a swamp, on a low flat region. A flood that is caused by heavy rain will caused this toll highway inaccessible to vehicles. At the same time, traffic in this highway is getting heavier each year. Currently the Sukarno Hatta Airport handles more than 30 million passengers each year. It is a no brainer that a mass transport system is needed to relieve the increasing traffic on the toll highway.

The proposed railway will be approximately 33 km, and certain section of the railway will run on elevated track. This is good news as it will serve as a good transport system even when there is a flood. Travel time from the airport to the city via the railway system will take about 30 minutes It plans to connect to several train stations using existing railway tracks as well. I am sure Indonesians and travelers will welcome this new link railway system with open arms. It is targeted that this link railway system will be ready by next year – 2009. For myself, I am eagerly waiting to try out this railway system from the airport next year. It certainly beat being stuck in a traffic jam in the toll highway, where traffic seems to crawl at snail pace.

In pace with thisnew development, I do hope that the relevant airport authority will also do their part to upgrade the facilities of the Sukarno Hatta Airport. This grand airport is more than 20 years old and it look worn out. The toilets in the airport really need to be upgraded, as well as the arrival and departure halls. I am not really concern about shops though, as I don’t enjoy seeing an airport that looks and feels like a giant shopping mall just like in Singapore Changi Airport. Keep the old charms in the airport but upgrade the facilities like the baggage belt system, toilets and seating facilities, etc. I love the Sukarno Hatta Airport because it has a very unique relaxing atmosphere.
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Sukarno Hatta Airport

Jakarta airport which is known as the Sukarno Hatta International Airport is located at Cengkareng on the west of the city. It was built during President Suharto’s time and was opened in the mid 1980s.

All the international flights are currently been served in Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is used primarily for domestic flights. As most countries in the world are relentlessly upgrading their airports, the reverse is true for Sukarno Hatta airport. There is no major change or upgrade since it was opened.

So if you had been in this airport many years ago and coming back again right now, you will straight
away be able to revive the old fond memories of this airport. It is as though time had stood still for this airport. Everything seems old and unassuming. If you are looking towards traveling back in time in Jakarta, this is the place.

Despite its outdated image, the clearance of customs and luggages are surprisingly efficient. You will also find that the airport itself is able to cater to most of your needs. There are many food outlets that you can choose if you are hungry. If you need to change your home currency into rupiah, there are money exchange outlets and banks. Need a cab? No worries, cabs and limousine are plentiful. If you are on a shoe string budget, just hop into the air conditioned buses that ply from the airport to the city.
Every time when I landed at this airport. I will take my time to soak into the slow and relaxed atmosphere. My favourite spot is the Macdonald restuarant on the arrival hall. It is an open space, so it is not air conditioned. But who needs air conditioned when the place itself is breezy. Seated at this restaurant, you can see people walking past, the numerous taxi stands, buses moving slowing on the road; and people just sitting at the stone bench doing nothing. I would normally sit for an hour before strolling to the Silver Bird taxi counter and booked a limousine cab to go to my hotel.

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