Exploring Indonesia.Travelogue of our trip around Medan, Jakarta, Bali and more.
Welcome to the Indonesian travelogue. This online diary features information and links about my first trip around Indonesia.

Sydney NSW Australia to Medan North Sumatra Indonesia 27th October
After last minute checks, mum and dad rushed us to the airport. SQ232 to Singapore was our flight and, after some last minute changes to our itinerary via Best Way Travel on Saturday 26th, we were on our way for the 1:10pm flight.

We met Susi who is also from Medan and who was taking the same flight. The Singapore airlines check in lady couldn't fit us across 3 and had to separate Susi from us to aisle 56 (we were aisle 38 - window seat row but not the window seat.

I watched the movie 'The Crocodile Hunter' on the inflight entertainment screen which was a lot of fun. Especially the appearance of Magda Szubansky!  Christine watched 'Insomnia'. 

Singapore planes are fitted with your own entertainment centre on the back of your seats.  Games, comedy, sport, drama, channels and more. 21 hours or more would not cover the programs on offer. 21 channels.

I managed to see a bit of the US version of 'Who's Line is it Anyway' which was hilarious and contained actors who were in the British version. Specially paid and flown to the US. It was great to see the stars of this series again.

Also caught a bit of 'Big Train' before the sound cut out on our rows' entertainment system. Only 3 hours into the flight!!! (7 hour flight to Singapore plus 1 hour flight to Medan) They tried resetting the system several times but no joy I'm afraid. So it gave me time to spend on remembering some Indonesian phrases and words via reading my books.

We arrived at Changi airport Singapore, the largest airport in the world as far as I know, and went for a short walk (read 10 minute walk) from 1 side of the airport to Gate E2 (the other side) to collect flight SQ238 by China Silk Air - a small plane.

I was pleased to see that some of Changi airport hadn't changed since I was last there, including the fact that the old 7 Eleven was still there (Bad Prices!) The transit time was only 1 hour so Susi, Christine and myself only had a few minutes to relax before seeing the sign saying 'final boarding'.

Unlike the food on the Singapore flight (which was always good even if covered in a lot of butter) because the Silk Air was only one hour we got a sandwich. Speaking of food and drink, Christine and I caught up on our alcohol and shared cointreau, sweet vermouth, bacardi rum and coke, camgri and orange spritzers, coffee, tea and lots of water! The Silk Air flight was coffee and water. No time to ask for drinks as much of it was spent filling immigration forms.

Changi airport was huge. In fact every airport I'd been to was large in some way, so I was very nervous to meet Christine's family and had been expecting to exit and find myself in a maze of corridors, shops and toilets. Instead, we stepped off the plane and down some portable stairs, into a mini bus which took us 5 minutes to the entrance AND exit for Medan airport. It was one room containing baggage checks and an immigration department. And waiting just inside the doorway were Christine's Dad, sister and uncle. 

Actually Christine's uncle met us at the gate, took us through all parts of the system and out the door. Under 15 minutes, not including collecting luggage! He was a customs official and vouched for us. Otherwise we would've spent an hour or more there while immigration checked through our bags. We hadn't brought anything dangerous so there was no need to worry! But after seeing how relaxed everything was I began to understand how annoyed Christine can get with all the rules and regulations that Australians must adhere to.

A quick exit, into the car with Christine's dad, Sendy and Christine, and we're off to our hotel.

I asked my new sister about a few things and found that she was extremely confident about just about anything and could make me feel at ease in this very different culture. Christine, of course, told me everything was going to be okay but I needed to hear this from my new family members!

It is true what they say about Indonesian drivers. There doesn't seem to be much of a structured driving system besides a recommendation to drive on the left side of the road. From our point of view of course, this may seem madness. People driving towards you on the left side until someone lets them into the traffic on the right, avoiding bikes and other obstacles while driving. What we forget is that the pace is slow enough to avoid accidents. I don't think the car went above 40km per hour. Also we were only 10 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from Opung's place so there was no rush.

Our hotel first. Seeing how run down everything was I guessed our hotel room would probably be the same, and wasn't disappointed! No shower, no water (or a trickle at best) and the toilet didn't flush. We also had a friendly cockroach who crawled over us on the bed, but we did get air conditioning which was a relief from the humidity.

I was starting to feel my asthma return, which was something that hadn't really affected me for over a year. I knew I would adjust to it so it wasn't a problem.

After dumping stuff, realising I couldn't *mandi* and deciding to go anyway as family were waiting, we packed everything securely away and headed to Opung's place (nenek - Grandma) I met Rani, Christine's other sister in Medan, my Indonesian aunty from Germany, as well as friends and cousins of the family. I also met Opung who kindly gave snacks and sweet tea as well as dinner - very filling.

After talking much in the lounge room and dining room we headed to the outside and watching fighting fish. Sendy told me about the dance clubs and places to see in Medan as well as that Tim Tams are popular here.

I think what slightly surprised me was that for all the cultural differences, everything has been westernised, even to the styles of the advertising on TV. The direction and message presentation is the same so you don't need to know the language to understand the advertisement. (There was a TV in the dining room which I glanced at occasionally) 

By this time, for Christine and me, it was 2:30am and time for us to go (only 10:30pm for everyone there) So Sendy, Rani, Christine's dad and I got into the car and headed back to the hotel.We had talked about a lot of things during this first meeting with the family. The most challenging was sitting quietly and trying to understand Indonesian. I was able to understand a few words which enabled me to get the crux of some of the things discussed.

Pak showed me his relatives in photographs (my relatives!) and I'll have to get Christine to tell me the names again. Christine told her aunty that I'd be able to speak to her so I just said 'ein bishin' (a little - as in knowing deutsch). After talking for a few minutes with Sendy and Rani in our hotel room we went to sleep around 11:00pm (3am for us!) I woke up at about 4:30am thanks to our friendly cockroach visiting my face, and started writing these entries.

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