A Short trip to Medan to relax and view the volcanic Lake Toba. A good way to experience different cultures from villagers and how people live their lives in developing countries.

Exploring Medan ~Day 3 & 4

On the 3rd morning, we went to see the 2 volcanoes, Mt. Sinabung & Mt. Sibayak.

Mt. Sinabung

This is the best view of Mt. Sinabung that I could get

We couldn't get a good view of Mt Sibayak due to the cloudy weather

We couldn’t get a good view of Mt Sibayak due to the cloudy weather

We visited their local fruit market intending to look for passion fruit and pineapples. I think it’s due to the fertile soil in Medan, their fruits are extremely sweet & juicy. The people in the market were very friendly & helpful. Even though we had a language barrier, we still tried asking them where we could find pineapples, because the pineapples were no where to be found. We also sat on a horse carriage and one of my friend went for horse riding.

Lots of rabbits, puppies and hamsters for sale at the fruit market

Lots of rabbits, puppies and hamsters for sale at the fruit market

We sat on a horse carriage similar to this.

We sat on a horse carriage similar to this.

Their Local fruit market

Their local fruit market

Upon arrival at Medan, we passed by the Grand Mosque, Tjong Afie Mansion, Medan City Hall and General Post Office. One of the city’s landmark is the water tower which is used to supply water to the city of Medan. We went inside Maimoon Palace Historical Building which was built in 1888, the building had an interesting and unique architectural design. We had to remove our footwear when we enter the building. Across the walls and ceilings of this building, we can find beautiful, complicated and detailed colourful ornaments.

The Maimoon Palace Historic Building

The Maimoon Palace Historic Building


The King’s Throne still looks beautiful and luxurious. Very well-preserved after so many years.

After visiting the Maimoon Palace, we went for coffee at Otten Coffee. Quite a nice cafe with interesting interior. At Otten coffee house, they let us try the coffee for free, before we decide whether to buy their coffee powder. They specialize in 100% Sumatra coffee and roast their coffee daily to ensure the freshness of every cup. We did not buy the coffee powder in the end, because we felt it was too bitter & acidic.








Telp. +62.61.4148806




We checked-in to Emerald Garden hotel on our 3rd evening. I liked this hotel a lot because it has free wifi in the hotel room and lobby, their toilets are clean, they even have flat screen smart TV in the room. They have good breakfast too, at least there are some western choices in their breakfast buffet. We felt very blessed to have some western breakfast after having Indonesian food for the past few days.

However, if 3 person were to share a room, it is not advisable to choose this hotel. This is because they will add an additional small bed for the 3rd person, their additional bed is very small and hard! It is like sleeping on metal grills, there isn’t any cushion under the bed sheet. I had a backache and could not sleep well for the whole night on that additional bed. However, their normal beds are very soft and comfortable. So it is more suitable for 1 or 2 person to share a room.

Other than the bad additional bed, their swimming pool looks very dirty and dilapidated, there’s even construction work being done at the poolside.

Nice & cozy room

Nice & cozy room


The width of the additional bed is smaller than the pillow which is already smaller than the usual size. The bed frame is made of metal grills, covered with thin bedsheet. I can literally feel the metal grill on my backbone when I lie on the bed. Anyone sleeping on that bed will have a backache the next morning, unless you are used to sleeping on the floor.

Emerald Garden International Hotel
Jl. K.L. Yos Sudarso No. 1, Medan 20235 – Indonesia
Phone: 061-6611-888 Fax: 061-6622-888




We were also given free time to try Indonesian massage and body scrub at Gandara Spa. Gandara Spa looks very cozy and gives people a soothing feel once you enter the place. The interior looked very posh too. They allocated a room for 3 of us to do our massage together. The massage is done professionally, I felt very refreshed and relaxed after that. All 3 of us noticed that our skin became visibly fairer after the body scrub.

Gandara Spa

Gandara Spa

Gandara Spa

Jalan Tamir Hamzah Komp.Griya Riatur

Block G No.112, Medan 20117, Indonesia

Tel: +6261-80021310


Categories: Medan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exploring Medan – Lake Toba ~Day 2

On the 2nd day, we checked out of Niagara hotel after our breakfast and met up with our tour guide and driver. We drove to Berastagi (another 4-5 hours), where we stayed for another 1 night. We went to the fruit and vegetable plantation & also stopped to view the Sipiso-Piso falls.


Rows of cabbage grown beside the Chilli plant


The coffee plant

The coffee plant



Rows and rows of potatoes

40 minutes drive from Berastagi, we saw the Sipiso-Piso waterfall on the northern edge of Lake Toba. The waterfall is 120m high and is formed by an underground river which flows out into the Toba caldera. It takes us 15 mins to walk down the steps for a closer view of the waterfall, but another 30-45 mins to climb up the steps. 


The Sipiso Piso falls from afar


Steps leading to the waterfall


We got the closed up shot of the falls after going down so many steps.

My friends managed to take a very beautiful view of the lake at the bottom, close to the waterfall. when I saw the photo, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like a painting. Nevertheless, we were actually there.

The beautiful Lake Toba

The beautiful Lake Toba

After viewing the scenery, we stopped for lunch and continue our journey. In the evening, we went to check-in at the Sinabung Hills. The hotel is slightly better than Niagara hotel, where they have free wifi in their lobby and the room looks slightly nicer & more comfortable. However, their toilet condition is not clean, they have a bathtub in the bathroom but it looks old.

I’m not sure is it because of the colder weather in Berastagi as compared to Parapat, their water takes very long to boil in the room. It takes around 1+ hours to boil.

The view from our hotel window is not very nice. We were facing the car park and we woke up to cloudy skies in the morning.


Our room at Sinabung Hills

Our room at Sinabung Hills


How the hotel looks from outside

How the hotel looks from outside

At the poolside

At the poolside


Sinabung Hills Berastagi

Jl. Kolam Renang, Berastagi

North Sumatra – Indonesia

Tel: +62 628 91400

Fax: +62 628 91300



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Exploring Medan – Lake Toba ~Day 1

My friends and I decided to have a short break from work and made used of the long weekend in May to go for a short trip. We initially wanted to visit Hanoi’s Halong Bay, however, May is not the right month to go Hanoi due to the weather. Therefore, one of my friend suggested going to Medan instead, to visit Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world.

We booked a private tour with New Shan Travel Service in Singapore and Four Seasons Holiday’s tour guide and driver came to fetch us at the Medan airport. We paid $523 for the 4 days tour (23-26 May) including transport, lodging & food. Our flight is via Silkair.

Upon arriving at the airport, we took a 5 hours drive up to Parapat, along the journey we passed through the rubber & palm oil plantations. It’s a pity that the car is driving too fast for us to take any clear photographs of the plantation, but the scene of the beautiful plantation had been imprinted in my head. We stopped for lunch and to buy their local products along the journey. I bought a lot of peanut candy & some Keropok (Indonesian crackers) for my colleagues and friends.

The journey up to Parapat was a tiring and bumpy one. For those who cannot withstand bumpy rides, remember to take a motion-sickness pill before the ride. The 5 hours journey was not continuous, we did stop after 1 or 2 hours for a toilet break. However, do not expect too much from their public toilets. For those who have not been to a developing country, it might be an eye opener for you. Their toilets do not come with a flush. We have to use a small container to scoop water from the ‘well’ beside the squatting toilet bowl. Mosquitoes or other insects may be flying around in the toilet. If you are ‘lucky’, you might find several mosquito larvae in the ‘well’. Therefore, be prepared with insect repellent.

Upon arriving at Lake Toba, all the tiredness would be forgotten once you see how beautiful the lake is.



This was taken in our car

After our lunch, we took a boat ride on Lake Toba to Samosir Island, a large volcanic island on the lake. Samosir Island , is estimated to be the size of Singapore. Lake Toba and the island were formed after the eruption of a supervolcano some 75,000 years ago.


We sat on the boat similar to the one in the picture.

The island is the centre of the Batak culture and many of the Toba Batak traditional houses remain on the island. The Batak villagers were very nice, we got to see how these villagers lead their daily lives & got a feel of their culture on this island. Most of the children we saw in Parapat were not wearing shoes, some of them would perform simple songs on our boat ride to earn a little money. 


Ancient King’s house, Court house are being preserved for viewing


Traditional roof houses of Batak Tobanese

After our visit to this island, we went back to Parapat to check-in at our hotel. We stayed at Niagara Hotel for 1 night. There is no air-conditioning in this hotel, as the temperature is very cold up here. I was freezing even though I had my jacket and blanket covered at night. The hotel room was simple, clean and acceptable, but more like a chalet, with tiled flooring instead of carpeted floor.


Our room for 1 night

The view from our room’s balcony was amazing! I woke up to a beautiful sun rise, birds singing and the cool wind blowing at my face.


This is the awesome view of sunrise we took from our room balcony

We went to the swimming pool area to take more photos of the lake. The sun rise was also beautiful from the poolside, which I could not resist allowing the warm morning rays to lick my face.


The beautiful Lake Toba from our hotel


Another awesome sunrise view from our hotel poolside


However, there is one thing I do not like about this hotel. Although the hotel claims to  have free wifi at the lobby, however, none of us is able to connect the wifi to our mobile phones. I checked with the front office a few times and they said that they cannot help us because they do not know how to operate wifi on mobile and only know how to operate it on laptop. Anyway, we managed to survive one day without wifi, feels good to disconnect from this world for a while. 🙂

Hotel Niagara

Jl. Pembangunan No. 1 Parapat
North Sumatera 21174
Phone : +62-625-41028
Fax : +62-625-41233


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