The great island of
Sumatra the third largest in the archipelago and fifth largest in the
world (roughly the size of California or Sweden), is Indonesiaís most
important territory. In just about every way, strategically,
economically and politically, Sumatra has always formed a pivotal
"backbone" for the nation. Second among the major islands in
population numbers but first in exports (principally oil, natural gas,
rubber, tin and palm oil, but also tobacco, tea, coffee and timber),
it stands at the crossroads of Asia.
Like Java, Sumatra is formed by a longitudinal range of mountains, a
double fold in the earthís crust with a central trough through which
towering volcanoes have thrust upwards. This so-called Bukit Barisan
Range extends for about 1,600 kms (1000 miles) in a
northwest-southeasterly direction rising at several points above 300
meters (1000 feet). There are about 90 volcanoes in this range, 15 of
which are active, but unlike those in Java and Bali they frequently
deposit material of an acidic nature which does not improve the
fertility of the surrounding soils.
The majority of Sumatrans live in the long range of undulating
foothills, plateaus, river basins and highland lakes along the
islandís spine, where they make a living as subsistence cultivators.
Two major ethnic groups the Minangkabau and the Bataks, and a number
of minor ones (the Gayo, Alas, Kubu, Kerinci, Rejang, Lampung and
others) can be identified. The Minangkabau are settled people who are
related to the Malay of the east Sumatran coast and are thought to be
descended from an inland. The other great highland people of Sumatra,
the Bataks, inhabit a fertile volcanic plateau, roughly oval in shape,
that covers much of the northern central Sumatra.
The island of Sumatra was once covered in dense rainforest and
inhabited by many exotic Asian animals (elephants, tigers, rhinos,
gibbons, orangutans, mousedeer, tapir, flying foxes), unfortunately
the flora and fauna of Sumatra has decreased in recent years as land
has been altered from tropical rainforest to agricultural land.
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Medan is the capital of
North Sumatra Province, a trading centre and important harbour. Once
part of the Deli Sultanate, The Masjid Besar (Grand Mosque) and the
Palace of the Sultan Deli have been restored there past grandeur.
Medan Harbour, Belawan, is the sea link to Penang, Malaysia. Regular
flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Amsterdam, Vienna, and
Jakarta are available, as well as destinations in Sumatra.
North Sumatra, Indonesia's most populous province outside of Java,
stretches from the Indian Ocean in the West to the Strait of Malaka in
the East, and from Aceh in the North to West Sumatra in the South. It
is thick with virgin rainforest, jungle-covered hills, terraced rice
fields, mountain rivers, beautiful waterfalls, volcanic lakes and
peaceful white beaches.
The people of the region can be divided into five main ethnic groups:
the Coastal Malays, living along the Malaka Straits, the Bataks,
consisting of the sub-tribes around Lake Toba and Samosir Island, the
Pesisir along The Indian ocean coast, the Mandailings of Southern
Tapanuli, and Nias Islanders of the Western coast of the province.
These groups each have their own dialects, religious beliefs, arts,
customs and cultures. Several ethnic groups live in Medan and other
towns of North Sumatra, the largest of these being Chinese and Indian.
Other parts of the Archipelago are represented, notably the Acehnese,
Lake Toba Minang Kabau and Javanese.
The diversity of arts and cultures make this region a treasure chest
for social scientists and culture seekers. Ancient carved-stone graves
of Batak kings, the megalithic culture of Nias, unique dances,
ceremonies, arts and crafts are just waiting for you to discover.
North Sumatra is also one on the richest provinces in Indonesia for
flora and fauna. And of course the jewel of North Sumatra, Lake Toba
and the largest inland lake in Southeast Asia. The region also
produces more than 30% of Indonesia's export commodities, making it a
vital cog in the Indonesian economy. Tobacco, palm oil, tea and rubber
are produced in large quantities, particularly around Medan in the
North of the province.
WHERE TO EAT IN MEDAN
Medan caters for a relatively small audience- chinese and
Indonesian food make up the bulk of food types available, however, the
proliferation of the larger luxury hotels has meant that Western food
is available. For the more adventurous, we have little doubt that you
will not be satisfied by the restaurants below.
and Chinese Food:
Jumbo Sea Food
Jl. Putri Hijau 8 abcd Medan
Phone: (061) 525760
Jl. Thamrin No.55 Medan
Phone: (061) 523684
Jl. M.T. Haryono Medan
Phone: (061) 575575
Jl. Gajah Mada 8 Medan.
Phone: (061) 550447
Jl. Pemuda 11 ABC Medan
Phone: (061) 512197
GETTING AROUND IN MEDAN
North Sumatra's provincial capital, Medan, is one of the most
prosperous centers of business and commerce on the island. The city is
one of the three main international gateways to Indonesia and hence is
easily accessible not only from other major points in Indonesia, but
in the world.
Daily flights by Garuda Indonesia are available from Jakarta,
Palembang, Padang and Aceh. The city is also served by direct flights
Pelni ships, regularly visit Medan's port Belawan, on the Malacca
Strait. The KM Kambuna connects North Sumatra with Surabaya and
Ujungpandang, as well as Jakarta.
Buses ply the route between Jakarta and Medan over Palembang, Jambi
and Padang. Bus connections are also available with Padang, over
Bukittinggi, Pekanbaru and Dumai. The network links the North Sumatra
provincial capital with other major cities in Java as well. One of
North Sumatra's biggest tourist attractions is Lake Toba, 176
kilometers southeast of Medan. The second-biggest city is
Pematangsiantar, 128 kilometers south of the provincial capital.
Diving at Pandaan Beach
A seaside resort with white sandy beaches and a fishing village
11-km from Sibolga. Pandaan boasts magnificent views of the Indian
Ocean and fisherman sailing to the open sea. The restaurant serves
great fresh grilled fish.
For the adventurous, a trip to Sumateras inland wilderness, crossing
rivers and climbing steep, jungle-clad hills is a must. South of the
Mount Leuser National Park, the Rehabilitation Centre for Orang
Utans at Bahorok is open to the public.
This picturesque hill town in the Karo Highlands, 70km from Medan,
is dominated by two volcanoes: Gunung Sinabung and Gunung Sibayak.
At 1300m (4260ft) above sea level, the climate is pleasantly cool
and the atmosphere refreshingly relaxed. Travellers come to
Berastagi to experience the culture of the Karo Batak people and to
go trekking. There are guided treks into the Gunung Leuser National
Park and to surrounding volcanoes and attractions.
Lake Toba is the heart of Batak country, the largest lake in
Southeast Asia with a surface area of about 1,145 sg. kilometres,
and the deepest lake in the world, over 450 meters deep. The town of
Parapat is the main tourist resort and lies on the shores of the
lake. The Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun peoples of Parapat are
happy, easy going people, known for their lively and sentimental
love songs. Recreational sports in Parapat include swimming,
water-skiing, motor boating, fishing, and golf. The climate is cool
and dry, an ideal place to relax. There is a plethora of hotels,
bungalows, villas and guesthouses. Parapat is 176 km from Medan and
can be reached in 4 hours by bus.
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Department of Tourism. Government of Indonesia.